Liad Shoham is Israel’s number one best-selling crime author, and now his latest book, Lineup, has been translated into English. Shoham has been called Israel’s John Grisham for his complex crime novels; in Lineup he lives up to that reputation.
Elise Cooper had the pleasure of interviewing Liad Shoham for the Jewish Book Council.
Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for this story?
Liad Shoham: My sister told me the story of a rape victim, whose father supposedly found him as he walked outside of his daughter’s apartment. The father convinced the police, the prosecutor, and even his daughter who the rapist was. That person came very close to getting convicted. In the very late stages the prosecutor realized they were trying the wrong man. I took that story and developed it by adding mafia crime and bombings.
EC: Can you discuss some of your influences?
LS: I was influenced by the TV show “The Wire,” which offers a lot of perspectives from the different characters’ point of view. I am also influenced by my sister, a public defender (PD) here in Israel. She gave me the details of a similar case and I developed that story. Look, I do not consider my sister evil just because she defends supposed criminals. She opened my eyes to look at PDs differently, which hopefully the reader will do as well. My final influence is the basic fact that Israelis have grown up around bombings. I lived in Paris when I was between the ages of eight and twelve because my dad was a diplomat. There were a lot of terrorist attacks on Israeli targets. One of my father’s colleagues had a bomb go off under his car while my friend’s father, a Mossad agent, was shot. Bombings are always in the back of every Israeli’s mind.
EC: A lot of people don’t have much regard for public defenders; did you hope to change that attitude in this story?
LS: I understand that people can more easily relate to prosecutors than public defenders. People look at PDs as obstacles to justice. My sister helped me to understand the complexities of her job. She pointed out that PDs have to fight an entire system and are always hated for supporting the supposed criminal. People need to remember that anyone can be falsely accused and that from time to time the system gets it wrong. Then the only person in the world who can help the accused is the PD.
EC: What would you say is the theme of your books?
LS: My stand-alone books all involve social problems. I try to choose a subject that disturbs me and make a thriller out of it.
EC: What was the theme in Lineup?
LS: I tried to show what happens behind the scenes of the judicial system. Every character is motivated by their moral standards. I hope this book gives readers a glimpse of how easily those influencing the judicial system can make it go awry. Each of these characters symbolized a part of the judicial system, with their own agenda and motives. My characters are seen as humans, not superstars. I don’t write them as purely evil and purely good.
EC: Do you think you will appeal to an American audience?
LS: I think thrillers have a common language. Everyone can relate to what I wrote. The theme is universal since every country suffers from crime and how the judicial system reacts. My next book, A Silent City, is about illegal immigrants from Africa living in Tel Aviv, intertwined with a crime mystery. This situation upsets a lot of Israelis, which is similar to how many Americans feel. America and Israel deal with a lot of the same issues.
EC: You are very well known in Israel but in America you are now a rookie — how do you feel?
LS: I am excited and frightened. I am the number one crime fiction author in Israel. I know it will be hard work to climb the ladder here, but I am already published in Europe. I think Israelis are influenced by a lot of American culture, including myself, who has read a lot of American authors like John Grisham.
EC: Good luck and thank you!
Elise Cooper lives in Los Angeles and has written numerous national security articles supporting Israel. She writes book reviews and Q and A’s for many different outlets including the Military Press. She has had the pleasure to interview bestselling authors from many different genres.