The dude has a presence. At 6-foot-6 and with looks the likes of which can land you in the pages of People’s 100 Most Eligible Bachelors, it’s hard not to take note of Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. He’s usually the tallest person in the room — among other distinguishing characteristics.
On a typical Wednesday evening not long ago, I pulled my aging Toyota up in front of Lindquist’s blue house, which isn’t nearly as north as one might expect from a person of such prominence but stands impressive nonetheless. Three stories and a basement of old-school Tacoma Craftsman charm, Lindquist’s abode is one of those quintessential Grit City real estate treasures — massive and grand, brimming with potential, yet not nearly as expensive as comparable pads in more well-to-do places, which, of course, can be chalked up to the negative perceptions of the land the house sits on. Inside, Lindquist and his wife, Chelsea, beautiful and charming in her own right, and responsible for keeping Mark up to date on current musical trends, have decorated the home with — among other items we’ll get to later — a captivating series of historic photos found at the library depicting turn-of-the-century Tacoma.
It quickly becomes apparent Lindquist identifies with this city. He’s not just here because of the undervalued real estate. He loves Tacoma.
After a sturdy handshake, Lindquist takes my rain-dampened coat, and we move into the living room. He assures me that any lateness on my part hasn’t bothered him. He’s been working on a review of Nick Hornby’s latest book, Juliet, Naked, for The Oregonian. On the coffee table sits Hornby’s effort. Behind it, on a wall of shelves that gives the TV-less room a heady, warm appeal, sit countless others — all stacked and displayed prominently, like the way a museum displays art.
As I familiarize myself with the surroundings, Lindquist — dressed in jeans, a white dress shirt and a pair of beaten, around-the-house loafers with no socks — switches from the Stones to the Replacements on the stereo. As he pulls the band’s third album, Let It Be, out of a massive collection of CDs, I tell Lindquist he’s old school for keeping the silver circles in action. Most people have switched to MP3s, I say.
He laughs politely, even genuinely, and agrees. This is his nature. Lindquist is a nice guy. Despite the fact he was recently appointed Pierce County prosecutor, and despite the literary career he built before that honor — which includes, among other highlights, being part of the “literary brat pack,” four successful novels that eloquently mix pop culture and literature, a bunch of screenplays and the aforementioned recognition of People’s 100 Most Eligible Bachelors (He charted just below Ben Affleck in 2000. Look it up!) — inside his home Lindquist doesn’t intimidate me.
Soon, I’m taking the tour.
Lindquist always knew he’d go to law school and be a writer; he just didn’t realize the order in which the two career goals would come. After graduating from Nathan Hale High School in Seattle, a childhood friend of Kim Warnick and Kurt Bloch of the Fastbacks, Lindquist moved to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California after a one-year stop at the University of Washington. A confident kid with a love for words, music, and popular culture, it was a move that proved fateful.
“I became aware of the music scene about the time I was a junior in high school,” says Lindquist. “Like a lot of things in life, my introduction was just happenstance. I was not a musician. The only reason I became aware of the scene was from knowing Kurt and Kim and being a huge fan of music."
In the world of glitz, glamour, and paying writing gigs in Los Angeles, Lindquist couldn’t help but get caught up. After graduating from USC, the tall kid from Seattle found himself tan and in Los Angeles (Note: I’m just guessing on the tan part), writing screenplays for major studios — work he calls “lucrative but frustrating.” Despite the drawbacks, like writing major studio screenplays that few people would ever actually read, the situation was almost too good to be true.
“I never set out to be a screenwriter. It was just something I did. I thought of myself as a novelist,” explains Lindquist. “I always figured I would write professionally at some point, but I didn’t realize I could make a living at it.”
Soon he really was a novelist. Lindquist’s first two books, Sad Movies and Carnival Desires, both provided an insider’s portrayal of the down and dirty Los Angeles movie industry and were written during Lindquist’s 10-plus years in Los Angeles.
Accolades and bigger paychecks followed.
“I was writing. I got lucky and started making my living that way, which was cool. I decided to play it out, and it went on about ten years until I got burned out,” says Lindquist of his decade in Southern California.
This brings us to 2000’s Never Mind Nirvana, which played heavily on the history of Seattle grunge and Northwest pop culture and was penned after Lindquist burned out and moved back to the Northwest set on attending law school in Tacoma. A self-proclaimed rock ‘n’ roll aficionado — a title he says anyone can own — the grunge-heavy subject matter of Never Mind Nirvana fit Lindquist like a glove. Growing up in Seattle’s music scene and having managed to stay connected even during his time in Los Angeles, Lindquist knew what he was talking about.
“I would describe the scene back then as a small club,” says Lindquist of his formative years and the early grunge period. “I think the number of people has been greatly exaggerated in subsequent accounts describing the burgeoning of the Seattle music scene. It was a very small number of people. Everyone sort of knew each other.
“There was a feeling something was happening, but anyone who says they felt it was about to explode is rewriting history or exaggerating.”
Flash forward to Lindquist’s latest novel, 2007’s The King of Methlehem. Written after Lindquist began working at the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office and had gained firsthand experience fighting homebrewed poison in what, at the time at least, was one of the methamphetamine capitals of the known world, the book catalogues another evolution and another facet of the intriguing character who is Mark Lindquist.
“When I started at the prosecutor’s office most people didn’t know about my previous career as a writer, or if they knew I was a writer they didn't know the details — at least until Never Mind Nirvana,” says Lindquist.
Rock fan. Novelist. Screenwriter. Dreamboat. Lawyer and prosecutor. Mark Lindquist is a character fit for one of his own books.
Oh yeah, the tour …
In Lindquist’s living room hangs a letter from Kurt Vonnegut, which in part reads:
The fact that you have completed a work of fiction of which you are proud, which you made as good as you could, makes you as close a blood relative as my brother Bernard.
It’s just one of the items in his home that helps paint a picture of the man.
Even in Los Angeles, Lindquist was a Seattle kid with a strong current of pre-grunge ethos. Having sculpted his character — and, as it turns out, a few literary characters that would come later — in the dimly lit clubs of Seattle, Lindquist always identified with the detuned sounds emanating from the Pacific Northwest. Because of the friends he’d made growing up, such as Warnick, Bloch and the countless others who came from simply hanging out in the Seattle music scene, Lindquist always kept an ear and eye on what was happening in Seattle. Even today, leading the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, the walls of Lindquist’s home don’t ignore those roots.
Lindquist takes me into his office on the main floor of his home. In it, a classic rolltop wooden desk occupies most of the space. On one wall hangs a giant, framed picture of R.E.M., autographed by Peter Buck. On the adjacent wall, Lindquist has four backstage passes framed, keepsakes from the four best shows he’s ever seen. R.E.M., the Replacements, U2, and Elvis Costello are represented. On the other side of the room, somewhat overshadowed by the rock artifacts, a big, framed cover of Lindquist’s Never Mind Nirvana also hangs on the wall.
The Pierce County prosecutor leads me down into his basement. The book collection in the living room was only a start. In a space bigger than some apartments I’ve lived in, stacks upon stacks of books and screenplays give the space — also home to typical appliances such as a washer and dryer — more of a library feel. As if I needed to be more impressed, Lindquist digs through a box and reveals an original version of the American Psycho manuscript. Trying to maintain my cool, I say something like, “Well, that’s certainly awesome.”
It’s an understatement.
Lindquist and I make our way back up the stairs, past the living room and up to the second and third floors. As the tour continues, it dawns on me just how much Seattle rock ‘n’ roll paraphernalia Lindquist owns. Nearly every wall plays home to a framed show poster or candid photo of some sort — from Kurt Cobain and beyond. We trudge on, the typical homely amenities evenly mixed with items fit for the EMP museum. A poker room gives way to a NordicTrack, which gives way to a space where Lindquist and his wife watch movies — the pile of VHS tapes is far bigger than the stack of DVDs.
Eventually, the tour leads to the bedroom. Lindquist’s prosecuting clothes hang in the corner of the big room. In a house that’s so devoted to rock ‘n’ roll, the 27 or so crisp white dress shirts seem entirely at odds with everything I’ve seen before this point.
It was exactly this presumed juxtaposition that led me here.
Redefining “The Man”
I was on the bus when his e-mail made its way to my phone. It’s hard to feel very important riding public transit, but amazingly his message had that effect.
Matt, look for me tonight at Hell’s Kitchen. Peter Buck is coming over and we’re going to have a couple of drinks and then head west to the show. He’s playing. I’m not. ML
Seriously. What the fuck? When do you get e-mails like that on the bus?
I did run into Lindquist at Hell’s Kitchen that night, and he was indeed hanging out with Buck — a friend he says has an “encyclopedic knowledge of pop music and literature.” Buck was playing with the Minus 5.
During our interview I ask Lindquist about the relationship.
“By the time I knew Peter he was hopelessly associated with REM,” says Lindquist, who remembers meeting Buck hanging out at the Crocodile in Seattle with Kim Warnick. “But there’s no rock star attitude about him.”
It was all too much. The rock. The writing. The rock ‘n’ roll friendships. The job. I couldn’t help but wonder to myself: How many counties in the world have a prosecutor who hangs out with Peter Buck?
Not many, I figured — which became the loose basis for this piece.
Rock ‘n’ roll and the prosecutor’s office — at least in my limited experience — don’t always mix. When they do, it’s usually because Jim Morrison exposed himself, John Lennon got busted with pot, or — dare I say — Peter Buck experienced a little air rage riding British Airways (acquitted, of course).
It seemed prudent to ask: With Lindquist’s rock background isn’t he afraid he’s now working for the man.
“I’m just a fan. It’s not like I was in Guns N’ Roses. If I had been in Guns N’ Roses, we might have an issue,” Lindquist says. “I think for my generation and younger music — rock — is a common bond.
“We are the people’s man,” Lindquist says of the prosecutor’s office. “We do the people’s work. I think the idea of prosecutors as 'The Man' is a very sixties perspective we've outgrown.”
Shockingly enough, I think he’s right. And I think his life has proved it.