Who is Dennis Lehane?
• A native of the Dorchester section of Boston
• Has published 10 novels, three of which have been adapted into award-winning movies (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island)
• Adapted his short story, “Animal Rescue,” into a feature film called “The Drop”
• Was a staff writer for HBO’s “The Wire” and writer/producer for “Boardwalk Empire”
• Taught fiction and literature at the Harvard Extension School, the Stonecoast MFA Program and Tufts Unviersity
• Worked as a counselor with mentally handicapped and abused children before becoming a full-time writer
In the words of Dennis Lehane
On libraries: “A pinpoint of light in an ever-darkening world”
On his writing style: “I wanted to take a blowtorch to wish fulfillment”
On being a writer: “I never wanted a real job”
On Mystic River: “I knew I wanted to write some big book about gentrification and the changing demographics of my city”
FORSYTH COUNTY -- Dennis Lehane is a storyteller. He, of course, tells stories in his two handfuls of best-selling novels, but he speaks in stories, narrating his thoughts with verbal visions of growing up in Boston and how being surrounded by his Irish immigrant family molded his writing style.
Lehane, the author, screenwriter and TV producer who penned “Mystic River,” “Shutter Island” and “Gone Baby Gone,” among many famous others, spoke to an audience of almost 300 Tuesday night at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center as the culmination of Forsyth Reads Together.
The annual program is a county-wide event put on by the Forsyth County Public Library that encourages the community to read, discuss and participate in programs associated with the same book — Lehane’s “Mystic River.”
“I knew I wanted to write some big book about gentrification and the changing demographic of my city,” Lehane said.
He described the Irish-Catholic immigrant Boston he knew growing up as a “vanishing world” where instead of knowing “nobody except the older boys [who went off to war] ever left,” children began to go to college and never come back.
“The ultimate success of any immigrant neighborhood is also its unfolding,” he said.
Lehane spoke about how his writing style and narrative voice were molded by his family — centered around rotating among the houses of 16 aunts and uncles — being forced to tell engaging, brawling stories that kept peoples’ attention. Because if they were not enthralled, they would stop listening.
That upbringing led Lehane to write outside of a typical crime novel blueprint. Not everything would make sense at the end. Not all the answers would be revealed.
“The ‘who done it’ wouldn’t matter much at all,” he said. “The enemy here is violence itself.
“I wanted to take a blow torch to wish fulfillment.”
His books have been adapted into award-winning movies, with names attached to them of the sorts like Clint Eastwood, Leonardo Dicaprio, Ben Affleck, Sean Penn, to name a few.
He has in the past described his crime fiction writing by saying, “In Greek tragedy, they fall from great heights. In noir, they fall from the curb.”
Lehane also answered audience questions about adapting a book to a screenplay, how to get your writing noticed and how to research for a book.
His upbringing also gave him a love for libraries, which he described as a “pinpoint of light in an ever-darkening world.”
Libraries taught him, he said, that he matters “just as much as anyone else” and that you don’t have to be rich to be allowed to enjoy books.
Forsyth Reads Together will resume in 2018 by welcoming keynote speaker Gregory Maguire, author of “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.”