December 15
Day 15

David Liss

There are two authors featured in “25 Days of Books” who, while they aren’t the reason I’m a writer, they are certainly big reasons for what I’m writing.

One of these authors is David Liss.

Before I continue, I’d like to note that David’s debut writing the new BLACK PANTHER: THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR #513 comes out today (12/15).


Now back to the really important stuff. David Liss is one of the reasons I write what I write. I don’t want to go into a long explanation of why this is. Suffice to say I knew I wanted to write a historical set in the England of Charles II (1660-85) for as long as I can remember. I’d always assumed it would have to be a romance. Unfortunately, romances never really interested me, and it never occurred to me I could write a historical crime novel (I know. Sometimes I’m dense).

Until I read David’s novel A CONSPIRACY OF PAPER.


Something clicked, and although I did not actually begin writing DIARY OF BEDLAM for a few years after that, I can, with great conviction, say that David Liss is one of my primary influences.

And if you know David, you understand that’s a somewhat frightening prospect.

CONSPIRACY OF PAPER and the subsequent novels in the series, A SPECTACLE OF CORRUPTION, and THE DEVIL’S COMPANY, are set in early 18th century London. They feature Benjamin Weaver, a former boxer turned thief-taker, who, as a Jew in Christian England, is an outsider. He uses his wits and his brawn to make his living bringing criminals to justice, often mixing with London’s elite, who loathe him almost as much as they need his services.

More than the plots of David’s novels, which are, of course, compelling, I am attracted to the voice and setting. The glimpse they give into 18th century London feels authentic, and though David makes this look easy, I can tell you, acheiving this in a historical novel is a daunting challenge. Furthermore, Benjamin Weaver is now one of my favorite literary characters; the kind that women fall in love with and men want to be. I hope to see more of him soon.

David also contributes short stories to many anthologies. An example is WHAT MAISIE KNEW in THE NEW DEAD Zombie Anthology. It is a deliciously creepy story that actually haunted me for a few days afterward. Good stuff.

David was kind enough to grace us with his presence on my blog by answering a few questions:

1) You are now writing the new Black Panther. Which is more fun to write, comics or novels? Bonus points for why.

They are differently fun, which sounds like a cop-out, but it’s true. Comic books are inherently fun, but they are also tightly contained – each issue is 22 pages, pages should be no more than six panels, in general, and most times less than that. It’s fun to work with the characters and stories, and it’s nice that a script doesn’t take nearly as long as a novel, but it’s also hard to experience the pure creative burst you get when writing in prose.

2) You’re known for your historical novels. What attracts you to writing historicals?

I knew a lot about a particular period in history. I started out with the idea that I wanted to write a novel, and then I had to figure out what I ought to write about. I was doing my dissertation research on 18th century England, so I thought I’d write about that. I had previously enjoyed some historical novels, but I didn’t consider myself a fan of that particular genre. I still don’t read a lot of them (reading books to similar to what I do often feels more like work than pleasure), but I absolutely enjoy writing them.

3) What is your dream bottle of wine?

If I had to choose one favorite, I’d probably say syrah from Northern Rhone. Hermitage is way too expensive for me to drink on any kind of regular basis, but I’ll certainly accept all gifts.

4) What trait(s) do you share with Benjamin Weaver?

We both have feet.

What about the Black Panther?

Even less than I have with Benjamin Weaver, especially in his old incarnation as the king of Wakanda. Now that he has been stripped of his powers and his kingship, he’s a much more human character, and so easier to identify with. I think we can all relate to his experience of being in a strange place, surrounded by strange people, not really knowing what to do or say. In fact, I just had that experience at my son’s preschool holiday sing-a-long.

5) Can I buy you another drink?

Just one?

Thanks for letting me interview you, David. I hope to buy you many drinks, and even a bottle of Hermitage, in the future. Oh, and sorry I made you look like an alcoholic in this post.

If you’re buying books as gifts this holiday season, please consider purchasing from your local independent bookshop. The level of customer service you’ll receive is unmatched, you’ll have the added benefit of making new friends of the staff, and you’ll help support a local business.

Books featured in this post can be purchased from the Mystery Bookstore in Los Angeles (orders@mystery-bookstore.com).

One Reply to “Day 15 – David Liss”

  1. Antoinette says: December 15, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Great interview. Loved the questions.
    I also thought John was the only adult in the family who reads comic books. You learn something new everyday.

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