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Paul Levine talks BUM RAP

On sale today from Thomas & Mercer:

NFL linebacker-turned-lawyer Jake Lassiter has had it with shifty clients, dirty prosecutors, and a legal system out of whack. It’s enough to make a man want to leave Miami and never look back—until he gets a call from Victoria Lord, the better half of hot local legal team Solomon & Lord. Her partner in life and law has been arrested for murder. What’s worse: the only person who can clear him has fled the city. Now it’s up to Jake and Victoria to track down the witness—a stunning “Bar girl”—before she’s roped in by the feds…or eliminated by the Russian mob.

Jake knows that if he doesn’t get to the witness first, his client’s case is lost. Luckily, he’s got some good advice from his college football coach: "Buckle your chin strap and hit somebody." And sometimes, the only way to win a tough case is to do just that.

Gerald So: I'm glad to see Solomon and Lord back in a new book. What gave you the idea to cross them over with Jake Lassiter?

Paul Levine: First, I didn't know that Michael Connelly was up to the same thing with a new book this Fall featuring Harry Bosch AND Lincoln Lawyer Mickey Haller. I like to think Mike got the idea from me. :)

A reader asked me to describe the differences between Jake Lassiter and Steve Solomon, since both have a blatant disregard for the rules of conduct pertaining to the practice of law. Suffice it to say that there are lots of differences, though Solomon reminds Lassiter of his younger, more reckless self. Throw the beautiful and talented Victoria Lord into the mix, and you have a triangle. (For fans of Justified, think Boyd, Raylan and the lovely Ava). Anyway, the idea leapt into my head: Lassiter and Lord should defend Solomon in a murder trial. It just felt right.

Gerald: I almost used the phrase "team-up" in my first question, but I've read your comments to the effect that Jake Lassiter and Steve Solomon don't like each other. In fact, they hate each other's guts. If I have that right, why do they hate each other?

Paul: Lassiter thinks Solomon is slippery. Remember the first of "Solomon's Laws": When the law doesn't the law.

Solomon thinks Lassiter is a bull in a china shop, and a burnout, too. The setup for Bum Rap is that Lassiter is tired of lying clients, unethical prosecutors, and incompetent judges. He's tired of losing, too, and he's thinking about hanging it up. He has this unrealistic idea about leaving Miami and coaching football at a prep school in Vermont.

The Solomon murder trial gets him juiced. He thinks he has that rare innocent client. But does he?

If a trial were a football game, Solomon would use trick plays -- the old fumblerooski -- and Lassiter would just punch you in the mouth.

Gerald: But Lassiter sometimes behaves unethically as well, does he not?

Paul: True. Lassiter isn't above the occasional trick play. As Prosecutor Ray Pincher greets him in Bum Rap: "The Jakester! The mouthpiece who took the 'shy' out of shyster and put the 'fog' into pettifogger."

Maybe that's what rankles him about Solomon. He reminds Jake...of Jake!

Gerald: What was it like writing characters from both your series in the same book? Did you find it more difficult, easier and more fun, or was the experience about the same as for your other books?

Paul: I learned more about the characters from having them play off each other. Lassiter is attracted to Victoria Lord but recognizes his blatant conflict of interest. If he loses the case and Solomon goes to prison, Victoria will be available. So Lassiter is in a tough situation. He must do everything he can to win the case, which will almost certainly result in losing any chance with Victoria Lord.

Gerald: In a previous interview, I asked whom you would cast as Steve and Victoria. Who would you cast as Jake? How close is he to Gerald McRaney? :)

Paul: Your McRaney reference alludes to the fact that he played Lassiter in a 1995 television movie on NBC. No, he wasn't right then, and now, well, let's just say I'd cast him as an old coot of a judge. Thirty years ago, I would have cast James Garner -- who I worked with on First Monday on CBS -- or Tom Selleck. These days, I just don't know. If Hollywood calls, I'll have an answer.

Gerald: What's the best book you've read lately?

Paul: The Girl on the Train [by Paula Hawkins] has a compelling narrator. Of course, there are several narrators, and I'm not saying which one I like best.

Gerald: What's next for you?

Paul: I'm working on making the perfect gin and tonic. I find that freezing tonic water as ice cubes helps a lot, especially in sizzling Miami. I think it's also the perfect drink for anyone reading Bum Rap.

Gerald: Thank you very much, Paul.

Photo by Alan Weissman
Paul Levine worked as a newspaper reporter, a law professor and a trial lawyer before becoming a full-time novelist. Obviously, he cannot hold a job. Paul claims that writing fiction comes naturally: he told whoppers for many years in his legal briefs. His books have been translated into 23 languages, none of which he can read. He has won the John D. MacDonald fiction award and has been nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Macavity, the International Thriller Writers Award, the Shamus Award, and the James Thurber Humor Prize.


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