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The Lies of Locke Lamoraby Scott Lynch
Author Q & A
Scott Lynch on The Lies of Locke Lamora
Beautiful whenever possible. Cruel whenever necessary.
I suppose that's the easiest way of describing the sort of fantasy I most enjoy, and the sort I very much wanted The Lies of Locke Lamora to be. Beautiful, because there are few things more boring than an alternate world without a spark of passion and inventiveness in its descriptions. And cruel, because it feels less self-indulgent that way, and much more like a real life for the characters on the page. Is it any wonder I appreciate George R.R. Martin's recent work so much? Heh.
There's beauty to be found in Camorr, a city of eighty-eight thousand souls on the shore of the Iron Sea. Camorr is an old place, originally built by a vanished race with frightening powers, and the city has yet to surrender all of its secrets to the human beings who claim it now. While Camorr has become a place of stone and wood and squalor, its founders left gardens, towers, artifacts, bridges, and labyrinths, all forged from ageless and unbreakable glass, for humanity to puzzle over. Alien glass knits the city together, forming its bones and sinews, allowing me to sprinkle in a variety of wonders far beyond the ability of Locke's people to build for themselves.
As for cruelty, well, you need look no further than the city's underworld—the thieves and hijackers, muggers and murderers, beggars and bosses who collectively refer to themselves as the Right People. Organized crime can be a colorful thing to write about, and I wanted that color, that pageantry, that surface atmosphere of camaraderie and slick charm. But I also wanted it to be little deeper than a film of oil on water... when you're part of a mob, your continued existence is only tolerated as long as you make money for the people above you in the hierarchy. You're only "part of the family" as long as you pay your tribute on time, every time. That's how things work under the reign of Vencarlo Barsavi, undisputed capa of Camorr, bloody-handed ruler of three thousand Right People. Barsavi is the quintessential mob boss, stately and charming at will yet capable of vicious murder for the most petty reasons. Barsavi doesn't chuckle amusedly at those who defy his rules; he feeds them to his pet sharks.
Naturally, our story revolves around a small group of people who live to defy Barsavi's rules.
Enter Locke Lamora and his gang of fellow miscreants, the Gentlemen Bastards. Locke and his friends are one of Barsavi's smaller, quieter, more trustworthy gangs. They pay their tribute on time, every time, supposedly financed by their night jobs as perfectly respectable sneak thieves. In reality, Locke and company are con artists... young geniuses of the art in a world where "con artistry" as we understand it is not yet generally known. In direct contravention of Capa Barsavi's wishes, they secretly fleece Camorr's wealthy aristocrats with convoluted scheme after convoluted scheme, be it posing as mediums capable of contacting dead loved ones, or sellers of titles to imaginary lands, or transporters of vast quantities of imaginary liquor. If discovered by the authorities, they would be sought by the Spider, the Duke of Camorr's mysterious spymaster. If discovered by their fellow criminals, they would be butchered without mercy on Capa Barsavi's orders.
It's a complicated life, with a razor-thin margin for error. The last thing it needs is an all-new, bigger, deadlier complication to mess things up... a murderous antagonist with unpleasant plans for Locke and his friends.
But what sort of author would I be if I didn't provide one?
Poor Locke. His life is beautiful whenever possible, cruel whenever necessary.
The Lies of Locke Lamora is, I suppose, not what you might call an easy book for everyone. It's got its fair share of blood and grue when things start to go wrong, and the story of a confidence game begins to mix with the story of a long-planned revenge. It's also got a degree of colorful language beyond what you might expect from most fantasy... Locke and his associates are gangsters, and on many occasions they speak as gangsters should. Inasmuch as it's a book about crime and violence, it's also a book about the consequences of both. But past the clatter of steel on steel, past the blood and betrayal, I hope you'll find a portrait of a city to remember, and a portrait of a tight-knit band of friends worth remembering, and a portrait of a flawed but brilliant criminal worth following as his life unfolds.
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