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Q&A with Paul Levine

Exclusive Interview by Karen Beishuizen
Photos courtesy of Paul Levine

Paul Levine is the author of the Jake Lassiter novels. He was a reporter for The Miami Herald where he covered the pre-trial motions of Jim Morrison in court for lewd conduct. He went to law school when the trial started where he practiced law for 17 years before he wrote the first Jake Lassiter novel “To Speak For The Dead”. His last novel in the series was published early this year. He is currently writing a crime novel set in 1930’s Hollywood featuring real characters in fictional roles with a release date probably in 2025. If you have not read his novels yet, please do! They are great!

KB: What did you want to be growing up? A reporter, a lawyer or a writer?

At Penn State University, I majored in journalism and fell in love with newspapers. I became sports editor of the student daily and then editor-in-chief. My only goal, upon graduation, was to be a newsman.

KB: You were a reporter for The Miami Herald and covered Jim Morrison in court for lewd conduct. Tell me about this trial.

I covered the pre-trial motions and went off to law school when the trial started. Looking back now at something that happened in 1970, it’s amazing that he was charged at all. (Basically, it was a lewd and lascivious conduct charge for dropping his pants during a performance). It was a huge cause celebre at the time but seems pretty lame now. Covering criminal court in Miami is what inspired me to go to law school. It looked much more exciting to be a trial lawyer, rather than write about other people trying cases. Of course, I didn’t see all the preparation that went into the job prior to trial.

KB: What inspired the Jake Lassiter series?

I had practiced law for 17 years before writing “To Speak for the Dead,” the first of the Lassiter legal thrillers. So, I was following the old advice: Write what you know. I also knew a lot about football from my days as a sportswriter. So, Lassiter became a former linebacker for the Miami Dolphins who went to law school and graduated in the top third…of the bottom half of his class. He just came naturally to me.

KB: You retired Jake Lassiter this year in your 15th novel. What made you do this?

The last few books, “Bum Deal,” “Cheater’s Game,” and now “Early Grave” present Lassiter as an older fellow, though I never say his exact age. He’s been fighting symptoms of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), the industrial disease of the National Football League, and his condition has worsened. Now, of course, he’s fictional and I could have him age gracefully or never age at all. It just seemed to me that it was time to say, “So long, Jake. It’s been a helluva ride.”

KB: Do you have literary heroes? Who are they and why them?

Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee. Chandler brought literary flourish to the hard-boiled noir Private Eye tale, and MacDonald brought compassion and emotion and a concern for the environment nearly sixty years ago in the McGee series. Both authors were excellent wordsmiths.

KB: Almost all your books are legal thrillers. Is there a genre you would love to dabble in but never tried?

Historical fiction, and I’m writing one now, set in 1930’s Hollywood.

KB: Did you ever had writers block? How did you solve it?

Sure, I had Writers’ Bloc….for about 10 seconds. Here’s the cure. Think about your mortgage that’s due the first of the month, then put your ass in the chair, and write, write, write!

KB: Make a top 5 list of your favorite books (not your own): what would you pick?

Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
The Deep Blue Good-By by John D. MacDonald
(For reasons see question 4)

The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
(He captured a moment in time in New York with biting social commentary and uproarious humor)

Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow
(He brought a fine literary hand to the legal thriller)

Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver, pen name of John Voelker.
(The author was a judge, and the book brought authenticity to a murder trial that helped shape more realism in legal thrillers)

KB: What are you currently up to? Anything new being released?

A crime novel set in 1930’s Hollywood featuring real characters in fictional roles. Probably 2025.

Check out Paul’s website: HERE
Find him on Twitter: HERE

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