Karin Slaughter is a New York Times and international best-selling author, with over 30 million copies of her books sold worldwide. Best known for her Grant County and Will Trent series, Slaughter now travels back to 1970s Atlanta in her new stand-alone title, Cop Town (Delacorte, Jun.). Introducing two female police officers at different points in their investigative careers, Slaughter highlights not only a thrilling crime but a historical view of women entering a predominantly male profession.
What made you decide to write a stand-alone novel? Especially one that goes back to the 1970s?
One of the many reasons I love reading crime fiction is because there are so many great novels that use crime to explore social themes. The issues I wanted to talk about in Cop Town—racism, sexism, income inequality, discrimination, hiring quotas—are all still very sensitive topics, but couching them in a 1970s setting gives the reader some remove to look at how things used to be and perhaps understand how much, and sometimes how little, things have changed.
Kate Murphy is a rookie cop in the Atlanta Police Department in 1974, Maggie Lawson her more seasoned partner, and they are not always considered part of “the boys in blue.” What was the role of women in the profession in that time period?
The 1970s were such a tumultuous decade for women. There were so many new rights codified into law, but the implementation of those laws was quite selective. To borrow the current jargon, most every time a woman leaned in, there was someone trying to yank her back out. This pressure didn’t always come from men. Other women could be just as awful, if not more so. According to records, one of the most common calls to Atlanta precincts during the 1970s was women reporting that they’d just seen another woman stealing a police car. It never occurred to them that a woman could actually be a police officer. They assumed it was more likely that she would be a car thief.
Your writing has focused on suspense and thrillers, but is that where your reading tastes lie?
My reading is across the board. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of historical fiction—Frog Music, The Untold, City of Women, all of which I really enjoyed. I loved Careless People because I’m fascinated by [the 1920s] (and its parallels with the last and current decade). But this isn’t to say that I don’t love me some thriller writers. Lisa Gardner, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Mo Hayder, Denise Mina, Gillian Flynn…the list goes on.
Your love of libraries and librarians is well-known, and your organization, Save the Libraries, has been a wonderful advocate and fundraising project. Tell us about it.
I believe it’s not just a moral imperative that we have open and free access to reading but a matter of national security. America will never be able to maintain its status in the world if her citizens lack basic reading comprehension. We learn about so much from literature—that there are different cultures, different religions, different people, different thoughts and ideas. There are all kinds of scientific studies proving that children who don’t read at an early age don’t form critical pathways in their brains that allow logical reasoning. Do we really want to create a class of citizens who aren’t qualified to do anything but run for Congress?