This interview is part of an ongoing LARB A.V. series from this year’s LA Times Festival of Books. Go to the LARB A.V. homepage to see more interviews with T.C. Boyle, Mona Simpson and Leslie Jamison, and keep checking in for upcoming interviews with Walter Kirn, Michelle Huneven, and many, many more.
Daniel Handler is a master of children’s fiction. First he gave us the endlessly refreshing gothic books A Series of Unfortunate Events, and now he’s in the middle of a new series, All The Wrong Questions, that takes some of the same characters and drops them into a noir setting. Handler is a big fan of noir fiction and read the likes of Chandler and Hammett as a child, and he also has a keen eye for spinning grown-up themes into children’s fare — his protagonist, a young Lemony Snicket, develops an addiction to coffee the way a gumshoe detective might take to alcohol or drugs. But at its core Handler’s writing finds ways to take the familiar tropes of noir fiction (and gothic fiction, for that matter) and map them quite profoundly onto the experience of being a child.