Linda Fairstein, Former ‘Central Park 5’ Prosecutor, Dropped By Her Publisher

Linda Fairstein, seen at an event in New York City in 2004, parlayed her fame as a prosecutor into a prolific run as a crime novelist.

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Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

Linda Fairstein, the longtime New York City prosecutor turned prolific crime novelist, is no longer with her publisher after a firestorm of criticism erupted over her work in a famous — and recently dramatized — trial three decades ago.

Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Random House, confirmed to NPR that it and Fairstein “have decided to terminate their relationship.” A spokesperson for Dutton declined to offer any further details on the decision.

News of the abrupt separation comes two months after the publication of her latest novel, Blood Oath — and just days after the release of the Netflix-produced, Ava DuVernay-helmed miniseries When They See Us. The show dramatizes the notorious case in which authorities pressured five black and Latino teenagers into falsely confessing to a 1989 gang rape in New York City’s Central Park.

That case, which these days goes by the shorthand Central Park Five, resulted in convictions and years of prison time for the accused. Then, in 2002 another man confessed to the crime, and the five convictions were vacated after more than a decade. The city eventually settled a civil suit with the men for about $40 million, but the trial — and the media maelstrom that surrounded it — have lingered on as a stark example of racial injustice in the criminal justice system.

The case has inspired books, documentaries and, most recently, the Netflix project — which places Fairstein, who oversaw the case’s prosecution, at the heart of it. Fairstein’s character, portrayed by Felicity Huffman, serves as the miniseries’ “biggest villain,” as NPR critic Eric Deggans noted last week.

“In the Netflix show, she calls the Central Park Five ‘animals,’ pushing cops to coerce confessions and hold back evidence,” Deggans explained. “As the series shows, many years later convicted serial rapist and murderer Matias Reyes confessed that he raped [victim Trisha] Meili alone and DNA evidence found at the scene proves he was there. Still, Huffman’s Fairstein refuses to admit they may have railroaded the wrong people.”

Since the show’s release, controversy has tailed Fairstein, who left her career as a prosecutor to write full-time roughly a decade and a half ago. Since she picked up the pen in the mid-1990s, Fairstein has published more than 20 novels.

But it is her past life as a prosecutor that is haunting her. In the span of a week, she has been the subject of a petition calling for her removal from Vassar College’s board of trustees. She has resigned. A hashtag, #CancelLindaFairstein, has served as a popular vehicle for calls to boycott her books.

Glamour magazine, which named Fairstein the Woman of the Year in 1993, retracted that honor in a note to readers published earlier this week.

“Unequivocally, Glamour would not bestow this honor on her today. She received the award in 1993, before the full injustices in this case were brought to light,” the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Samantha Barry, wrote Tuesday. “Though the convictions were later vacated and the men received a settlement from the City of New York, the damage caused is immeasurable.”

Fairstein, for her part, responded to an NPR interview of DuVernay by calling the series’ depiction of her “grossly” inaccurate and said the program is a “fictional dramatization of events.” She said she did not hear from the show’s producers after her legal team sent them materials related to the investigation.

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Smithsonian Folkways Celebrates 50 Years Of Jazz Fest’s Serendipity

Professor Longhair plays at the 1971 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

John Messina/Courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways


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John Messina/Courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways

This past May, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival celebrated its 50th anniversary, attracting an estimated 475,000 people to its annual celebration of Louisiana music and culture. To mark this milestone, Smithsonian Folkways has released its Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival box set that includes rare live recordings and photographs of the momentous gathering.

At Jazz Fest, the fear of missing out is real. It’s pretty much unavoidable. There’s music happening on 14 stages — sometimes, all at once. The Smithsonian Folkways anthology reflects the festival’s incredible range of music. The set is not organized by genre or chronology, like typical historical sets. Instead, it replicates the serendipitous randomness of a walk through the festival grounds.

Disc One includes invocations from Mardi Gras Indians and there’s also a brilliant duet between boogie-woogie piano legend Champion Jack Dupree and one of his many followers, the songwriter and producer Alan Toussaint, recorded at the 1990 fest. Toussaint turns up again on Disc Two, leading his own band through one of his infectious uptown-funk hits from the 1970s.

Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival box set includes 5 discs, over 300 minutes of music and a 136-page book.

Smithsonian Folkways


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Smithsonian Folkways

At this fest, and maybe no place else on earth, it’s a short walk from funk to the traditional dances of Cajun country. Jazz Fest celebrates Louisiana as a kind of miracle mixing bowl – not just the birthplace of jazz, but a cauldron that’s given the world countless grooves and styles. Among them is “rum boogie,” the cross between boogie-woogie and Caribbean rhythm that the late pianist and singer Professor Longhair developed in the 1950s. He was a regular at the festival in its early years, when there were only a few stages and tents.

This anthology does not include performances by Bruce Springsteen, the Dave Matthews Band, and others — headliners who’ve opened the festival to criticism that it’s strayed from its mission. Instead, it focuses almost exclusively on legends and rising stars from the region. It doesn’t go too deep in any one genre. It offers tastes, not full meals. But if you’ve never experienced the Jazz & Heritage Festival, this rollicking, spirited celebration of living, breathing music history shows exactly what you’ve been missing.

Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is out now via The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc.

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