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Author Dennis Lehane Reflects On Boston's Tense Week


Novelist Dennis Lehane is one of many Boston residents trying to absorb events of the past week. Lehane set many of his novels in his hometown, including "Mystic River," and his latest, "Live by Night." Earlier in the week, he set out to explain the resilience of his hometown in an op-ed in the New York Times. It was titled "Messing with the Wrong City." He was one of the hundreds of thousands who spent Friday on lockdown. We spoke with Dennis Lehane from his home yesterday. And I asked him what it was like to be a Bostonian this week.

DENNIS LEHANE: You're not part of the fabric of the rest of the world, is the way I put it. What's happening in your city is just so big and so personal and so particular that you feel as if you're on your own little planet. So, it's very otherworldly and very surreal and a lot of I think that the sort of cliches that people have been discussing. But yet at the same time, that gives you a much deeper communal feel. We were never so Bostonian as we were this week.

MARTIN: You wrote a piece and there was a sentiment in that piece of writing that has been expressed a lot in the past few days. There's been a sentiment: messing with the wrong city. And this is more than just Boston bravado. What does that mean in this moment?

LEHANE: I don't think it's bravado at all. I don't think it's, you know, the sentiment is we're very old. We've been here a long time. You're not going to change us. Boston's always been kind of a contrarian city. It's always been an iconoclastic city and it's always been a city with a deep love and respect for civil discourse and civil liberties. And so if you think we're going to suspend any of those because two very harebrained brothers decided to roll a couple of bombs into a marathon, then the sentiment was you got another thing coming. You confused us with another city.

MARTIN: The Boston police department has figured into some of your work over the years. I imagine, do you have friends in the department?

LEHANE: I have a couple of friends in the department and I actually know a couple of members of the Watertown Police Department as well. So, that was on my mind yesterday.

MARTIN: I imagine you must be feeling pretty proud.

LEHANE: Yeah. I mean, I'm very proud of the law enforcement. I'm very proud of the civilians. I'm very proud of this city. The thing that I'll never forget from any of this, the thing that I will, you know, tell my daughters many years from now or anybody who's not tired of hearing the story would be I would just talk about those civilians who were in the first 10 seconds of the first explosion ran toward their fellow human beings, ran into absolute danger to help those who had been maimed and, unfortunately in some cases, killed. I'll never get over that. That just one of the finest examples of human grace under pressure I've ever seen. And then you extend that to all the members of law enforcement and the way they handle that, and then you extend that to the way the city didn't rush to judgment. The city didn't have any sort of reaction against, you know, Arab-Americans, which was, I think, an early fear. There was none of that. Everybody just say, no, we're going to hang out, we're going to wait and we're going to find out who these people are, and it'll take the time that it takes.

MARTIN: What do you want people to know about your city, your community, something that may have been misreported or mischaracterized? What do you want this event to mean? What do you want people to understand?

LEHANE: Just because you're attacked doesn't mean you give up your sole identity. It doesn't mean you, you know, what Ben Franklin said, you know, you don't want to become those who will sell out their liberty for security and then end up with neither. What this didn't do was shake our character in any way. It didn't make us suddenly say forget due process, forget civil rights, forget any of that. We said, you know, this is what we stand for and this was why we're attacked, and we're going to go about this the way that we've been going about things for hundreds of years. And there'll be a little bit of pugnaciousness connected to it and a little bit of contrarianism. But I did get the feeling that this city said, you know, we're angry, we're addled but we are not terrorized.

MARTIN: In its early days, are you convinced that there will not be a circle the wagons kind of mentality that takes hold at some point?

LEHANE: Yeah, I am. I really am. We got too much respect for, I think, the founding principles of this country, maybe because we are one of the original 13. I don't know. I don't feel we're going to feel altered by this. I don't think we're going to turn into a police state because of this. I think the marathon next year's is going to look a lot like the marathon this year prior to the explosions. So, I feel confident with that statement.

MARTIN: As we mentioned, you spent Friday on lockdown with your family. I just wonder how you've been spending the weekend.

LEHANE: I wrote for the first time in six days. I feel like we took our lives back as this morning. You get the feeling walking around the city looking at everybody. I mean, the Red Sox, the Bruins are playing. What can be more Bostonian?

MARTIN: Dennis Lehane is the author of many novels set in Boston, including "Gone, Baby, Gone" and "Mystic River." Mr. Lehane, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us.

LEHANE: Oh, my pleasure. Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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