My novels deal with the criminal justice system both in the U.S. and abroad. The stories, though fictional, are told in largely real settings and are thus reality based. I say largely real as the landscape of criminal justice changes rapidly. Even so, every effort is made to keep things authentic and operate within limits of the plausible. In my books, I use my 30 years of experience as a prosecutor and defense attorney to offer insight and in some cases criticism of the courts through the medium of novel. I think you will find my books interesting and that I am not the typical legal thriller writer, for I write from a platform of actual experience.
Real Lawyers was my first book and is about public defenders in Louisville, Kentucky in the 80’s. Their clients don’t think they’re real lawyers, since nothing real is free. You get what you pay for after all. Many of the characters are composites of actual lawyers, clients and judges that I dealt with while working in that system after law school. The book uses legal rules and practices of that time frame. For this reason, sometimes it gets technical, but I felt that in a book whose topic is real lawyers, I should not dumb things down and tell it like it is, television portrayal notwithstanding.
Chez Betty is a little different in that it is about the French criminal justice system, which is inquisitorial and not adversarial. Judges charge cases and do the lion’s share of questioning in court as well as the investigation, not the lawyers. This is hard for anyone to imagine in America, as here we are so lawyer-centered. In writing this novel, I spent considerable time living in Nice and Villefranche-Sur-Mer, France, the setting of the book. There I spoke to the locals and got to know their ways. I also interviewed French prosecutors and defense attorneys. Because I have not been a direct player in the French system in my legal career, I worked closely with a Parisian attorney to make sure I did not go too far afield. He tells me the book accurately portrays the process, within the confines of literary license, of course. In preparing to write the novel, I read various books about justice in France, some in French and a few in English. This included everything from French Code manuals to a book that interviewed actual prison and jail inmates about their lives and the conditions in which they were incarcerated. The latter helped a lot as the officials in France wouldn’t let me photograph the inside of a courthouse much less visit actual inmates of a jail. I was however permitted to see the operations of La Chambre Correctionel and the Cours d’Assise. The system in France is not as public as it is in the U.S, and the French themselves mostly see their system as a mysterious and secret enigma. I hope to destroy that mystique.
Anyway, I am open to blogging about either book and shooting the crap about criminal justice–the good, the bad, the ugly, and most importantly the truth about it. I don’t pretend to know everything, but I probably know more than most and have my share of insights.