This week, Patti Smith releases M Train, her follow-up to the life-affirming, flawlessly composed 2010 memoir Just Kids. Unlike Just Kids, which Smith says she wrote with "an agenda" and a "responsibility" to her late friend Robert Mapplethorpe, M Train is a more free-flowing work of non fiction, where dreams sit comfortably alongside quiet, unassuming moments from her day-to-day life.
Smith visited Hearst Tower on Monday (Oct. 6) to discuss M Train, chatting for an hour with Esquire editor-in-chief David Granger, Hearst employees and a few members of the media about her new book.
Aside from the intrinsic humor in Patti Smith speaking at Hearst 41 years after singing in less-than-PC terms about heiress-turned-revolutionary Patti Hearst on a visceral reworking of "Hey Joe" (a single that preceded the landmark Horses), Smith touched on an important piece of information about her future: She's working on a detective novel.
Patti Smith through the years
Patti Smith working on detective novel, envisions Clive Owen playing her lead
NEW YORK: Patti Smith recites poetry on stage at a club called Local in New York City in 1975 (Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns)
NEW YORK: Patti Smith posed with Allen Ginsberg at a poetry reading night at a club called Local in New York City in 1975 (Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns)
NEW YORK - APRIL 04: Patti Smith performing with the Patti Smith Group at CBGB's club in New York City on April 04 1975 (Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns)
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 28: BOTTOMLINE Photo of Patti SMITH (Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns)
Lynn Goldsmith and Patti Smith, studio portrait, New York, 1978. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 01: Photo of Patti SMITH (Photo by Eamonn McCabe/Redferns)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 07: RANDALLS ISLAND Photo of Patti SMITH, performing live onstage at the Tibetan Freedom Concert (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)
NEW YORK CITY - MARCH 17: Singer Patti Smith and husband musician Fred 'Sonic' Smith attend 'That's What Friends Are For: Arista Records' 15th Anniversary Concert' to Benefit AIDS Research - After Party on March 17, 1990 at the Tavern on the Green in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Patti Smith performs on stage at Jaap Eden Hal, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 4th September 1979. (Photo by Rob Verhorst/Redferns)
LONDON - MARCH 20: Patti Smith peforms live at a book signing for her memoir 'Just Kids' at Foyles on March 20, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 11: (L-R) Singer Patti Smith and guitarist Lenny Kaye perform during the LNA Fall 2010 Presentation After Party at Milk Studios on February 11, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 28: (L-R) Martin Jakobsen, Jesse Paris Smith, Patti Smith and Brian Hernandez attend the 2015 Social Good Summit - Day 2 at 92Y on September 28, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Stewart/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 03: Patti Smith performs on stage during The New Yorker Festival 2015 at SVA Theater on October 3, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for The New Yorker)
US singer and songwriter Patti Smith performs during the 40th Paleo Festival Nyon on July 25, 2015 in Nyon, the biggest open-air festival in Switzerland and one of Europe's major musical events. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
GLASTONBURY, ENGLAND - JUNE 28: The Dalai Lama appears with Patti Smith on The Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm, Pilton on June 28, 2015 in Glastonbury, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/Redferns via Getty Images)
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"I have my detective. I've been working on it for a few years at my own pace," Smith said. While a deal with her publisher precluded her from speaking on it in detail, when asked by Billboard for more information, she did reveal that she'd already cast a real-life actor as her fictional detective -- "Clive Owen," Smith said.
A longtime fan of detective novels and TV shows (which M Train addresses), Smith explained what attracts her to the genre. "I don't like the crime or the stress of crime," she specified, adding that she doesn't have any particular interest in serial killers, either. "I like the mind of the detective."
Speaking on Henning Mankell, the recently deceased writer who gave the world Kurt Wallander, Smith called him "several cuts above the other genre writers." Slyly nodding to her own genre ambitions, Smith called Wallander one of the greatest detective characters of all time, and added, "If I could say that before I die, I'd be happy."