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6 April 2022

Lynda La Plante Q&A: “My Mastermind specialist subject? Serial killers”

The crime writer on Eleanor Roosevelt, dealing with rejection and the making of murderers.

By New Statesman

Lynda La Plante was born in Liverpool in 1943 and began her career as an actor with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She is the creator of TV shows including Widows and Prime Suspect, and the author of more than 30 crime novels.

What’s your earliest memory?

Being dressed in a pale blue wool coat, velvet collar, leggings that fitted over my shoes, and a blue bonnet. My nanny was taking me to feed the ducks. As we waited to cross the road to the pond, a bus was drawing up to its stop, and a man with a bowler hat and a small sausage dog stepped straight in front of it. The dog was hit by the near front wheel. The man stepped forwards, picking up his dog. He then draped it over his arm and in a loud voice said: “It was entirely my fault.”

Who are your heroes?

My childhood hero was Geronimo. My uncle collected Native American art and had an incredible feathered headdress that belonged to Geronimo. I was told many stories about this great warrior. Now my hero is Hugh Montgomery, a professor of intensive care medicine at University College London. He has a brilliant mind and has helped hundreds of people recover from serious illnesses.

What book last changed your thinking?

I recently read The Romanov Royal Martyrs and found it to be an insight into the Russian Revolution. It is an extraordinarily detailed and compassionate history of the family, their immense inherited wealth and their tragic murders.

Which political figure do you look up to?

Eleanor Roosevelt. My grandmother used to read her autobiography and letters to me; she was a remarkable woman.

What would be your “Mastermind” specialist subject?

Serial killers, focusing on Ted Bundy. He was an absolute monster. I’m interested in what turned a highly educated, sometimes charming man into a serial killer.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

In a massive ocean villa in East Hampton, New York, during the 1930s.

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What TV show could you not live without?

BBC Breakfast. I like to be up to date with current events, and their human interest features are excellent.

Who would paint your portrait?

I would trust my sister Gilly Titchmarsh to paint my portrait. I would be smiling.

What’s your theme tune?

“If It Be Your Will” written by Leonard Cohen and sung by Antony and the Johnsons.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Rejection does not mean “no”. I still abide by it.

What’s currently bugging you?

People who drop litter. There’s no excuse.

What single thing would make your life better?

Right now it would be my incredible dog, a borzoi named Hugo, recovering his health.

When were you happiest?

I’m generally a happy person. It’s not just a state of mind. It’s good fortune to be born with a sense of humour that even makes oneself laugh.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

A vet. Hugo inhaled long grass into his lung, twice! To witness the care he received was wonderful. I love The Supervet, which often has me in tears.

Are we all doomed?

No, but we all need to pray for the survival of the brave people of Ukraine.

“Vanished”, the third novel in the Detective Jack Warr series by Lynda La Plante, is published by Zaffre

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This article appears in the 06 Apr 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Easter Special