25 Years of Spectra: THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA (2006) by Scott Lynch


If someone asked me who my favorite new fantasy author is, I’d be torn. I love Ari Marmell, but I’m also a bit biased, as I’m his editor. And I think Patrick Rothfuss is doing some great things (I love the write-ups he did for our Cage Match), although I wish he’d do them just a bit faster. Peter Brett’s Warded Man series and Jaida Jones and Dani Bennett’s series that began with Havemercy are definitely on my list.
Yet I can’t help it: Scott Lynch is by far and away on the top of that list. If anything, his first book, The Lies of Locke Lamora was the reason I wanted to acquire Ari’s books–I found Ari’s blend of humor, darkness, and characterization reminded me of how amazing Scott’s novels are. Because not only does he brilliantly build a world, but he creates more twists and turns in that world that–and this is important–doesn’t lose the reader.
Locke Lamora might be one of the great fantasy characters–certainly one of the greatest of the 21st century so far–and despite the somewhat daunting page count, I remember finishing this novel in a day.
I honestly couldn’t put it down.
The same went for the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies, and I’m sure it will be the same for the third book, The Republic of Thieves (so please deliver that to Anne, Scott!).
Below, Scott and Anne Groell, his editor, talk about one of my favorite novels.

“Once upon a time, when I was stuggling to shape my vision for what would become The Lies of Locke Lamora, I caught a brief glimpse of an episode of a certain TV series in which the main character was an adaptive genius, capable of slipping in and out of any role from janitor to neurosurgeon in his ongoing quest to do good.
In this episode, our hero needed to infiltrate a hospital. Picture, if you will, a man in street clothing climbing into the back of an ambulance with a patient and two uniformed paramedics. We then cut to the ambulance’s arrival at the hospital, and out pop three paramedics and a patient! Our hero has somehow conned the ambulance personnel into letting him don one of their spare uniforms- not thumped one over the head and stolen his clothes, mind you, but actually talked them into letting him join them.
Ponder that for a moment. My reaction was distinctly unprintable.

For one thing, it’s untethered from plausibility. You mean to tell me that two adult paramedics, busy tending a patient, are supposed to just disregard every scrap of liability and security training they’ve ever had and let a random stranger don the uniform of their service? I work in emergency services myself, and let me tell you, we don’t let random people jump aboard our fire trucks, throw on our department gear, and get off at the station dressed like one of us.
However, the more grievous crime is this–the alleged miracle took place entirely off-camera. A crime against story so much worse than a mere crime against plausibility! Imagine if there was a guy so ingenious, so charming, that he could talk a pair of suspicious paramedics into letting him do something that was completely illegal and career-threatening. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see this character at work, to hear the words he chose, to witness the tricks he used to con other people so deftly? I think it would have been the most interesting part of the whole story, which is why it’s a distinctly unprintable shame that it’s the one thing the writers left out!
Cheating! Ridiculous, unpardonable cheating. Ironically, when you’re telling a story about a character that lies and cheats their way past obstacles, the one thing you simply cannot do is cheat the audience out of the best parts of the affair. Assuring us that cleverness happened out of sight is no substitute for showing us the interaction, the wordplay, and the tricks that allow our hero to bamboozle their way past all barriers to victory. Mere plausibility can be flung down and danced upon in deference to a great story, but by all that’s holy, you’ve got to play fair and give the audience the play-by play. If you’re not willing to take that trouble as a writer, then as far as I’m concerned your keyboard should be flushed to the bottom of the Marianas Trench.
The pleasure of watching a fictional con or heist unfold is the pleasure of seeing a fine watch with its cover removed, so all the intricate pieces of the device can be witnessed in motion, acting in concert to produce their ultimate pleasing effect. I knew from the depth of my reaction to the paramedic indicent that I’d tapped a rich vein of obsession to craft my first novel around… a refusal to consciously cheat the reader out of what should be the best moments of my story.
I’ve lived inside this brain too long to be able to assure you that I’m some kind of infallible genius. I don’t even promise that you’ll agree with the logic of my characters’ actions, or want to join me in doing a Snoopy-dance on top of poor, abused plausibility. All I can promise is that none of my characters will ever step conveniently off-stage for their climactic moments of chutzpah. The day I give in to laziness in that regard is the day I push my keyboard aside and take up turnip farming. That, I suppose is one of the central threads of the vision that defined *The Lies of Locke Lamora,* and drives its sequels– the notion that all the best kinds of lie require a certain scrupulous honesty to actually make them work on the page.”

–Scott Lynch, July 2010


“When the pitch came in for Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora, it was the most excited I had been about a fantasy novel since I first saw George R.R Martin’s proposal. I was just coming off my crushing loss of Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind to Daw, and I really wanted another great big-book fantasy to fill that void. And then Simon Spanton came to visit from the UK.
The whole story of Scott’s acquisition is kind of unusual. He had started posting chapters of his fantasy work in progress online. A bookseller spotted it, and pointed Simon its way. Simon snapped up world rights based on 100 pages, and then started passing those chapters around during his next visit to the US. I was one of the lucky recipients, and Simon pitched it so well that I think I started reading the material the minute he left my office. The sly humor in it won me over almost instantly, as did Locke himself–the ultimate con-man. I ended up preempting the book based on the same 100 pages, and waited eagerly for the final manuscript.
It came in, as I recall, near one of the ComicCons, because I distinctly remember sitting by the pool at one of the con hotels after set-up was done, tearing through it. And it was every bit as wonderful as I had expected. Operatic, tragic, twistier than a nest full of snakes, and funny as all hell. Even as you are laughing, you are crying–and even as you are crying, you are laughing. Great stuff!”

–Anne Groell, Senior Editor, Spectra

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