Posts Tagged ‘legal thrillers’

“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.

Writers I Know and Love

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

When I was serving as a judge, I was regularly asked for my opinion of candidates seeking election or re-election to the Common Pleas Bench. It would have been impolitic, un-collegial and foolhardy to publicly broadcast my views and preferences. Now that I am an author, I am regularly quizzed about books and writers that I admire or would recommend. Happily, I have no hesitation about responding in both general and specific terms to these questions.

1scottturowIn my genre, legal thrillers, there is no contest.  In nine novels over twenty-six years, from Presumed Innocent (1987) to Identical (2013), Scott Turow has set the bar high for pace, characters, realistic legal conundrums and great plot twists. I admire his writing for its mix of literary and street language and metaphors.

There are too many writers of literature to single out anyone, but Elizabeth Strout is a sure member of my highly recommended list. Her Pulitzer Prize-winning collection, Olive Kitteridge, might at first seem like little more than a quilt of short stories set in a small New England town, held together by nothing more than the unpleasant woman who figured in all of them. It’s so much more.elizabeth-strout-1 Read that book and move quickly to grab a copy of The Burgess Boys, her latest novel. It may be equally obvious in its construction but the power of its confounding subtexts can only be appreciated through the mind’s rear view mirror. I adored it the first and second time.

Speaking of multiple readings, I highly recommend re-reading literature you have enjoyed the first time out. You may be amazed at how much you’ve missed in your haste to turn the page.

grimesIf you’re looking for a great romp through English pubs and parks with an Inspector from Scotland Yard and his delightful coterie of amateur sleuths, then you must seek out the marvelous books by Martha Grimes. In particular, the Richard Jury series will keep you amused and intrigued, especially if you’ve been to London or the Cotswolds. Best to start with the first one, The Man with a Load of Mischief (1981). With just a touch of Downton Abbey, Grimes will delight those of you who think beans and toast actually sound appealing.

ian mcewanFinally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Ian McEwan’s latest book, The Children Act. This tale of a British High Court judge puts the conscience of those who resist the most obvious stresses and strains in human relations on display with a notable lack of clarity, much like its companion in literary restraint, On Chesil Beach. What? Why would I like an author who celebrates obscure meanings and purposely clouds his characters’ purposes and motivations? Precisely because he makes me sweat for my reward—a prize that is well worth the effort. Thank goodness he writes very short novels!

Let me know if you’d like to hear more about writers I know and love.