Dec 25, 2020 • 46M

Episode 243: #Fact-based Fiction and Fiction from Facts with Mark Olshaker

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Appears in this episode

Entertaining, actionable advice on craft, productivity and creativity for writers and journalists in all genres, with hosts Jessica Lahey, KJ Dell'Antonia and Sarina Bowen.

A little #AmWriting behind the scenes: as we headed into this recording, Jess texted KJ:

Here’s the lowdown on Mark: I have been a fan of Mark Olshaker’s writing since I first encountered it in 1995. He may be best known for his work with former FBI Special Agent John Douglas, his writing partner since 1995, who pioneered the behavioral crimes unit at the FBI and inspired the Jack Crawford character in Silence of the Lambs. Together they have written many books including Mindhunter, about the role of behavioral profiling in catching violent criminals. His work with Douglas has landed him on the bestseller lists, but he has also written five novels and his nonfiction and documentary work covers subjects as wide-ranging emerging infectious disease, forensic emergency medicine, bioterror, the Lindburgh baby, and victims’ rights. He is also an Emmy-award winning filmmaker, as if that’s not enough AND, in a topic near and dear to my heart, he wrote, produced, and directed the film Discovering Hamlet, about one of my favorite productions of Hamlet directed by Dereck Jacobi and starring Kenneth Branagh. He follows Branagh and Jacobi from first read-throughs to opening night in 1988 and it’s now my life goal to see this film. Mark began his career as a journalist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Wall Street Journal, NYT, WaPo, and USA Today and I am SO very excited to talk with him today!

The result was every bit as fun as you’d imagine. We talked about finding the real story behind Silence of the Lambs, the “other kinds of detectives”—epidemiologists—and drawing a story based on taking a fact and running with it. Mark quotes Tom Clancy: “The difference between fiction and non-fiction is that fiction has to make sense.” Plus, our guest eviscerates Henry James.

Links from the pod:

Mind of a Killer PBS episode.

The Killer’s Shadow and The Killer Across the Table


Mark’s favorite crime fiction: George Pelecanos, Laura Lippman, Ian McEwan

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

KJ: Plain Bad Heroines Emily M. Danforth

Jess: Writings on an Ethical Life by Peter Singer

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow

Great Books by David Denby

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