The News Tribune interview

Novelist and Pierce County deputy prosecutor Mark Lindquist is named one of People magazine’s 100 most eligible bachelors

 


By Cheryl Reid

The Tacoma News Tribune

Aug. 7, 2000

Never mind Tacoma

After all, Mark Lindquist doesn’t in his latest novel, “Never Mind Nirvana.”

The City of Destiny rates only a mention – and an X-rated one at that. A character engaging in carnal pursuits with the novel’s protagonist wants things to get raunchier and thus suggests they proceed “like we’re in Tacoma.”

Lindquist, a Pierce County deputy prosecutor since 1995, used his legal experiences and his Seattle rock ‘n’ roll connections to forge a novel that’s earned him rave reviews from The New York Times Book Review and Vogue to The News Tribune.

U.S. News and World Report even named the book its “Pick of the Week” last spring and The Wall Street Journal named it one of seven novels “likely to be among the big summer sellers.”

But the 6-foot-6-inch author’s re-emergence on the literary scene has won him notice for more than his writing. People magazine recently named him one of the 100 most eligible bachelors in the country.

Not bad for a guy who spends his days in the less-than-glamorous County City Building prosecuting child molesters and wife beaters.

Of course, in the book, the County City Building overlooks Safeco Field. But why quibble over details?

At least he squeezes in mentions of legendary Tacoma band the Ventures, Bob’s Java Jive and the Tacoma Dome, even if he transplants other parts of Tacoma to the Emerald City.

“Originally it was this mythical ‘Puget Sound County,’ a blending of Pierce and King,” Lindquist said in his defense. But an editor suggested the county remain unnamed and Lindquist stuck to Seattle. “Fact and fiction are kind of hopelessly intermingled,” he said of the setting.

But there is just enough fact to keep people familiar with the Pierce County justice system on their toes.

After all, the protagonist, Pete Tyler, is a deputy prosecutor living in a loft (though Tyler’s is in Seattle and Lindquist is quite happy in downtown Tacoma). And, like Lindquist, law was not his first profession.

Tyler was in a locally successful rock band. Lindquist went to law school after a successful career in Southern California as a writer. And the novel’s settings, such as “the pit” between arraignment courtrooms, are dead-on descriptions of what you find in the County City Building.

But unlike the fictional Pete Tyler, Lindquist said he has never had a date OD on heroin (“though I have had some horrific dates”), never had sex on the Monorail and never gotten out of a drunken-driving rap because he is a prosecutor. “That’s the beauty of fiction,” he said of Tyler’s mostly good fortune.

But the real question is about the supporting characters in the book.

“In most cases I used real names,” Lindquist said. True enough, the book’s victim’s advocate is an amalgamation of the names of the victim’s advocates in the Pierce County special assault unit. The head of Tyler’s unit is “Dawn Lund,” a combination of Lindquist’s bosses at the time, Dawn Fryzek and Kawyne Lund. “I eliminated the whole guessing game,” Lindquist said.

Not quite.

While he named the innocuous characters after real people, he wisely left to the imagination the inspiration for the book’s less admirable people. Like defense attorney “Shane Sundfell,” described in the book as “Satan.”

“Sundfell and his three associates – known as Beelzebub, the Minion and Satan’s Little Helper – are the most loathed attorneys in the county,” Lindquist writes. “They made their name by specializing in child molesters, and the occasional garden variety rapist or murderer, and branched out into a civil practice that includes suing other lawyers.”

So who was the prototype for the fictional Sundfell? If it’s a real person, Lindquist isn’t telling. “People all assume they know who Shane Sundfell is,” he said, adding that the people who think they have it figured out usually disagree with one another.

The judge in the book, described as a do-it-yourselfer around the house who isn’t quite up with the legal times, is named Sorensen, an homage to deputy prosecutor Phil Sorensen. But that’s not who the character is based on, though Lindquist hints that it is a real person.

Though the novel, Lindquist’s third, uses his real-life workplace as a backdrop, the author said he wasn’t afraid of colleague’s reactions. “Most of the people in this building have a real good sense of humor,” he said.

“I got a good laugh,” Fryzek said of learning her name made it into the novel. “And I’ve heard there are some characters that appear to be similar to characters in our office.” But she hasn’t made time to read it.

Neither has Lund, even though people keep showing her the page where her name appears. The first time she heard about it, Lund said, she was shocked. Lindquist didn’t warn anyone before the book’s release. “I said, ‘Oh my God, what do you mean I’m in the book?'” Lund recalled. She was relieved that her namesake merely pokes her head in Tyler’s office. She still intends to read it when she gets time, but already knows enough from other prosecutors that she gets the idea. “We’re a little more boring than is portrayed,” she said. Pierce County prosecutors also aren’t quite as “cavalier” as Pete Tyler and his buddies in the book, Lund said. In other words, they don’t get drunk before deciding whether to refile charges after a mistrial. Though the book caused a buzz when it came out, “more people were taken aback by the People article,” Lund said.

That would be the article listing Lindquist as one of the 100 hottest hunks.

“I got a chuckle out of that,” Lund said of seeing a fellow prosecutor listed with the likes of George Clooney and Matt Damon. “I mean, this is Tacoma!”

But Lindquist, despite his Northwest roots, does have a bit of Hollywood in him.

After graduating from the University of Washington, he moved to the bright lights and smoggy skies of Los Angeles to pursue a career as a writer.

“I had always wanted to go to law school,” he said. “But I started making a living as a writer quicker than I thought I would.”

After having his first two novels – “Sad Movies” and “Carnival Desires” – published, Lindquist was dubbed one of the literary “Brat Pack” with the likes of Bret Easton Ellis (“Less Than Zero”) and Jay McInerney (“Bright Lights, Big City”).

To ensure his status, he even dated movie Brat Packer Molly Ringwald and wrote screenplays.

Then, in 1991, “I hit a wall,” Lindquist said.

He had saved enough money from writing to take some time off. He thought about touring Europe, but decided on something more productive: law school. He started at the University of Puget Sound Law School, which was the Seattle University Law School by the time he graduated and started work with the prosecutor’s office in 1995.

Lindquist said he picked criminal law because “that’s where the stories are.”

And there are plenty to tell, he said. He’s currently making notes for two more novels. “Once I’ve retired (from the prosecutor’s office), I can be more explicit,” he said. “I have volumes of notes.” Not that he wants to leave law any time soon.

Though he says he made a lot more money as a full-time writer, he enjoys toiling as an attorney. “Each of them appeals to a different aspect of my personality,” he says of his dual careers. “Right now I like the balance of doing both. Writing is very solitary. I like the social aspect of being a prosecutor.”