Turow Explores Mystical Connections In 'Identical'

Scott Turow says some recent research in a case with DNA evidence inspired the plot of his new thriller, Identical. He tells host Rachel Martin about his interest in twins.

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Scott Turow knows how to write legal thrillers. The lawyer-novelist has penned bestsellers like "Presumed Innocent," "Burden of Proof" and "Personal Injuries." He delivers again in his latest book titled "Identical." And yes, there are lawyers and an unsolved murder. But at its core, this is a story about family and sacrifice; in particular the almost mystical connection that binds together identical twins.

Scott Turow joins me now from the studios of New England Public Radio in Amherst, Massachusetts. Welcome to the program, Scott.

SCOTT TUROW: Thank you, Rachel. I appreciate it.

MARTIN: So I understand this has been a personal interest of yours for a long time - the connection that twins share.

TUROW: I grew up with twins being a sort of shadow over my childhood. My younger sister Vicki, who is two years and 10 months younger, was a twin. And I expected my mother to come home from the hospital with two babies and there was only one. And I couldn't understand why everybody else got healthy babies and somehow the baby that would have been my brother didn't make it. So, you know, as will happens with three-year-olds, I thought it had to do with the fact that he was a boy and I decided he was a kind of stand in for me. So I actually went through a little part of my childhood with the fantasy that I was an identical twin and that the other one was gone somewhere.

MARTIN: Can you lay out - understanding you don't want to give too much away - but what is the central gist of the narrative?

TUROW: The characters Paul and Cass Giannis are in very different situations at the opening of the novel. Paul is running for mayor of Kindle County, the site of all of my fiction. And Cass is about to be released from prison, 25 years after pleading guilty to the murder of his girlfriend, a woman named Dita Kronon. And Dita's brother is a kind of eccentric billionaire named Hal Kronon, and he confronts the possibility of Cass being released from prison by accusing Paul, the mayoral candidate, of also having had a hand in the murder.

MARTIN: There's a lot of science in this book. DNA plays a big role. Did you learn a lot in researching this?

TUROW: You know, I have this sidelight as a criminal defense lawyer.

(LAUGHTER)

TUROW: And so I have learned over the years a little bit about DNA. Although, I have to confess, every time I get involved with DNA, the science has evolved so quickly, it's as if I was starting again. But I have had a recent pro bono case that involved just a few of the features that end up being central to "Identical." But I did do a lot of research and I had a lot of friends - my friend Julie Segre at NIH of the Human Genome Project there, and Lori Andrews is a great law professor and genetics expert in Chicago.

MARTIN: And you just know how much to put in? I would imagine the temptation, once you've learned the intricacies of one kind of scientific process, how do you discipline yourself to know when is too much?

TUROW: Generally, the comments of the early readers help tame my impulse to try to teach everybody else as much as I've learned.

(LAUGHTER)

TUROW: So a long-time buddy of mine from the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago Julian Solotorovsky; and Julian drew a big X...

(LAUGHTER)

TUROW: ...through the first draft and, you know, wrote in his usual terse way: Too much. And, you know, that's always the hazard of research. I did, you know, a panel the other night in New Haven and there were four novelists there. And we were all talking about the problem of research - namely, you know, once you've learned about something it's very, very hard not to try to impart everything you suddenly know.

MARTIN: Another theme woven through this story is about coming to grips with the passing of time and aging. This is especially true for the character Tim, who is an investigator in the story.

TUROW: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: Can you tell us a little about him?

TUROW: Well, Tim Brody is an old homicide detective who in fact, was the - lead the investigation into Dita's murder 30 or 25 years before. And he's 81 years old now, still doing odd jobs for the Kronon family. And, you know, there's always the character who runs away with the book - if you're lucky and the book comes to life - and Tim was that character for me. I just became totally beguiled with him. He's old. He knows he does not have all that much time left. He's of very sound mind and not completely...

MARTIN: But he thinks he's kind of slipping. He's afraid.

TUROW: Yeah. Yeah, he knows that age has got its grip on him. What I adored about him is that he's had his share of blows, but he's generally affirmative about people. At one point, somebody remembers a conversation with Tim in which he explains what he was doing as a homicide cop, which was helping the rest of us be good, by showing us what happens if we don't mind our Ps and Qs; that he was trying to help everybody live a better life, in his own view.

MARTIN: So, you have done well. You have written best-sellers - several have been turned into movies. You could choose not to practice law, I imagine.

TUROW: You know, I think the truth, it just seemed kind of naturally interesting to me, the law, and it still does. You know, I will still get lost in reading court decisions and musing about, you know, the rationale for that, and trying to line that up against other things I know. And I enjoy the company of lawyers also, I have to admit, even though, you know, they're the butt of constant jokes. And between the two things, liking the law and liking lawyers, it's sort of natural to continue.

MARTIN: Scott Turow. His newest book, a novel, is called "Identical." He spoke to us from the studios of New England Public Radio in Amherst, Massachusetts. Thanks so much for talking with us, Scott.

TUROW: Thank you, Rachel.

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