The annual Mystery Writers Conference held at Book Passage's Corte Madera, Calif., store always features genre superstars who serve on its faculty--Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Ridley Pearson and Elizabeth George have all taken part. But at this year's event, held over the past weekend, a debut novelist stepped into that spotlight: Marcia Clark. Yes, that Marcia Clark. (Her new Twitter address is @thatmarciaclark, because @marciaclark was already taken.)
Channeling his best James Lipton, Tony Broadbent, author of The Smoke and Spectres in the Smoke, who just signed with MP Publishing for the third in the series, presided over an event Book Passage called "Inside the Writers Loft with Marcia Clark." Her debut novel, Guilt by Association, published by Mulholland Books in April, features Rachel Knight, a workaholic district attorney who lives in Los Angeles's famed Biltmore Hotel. Why the hotel? "Because I don't like to do dishes," explained Clark.
Clark, who was raised on Nancy Drew and is still an avid reader in suspense fiction, gave one reason for taking the dive into writing novels: "Through the cover of fiction you can say much more about the truth."
After asking a litany of questions that delved into details of Clark's life--causing her to call it "the scariest interview of her life"--Broadbent got the Berkeley-born Clark to talk about starring in her Staten Island high school's production of The Man Who Came to Dinner (as the temptress) and learning Hebrew, French and a little Arabic to apply for a position at the State Department (which promptly asked about her typing). Then he approached the "elephant thundering into the room." Obviously, O.J.
"You're part of the American story," said Broadbent. "You've danced, you've waited tables," he continued, brushing quickly past her two marriages to ask about her two sons, who are 21 and 19. Clark drew a gasp from the audience when she shared that they were "five and two during the trial."
Broadbent asked the former D.A., who won 19 out of 20 homicide trials, to address the assessment of her mentor in the D.A. office, Harvey Giss, that celebrity and money can buy impunity from the law.
Clark said such a cloud started with Rodney King. "It's all connected," she said. "Simpson came along not long after that." In her O.J. summation, Clark told the jury that this was not payback time; Johnny Cochran stressed that their verdict went far beyond the courtroom.
Clark said she learned about a year ago--from an unnamed person who interviewed the jurors and is writing a book Clark said she cannot wait to read--that the first straw vote in the O.J. Simpson case was 10-2. "I had always assumed the two not guilty votes were by white women," said Clark. Turns out, one was black, and she told the unnamed author that the other jurors impressed upon her what dire ramifications her vote could bring. "She said, 'this is not going to be on me,' " Clark recounted.
A la Lipton, Broadbent closed the session with the "questionnaire."
Favorite word? "Guilty."
Least favorite word? "Moist and ointment; nothing good's following those words."
What gets her going? "Justice."
Makes her happy? "Love."
Favorite curse word? "Douchenozzle; it's in the second book."
Sound she loves? "Laughter."
Sound she hates? "Phone ringing at 2 a.m."
Profession other than her own she'd like? "Probably actress."
Profession she'd least like? "Politician."
What she wants to hear at the Pearly Gates? "Aaaaall, right."
Clark's next Rachel Knight novel will be titled Guilty by Degrees. --Bridget Kinsella