Dick Lehr’s fans know him as an award-winning investigative journalist who has penned best-selling books about real-life seedy criminal enterprises, murderous teens, and criminal cops.
Lehr’s new book, out today, is a bold departure. Written for a young adult audience, Trell (Candlewick, 2017) is the fictional story of a 14-year-old who teams up with a newspaper reporter in a quest to free her wrongly imprisoned father.
“I was looking for a way to reach a younger audience,” says Lehr, a College of Communication professor of journalism, who will read from the book tomorrow, September 13, at Brookline Booksmith. “That became a novel to show readers the power of journalism.”
Lehr says that while writing for teens is new to him, writing about social justice issues is not. He may be best known for Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a Devil’s Deal (Harper, 2000), cowritten with Gerard O’Neill (COM’70), about their experiences as Boston Globe reporters chronicling Bulger’s double life as a gangster and an FBI informant. The book was made into a film starring Johnny Depp in 2015.
Among Lehr’s other work are The Fence: A Police Cover-Up along Boston’s Racial Divide (Harper, 2009), about the beating of a black plainclothes policeman by white police officers and the ensuing cover-up, and The Birth of a Movement: How Birth of a Nation Ignited the Battle for Civil Rights (Public Affairs, 2017), the story of an African American newspaper editor in Boston and his battle against the racist depictions in the film Birth of a Nation.
Trell draws heavily on Lehr’s reporting of the murder conviction of Shawn Drumgold, a drug dealer arrested and sentenced to life in prison for the death of 12-year-old Tiffany Moore, who was hit by a stray bullet on a summer night in the late 1980s while she sat on top of a mailbox talking with friends. Her death received nationwide press coverage, and public outrage put pressure on police to make an arrest.