Archive for the ‘Blame’ Category

Subjects Too Painful to Write About

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Memorandum

To: Myself
Re: Subjects too painful to write about
Date: Now

I made the decision to write a violent rape scene in Blame because bringing the reality of the street, as it appeared in my courtroom, to my readers is what my books are all about. Rape in all its forms is the single dominant violent crime in this country — and in the world! The numbers of women assaulted by strangers, soldiers, police, boyfriends, relatives, baby-sitters and husbands are staggering. A small fraction is reported and those are usually instances where the ancillary injuries are too severe to ignore. Fewer still are the number of rapes prosecuted.

rape-1I remember the case of an eighteen year old who took the stand in my courtroom hoping to recant her accusation of rape against her stepfather. The defense attorney reached up to place a letter from the girl denying that the crime had occurred. (A physician’s report had documented the searing tears to the girl’s vaginal wall, the bruising of her bladder, and the herpes infection she would have for life as a reminder of the encounter).

I was having difficulty breathing, so great was my growing sense of rage. There was little recourse available to me and I watched the prosecutor shrug his shoulders as he stood to question the girl. Would he compound the assault by his cross-examination? I wasn’t about to wait for that to happen.

“Ms. X,” I said, turning toward her in the witness box, “would you please read your letter aloud so that everyone here in the courtroom will understand your decision to withdraw your complaint against the defendant?” I handed the letter to my bailiff who passed it to Ms. X.

There was silence in the courtroom. We waited as the girl stared at the slightly rumpled paper in her shaking hand.

“Ms. X, can you read?”

“Not so good,” she replied. “Leastwise, not some of these words.”

causes-of-rape-graphIt was high drama as I denied the motion to dismiss the case and ordered the defense attorney to appear and show cause why he should not be held in contempt of court for presenting a clearly fraudulent document.

So, I wrote the rape scene in Blame and, at times, I felt the physical and psychological pain of the victim in the telling. I’d like to avoid these scenes and I consider from time to time switching genres to write about romance or, perhaps, inspirational stories.

This is on my mind because the case on which Blame was loosely based is about to go to trial here in West Palm Beach. It is a case I expected would have been concluded years ago. It is a tragedy in progress, a subject too painful to write about. I cannot write the ending as I did in Blame.

90percent rape graphic-1024x631

 

Could you be Casey Portman?

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Oliver asking for more Cruikshank 1846Here’s a question for you, dear reader:  Do you picture the character(s) depicted in a novel, characters for whom there is no physical description to confirm your mind’s eye invention? When Charles Dickens wrote, his folios were regularly accompanied by pen and ink drawings of his characters and the settings in which they appeared. The same is true of much of our early literature in America. Even Thoreau felt it necessary to include some illustrations of the abundance of nature’s beauty at Walden.

Walden_Thoreau cover first editionThe corollary to my question to you is, naturally, whether I see my characters as I write them.  Indeed, I do. Some of the characters come to me crystal clear and complete. Pleasure Jones, the prostitute and entrepreneur in Blame is one of those people. I not only see her, I know her. I know her voice, her temperament, her style and even her favorite colors.

Other characters are less intuitive for me and I’m often surprised by what emerges on the page. Casey Portman, an important player in my books, has intrigued me, and baffled me, on more than one occasion because, as a young woman, her life is often in flux, her emotions are frequently close to the surface and she is changing, growing into the woman she will become over time. I see her clearly, but not consistently with the same physical features.

Could you be CaseySo it was a bit of a shock when I caught sight of a woman at a restaurant in West Palm Beach and exclaimed to my companion, “Look over there — at the bar — that’s Casey!”

I took a few pictures, although she was facing away from us, and thought briefly about going up to her, risking a tap on her shoulder followed quickly by an explanation of my interest. It didn’t take much to dissuade me. Awkward, I thought, extremely awkward and intrusive. 

But, I’ve come across the picture a few times recently and I can’t help but wonder about the young woman and whether one day she’ll walk into Liberty Book Store on Clematis Street and pick up a copy of Punishment or Blame. Will she recognize herself?

“Every court case is like a small opera.” Jeff McGinnis interview in Toledo Free Press

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

jeff mcginnis on twitterSometimes an interviewer prompts thoughts you knew you had but had never quite expressed in the same way before. Jeff McGinnis, pop culture reporter for the Toledo Free Press, recently interviewed me about Blame and about why people enjoy legal thrillers:

They understand the stakes. For so many people, it is life or death. It is loss of career or opportunity. And too much of it, in my view, remains a sort of profound mystery that is highlighted only when we see incidents such as what has occurred in Ferguson, and most recently on Staten Island.

 

I think the fascination is, it is always drama. Every court case, particularly criminal cases, is like a small opera, playing out on a stage where the parts are kind of preordained, and emotions run deep and high at the same time. And the characters are usually true to form. But as we all — at least at my age — have learned from “Perry Mason,” there are often surprises.

McGinnis wondered where I got the ideas for my novels, something I haven’t mentioned on this blog before:

I always take a real case as the centerpiece that all the other action kind of revolves and evolves around. So, in Punishment, it was a pit bull case that actually transpired in my courtroom. And in Blame, it is a case that is actually occurring here in West Palm Beach as we speak.

 

The doctor who is the inspiration for the case in Blame lives near me and has become a good friend. I never imagined three and a half years later, his case would not have come to trial. But that is, in fact, true. So in some ways, I’ve cheated myself, because there are more twists and turns to come. But I’ve promised him he’ll at least get part of a chapter in the forthcoming final book, Innocence.

You can read the full interview here: “Former Ohio Judge Pens Legal Thrillers.”

And for those of you unfamiliar with the “surprise endings” on Perry Mason, this will give you a taste.

Please be reassured: my endings are much more plausible.

“No one handles the ugly side of what transpires in the courthouse better than Linda Rocker”—Phil Jason, Florida Weekly

Monday, December 8th, 2014

Florida Weekly review crAs I mentioned in a previous blog post, “Why I Write,” I like to draw on my years of experience inside the courthouse to explore aspects of the justice system through fiction that would be difficult, if not impossible, to get at in any other way. So it’s such a sweet and special pleasure when a book reviewer singles out that aspect of my writing – and that’s exactly what Phil Jason did recently in his review of Blame in the Florida Weekly:

From her many years of trial experience as a litigator and judge, [Linda Rocker] allows us a close-up examination of the system, including the strengths and frailties of those charged with making it work. A trial is many different things to the many people involved.

Phil_JasonFrom there Jason unwinds in loving detail the mechanics of Blame: the two cases at the center of the novel and the several stories that radiate out from them.  What I especially like, though, is that he then zeroes in on what drives the action:

Litigation is the vehicle for power and an arena for various kinds of corruption and shady, if legal, dealings. The courthouse is its home, and no one handles the ugly side of what transpires there better than Linda Rocker.

I could rest my case there, except that he endears himself to me even more by calling out to an audience I so much seek to please:

Floridians will enjoy the well-handled Palm Beach County setting, particularly the courthouse neighborhood. This highly entertaining legal thriller has a lot to offer.

When a Florida reviewer hails both the legal legerdemain and the local color, I don’t need to add an opinion. I’m delighted to let this judgment stand.

west-palm-beach-courthouse1

Casey Portman the Heroine!

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

When you work in the criminal court system, you witness a lot of people who need someone to save them – sometimes from themselves and often from other people. It’s easy for a person like Casey Portman to want to be a hero to these people, many of whom walk through the doors of the courtroom she helps to organize and run efficiently as the bailiff.

To honor my main character in Punishment and Blame, I’ve collaborated with iMovie to create something special for her. This video is what I imagine runs through Casey’s head when she dreams of rescuing the hurt and the victimized people she sees on a daily basis. Here is Casey the Heroine!

Casey Portman cr

What Have I Been Up To?

Friday, November 28th, 2014

Blame - A Casey Portman NovelSeriously? I’ve been going totally nuts trying to juggle all the options available to market Blame, my new book starring Casey Portman. I appreciate the current debate about “net neutrality,” which should concern anyone who objects to the notion that the only the biggest should have the broadest (and fastest) reach to the gazillions of Internet users. But, as far as my little enterprise is concerned, the universe of possibilities for reaching readers is already vast beyond all measure, let alone control.

While Blame is racking up great reviews, the challenge is to get the word out to consumers of my type of novel (legal thriller, romance, justice, trial tactics). I’m doing my best and any help you guys can give me will be appreciated. I have a giveaway in progress on Goodreads (through November 30) and I’m sure I’ll do another, but the more action I get, the better. If you read the book, please review it on Amazon and Goodreads.

And here’s a little tidbit for those who are intrigued: The escalator in the West Palm Beach Justice Complex that is pictured below doesn’t look like a weapon—but one never knows does one?

West Palm Beach Justice Complex escalator

“One Book” Kind of Woman

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

jennifer lawrence readingI’m a “one book” kind of woman. I know that multi-tasking has received very good press over the last several decades, but it’s not my preferred way to approach life and I simply cannot do it when it comes to reading. Yes, yes, I know lots of readers who love the challenge of moving with ease from novel to treatise and from short stories to histories. But this reader will take complete absorption over impatience-driven diversity any day of the week.

martha grimes strathmore mansion 2012For example, the charming and very approachable mysteries written by Martha Grimes. I’ve just begun Vertigo 42 and I know with delicious certainty that Richard Jury will exhibit all the quirks that set him apart—and keep him apart—from most of London’s finest. What’s more, the favorite haunts of his crowd of human malapropisms will be their usual pubs of choice where they will order predictable cocktails, which I have noticed they imbibe earlier and earlier with each book.

The mysteries are, themselves, approachable. They are less complex than those I write, but the settings, characters and language used by Ms. Grimes more than compensate for the slower and less demanding unraveling of the story.

P D James meets her readersP. D. James is also a British novelist whose tastes run to mysteries and decidedly more sinister and complicated ones, at that. Her willingness to extend herself in order to portray characters as close to three dimensions as is possible on the printed page rewards her readers with such richness that I have to applaud her generosity. She is a role model for me. And, speaking of “roles,” a friend of mine wrote her doctoral dissertation on “The Role of the Reader.” It is so important to remember that, like a good marriage or friendship, a book is a partnership.

I’m flattered by the wonderful reviews my newest book, Blame, has received, but I’m also open to learning how I can improve on this partnership that you and I enjoy.

Rave Review for Blame from Glenda Bixler on Book Reader’s Heaven

Friday, November 14th, 2014

bookscatslifeissweetIt’s quite a thrill when a reviewer really “gets” your book. Glenda Bixler was one of the more thoughtful readers of my previous book, Punishment, and I was delighted when she wrote on Book Reader’s Heaven:

Selecting the bailiff as the individual most involved was enlightening to me. Most of us see that individual off in the corner, just standing and watching… Casey Portman, however, wasn’t one to step back and just watch…Could this be an upcoming series similar to that provided to us by Janet Evanovich? If so, this could get verrrry interesting. In any event, I enjoyed this romp through one of the strangest set of court scenes you may ever see. Highly recommended.

But even that glowing review didn’t quite prepare me for her response to Blame. She begins her review with her own personal reaction to the theme of the novel:

One of the most used feelings we humans have is the need to place blame. I know I am just as guilty as anybody… To balance that out, I have through the years done my best to “know thyself” and, ultimately, even if not immediately, accept when I have been at fault or partially to blame. When we are able to stop and do this, we are able to settle situations in our minds and accept… But given the role of the legal system in today’s world, we all know that Blame is, perhaps, the ultimate issue behind most law cases.

Blame - A Casey Portman NovelThis was the kind of thing continually on my mind while I was writing Blame. Fixing blame can become a personal obsession and can even sweep up an entire community. That’s what I sought to explore in the story and Glenda spends much of her review detailing how blame plays a role with each of the characters in my novel. What a close reader!  What especially tickled me is that not only did she respond to my theme, she also got my humor:

Linda Rocker hooked me on her first novel so I was very happy to have the opportunity to read her again. While this novel has a much more serious set of issues, there is still the underlying humor that Rocker displays–you can almost see her sitting back with somewhat of a smirk and whispering, “OMG, will it never end???”

She also has a little tidbit which I came to look forward to. At the end of each chapter, she baits the reader with some hint of what’s coming:

“Myrna wasn’t clairvoyant, but this time her premonitions were pretty good…”

I immediately got in the habit of trying to guess what was going to happen…Soon each chapter flies by and you realize the book is finished! LOL Wonderful!

Talk about being simpatico. Too bad I’m already married. But the clincher for me is how she ends her review:

This overview doesn’t even begin to tell you about the chaos, disorder and insanity, albeit, temporary sometimes, that surrounds each of those who dare to play the Blame Game….

If you think the legal system is a farce, read Rocker–she might not entirely disagree with you but she’s quite willing to allow us into that inner realm and help see the humor behind the very real efforts to make the system work… Highly recommended!

glendabixlerThank you so much, Glenda. You are my ideal reader. I so wish I could clone you. I know I’ll be hearing your words zinging around my head as I type my next book, and then sit back with a smirk and whisper . . .

 

Birth of a Book: Blame Is Here!!

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

Celebrate collage

I mean no disrespect to my male fans, but I assure you that no experience can quite equal giving birth to a child. Bringing a book into the world, as thrilling as it is, cannot compete with the moment you first look at the newly minted human being that you, with major assistance, have created.

Having said that, I am over the moon about the publication of Blame: A Casey Portman Novel. Maybe it’s the long hours and the rewrites, rewrites, rewrites that went on for months that have made for such a thrilling experience. Perhaps it’s the terrific advance reviews the book has received that have set me a-tingle. Or could it be that, unlike that life-altering birth of a child, I won’t need to change the book’s diapers, give it a midnight feeding, potty train it or try to teach it good manners before kindergarten.

In fact, that analysis is not entirely accurate. The birth of a book in today’s world is only the beginning of the journey. Blame is going to require a massive amount of post-natal nurturing. There are the book signings, ads, Facebook “boostings,” tweets, website postings, blogging . . . and it all takes time, energy and dedication. So, I guess at the end of the day, there are some similarities, but I’m still happy about the diaper thing.

I hope you’ll like this book as well as you liked Punishment. Some of your favorite characters are back and some new ones have been added.  Please remember that each book stands alone and if you have questions about the characters, go to lindarocker.com/character-bios to read more about them.

None of this happens without your support and encouragement. Thank you for cheering me on.

Linda

P.S. Blame: A Casey Portman Novel is now available on all the major sites, including Amazon and Nook in e-book and paperback.

Getting Away with Murder — Prosecutorial Misconduct and Qualified Immunity

Friday, September 26th, 2014

EvidenceThe grand designs of an ambitious prosecutor, Charlie Graham, propel much of the action in my new novel, Blame. And the kind of thing he gets away with has become a daily occurrence — and I don’t mean the crime on our streets. I mean the constant flow of news about people who have been wrongly imprisoned, many of them for decades, and more than a few sitting on death row.

Statistically, folks, it’s pretty obvious that a lot of innocent people have gone to their deaths who shouldn’t have been imprisoned in the first place. We’ll probably never know about most of them, but we know about the horrible miscarriages of justice that go unpunished. You heard me — the men and women who are paid by us to get it right, to punish the guilty and protect the innocent, are too often guilty themselves. These are the prosecutors, a position so powerful that it can poison the judgment of many good lawyers who go to work for the state and end up corrupted by their ambition and ego.

US_incarceration_timeline-clean.svgHow, you may ask, do the prosecutors in these cases get away with falsifying confessions, with hiding proof of a defendant’s innocence or another perpetrator’s guilt?  Why would the courts not punish prosecutors who know that an innocent man has languished in prison for decades? Where are the safeguards that will prevent this perversion of our justice system?

You need look no further than a concept known as “qualified immunity.” In a nutshell, the law, at the federal and the state level, says that prosecutors can lie, cheat and steal in front of everyone, but if they do it as part of their workday duties, they cannot be touched — not by a civil suit, not by a constitutional claim, not by anything you or I can think of that would land the rest of us in a prison cell or pauper’s court.

thomas_scaliaLeading the charge to broaden the immunities for judges, prosecutors, police officers and other public officials are Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. So we will continue to see the disheartening and tragic waste of human life brought about by zealous prosecutors who know they can get away with just about anything. The only brake on their crime sprees are their own consciences — or the consciences of their superiors who can fire them, if they have the courage to do so.