Monday, February 15, 2010

Hey, I'm Not the Police Reporter

Blogging for Mystery Scene Magazine, Oline H. Cogdill recently reported that Laura Lippman has optioned her Tess Monaghan series to TV production company Ostar Enterprises, which is owned by Bill Haber.

While we wait for the series to make it to prime time, we shouldn't forget that Lippman herself had a cameo role in the first episode of the fifth season of The Wire, the ground-breaking HBO series produced by her husband David Simon.

She plays a reporter for The Baltimore Sun and is featured in a scene with Clark Johnson who plays editor Augustus "Gus" Hayne. Gus notices Laura's character and another reporter in a conference room, staring at a column of smoke from a burning building. He goes to investigate.

Here's a rough transcript of the dialog that follows:

OTHER REPORTER (pointing)
Something's burning.

GUS
You, ah, you wonder what it might be?

LAURA
Hey, I'm not the police reporter.

GUS
But you called [him], though, right?

At this point the other reporter moves to the phone and Laura grimaces in acknowledgment of their failure to alert their colleague to the story.


Turns out the plot line may well have been drawn from Lippman's own experiences as a reporter on the Sun. To quote from an essay, "Gone, Baby, Gone" on her website:
My last day at The Sun was on Sept. 30th [2001], although I didn't know it at the time. No one did. I worked the Sunday cop-shift, part of a weekend rotation shared by most of The Sun's metro reporters. It was a busy-if-inglorious shift. There was ... a three-alarm blaze in West Baltimore that had left a homeless man dead and created three new homeless people - an elderly woman and her two tenants...

It wasn't a big story, I'm sorry to say. The death of a nameless homeless man seldom is in the pages of the Baltimore Sun. But there were holes, some confusion about what had happened. I knew the night editor, the incomparable David Michael Ettlin, would razz me (justifiably) if I didn't at least make every effort to answer those questions. And while Dick Irwin, the regular night cop reporter, is used to batting clean-up for the Sunday rotation, I didn't want to dump my undone work on him.
So you see, the only difference from real life and the scene in The Wire is that Lippman did follow up on the story of the fire herself.

Another interesting point is the theme of homeless deaths is key to the entire fifth (and concluding) season of The Wire.

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