Levine Grills Lassiter about Lori Loughlin and “Cheater’s Game”


Jake Lassiter, the linebacker-turned-lawyer, first appeared in “To Speak for the Dead” in 1990. Thirty years later, Lassiter is still navigating the shark-infested waters of the justice system. In “Cheater’s Game,” the heartbroken lawyer must defend his brilliant nephew Kip who’s charged as an imposter, taking entrance exams for students in the true-to-life college admissions scandal.

Paul: Earlier today, actress Lori Loughlin and her husband pleaded guilty in the college scandal. Any thoughts?

Jake: I wish I’d repped them, instead of my nephew. A fat fee without having to try the case.

Paul: That’s a little cynical. What about your quest for justice?

Jake: Justice doesn’t put pork chops on the table.

Paul: So why did they plead guilty after claiming innocence for the past year?

Jake: Because their lawyers aren’t idiots. They knew that jurors would find their clients to be rich, arrogant liars who thought they could game the system.

Paul: Are you saying that a defendant’s personality affects a trial’s outcome?

Jake: Duh! It’s Trial Practice 101.

Paul: So you would have plead out Lori Loughlin in return for a couple months prison time, rather than risk a trial?

Jake: Maybe not. Maybe, I’d put her on the stand, but not in designer duds. She’d admit everything and cry – actress tears – and say she’s sorry. Then, in closing argument I’d ask for a “Texas verdict.”

Paul: Which is?

Jake: “Not guilty, but don’t do it again.”

Paul: Okay, back to “Cheater’s Game,” I thought you’d retired, but here you are, back in the courtroom.

Jake: Don’t blame me, Scribbler. I hung up my briefcase after “Bum Deal,” but you put me to work again.

bum deal
Lassiter thought he’d hung up his briefcase after “Bum Deal.”

Paul: Admit it, Jake. You missed the combat of a criminal trial.

Jake: That’s your fantasy, Desk Jockey. Mine is to snooze in a hammock, drink tequila, and feed the peacocks.

Paul: You came back because your nephew Kip got in trouble. The boy you raised as your own son. That had to be painful.

Jake: I thought I’d taught Kip ethics and values, but I failed. I let him down.

“You release your child into the world, like launching a toy sailboat in a pond. Except the world is not a placid pond. More often, it is a raging sea, and life a perfect storm. You cannot prepare the child because your own personal crises, traumas and failures are just that, your own. Your child, as you will belatedly learn, is not you.” – Jake Lassiter in “Cheater’s Game”

Paul: There’s a lot of blame to go around in the college scandal.

Jake: I don’t understand it. Why would parents cheat to get their kids into so-called elite universities? Don’t they realize they’re saying, “You can’t make it on your own? And your only honors will be summa cum fraud.”

“In a society without shame, where faking it is making it and deceit trumps virtue, integrity is for losers and cheaters win. Fairness? Forget about it! A meritocracy? In your dreams! Earn your diploma? Why bother, when you can buy it?” – Jake Lassiter in “Cheater’s Game”

Paul: Yet, you plead your nephew “not guilty” and defend him in federal court when you know he took students’ SAT exams for big bucks?

Jake: All these years, Scribbler, and you’re still clueless about the justice system. My job is to force the government to prove its case.

Paul: Speaking of “years,” you were 40 in “To Speak for the Dead.” Thirty years later, you’re 60. How does that work?

Jake: Being fictional helps. Say, how are things at the Old Writers’ Home?

Paul: Forget about me. How’s your health? Your headaches, your memory problems.

Jake: You’re the punk who gave me chronic traumatic encephalopathy. I didn’t think you could even spell it.

The violent sport of pro football.

Paul: Sorry about all those concussions at Penn State and with the Miami Dolphins. But it did bring you together with Dr. Melissa Gold, renowned neuropathologist. And…your fiancée.

Jake: About time you gave me a grown-up relationship, after all those femme fatales and floozies.

Paul: News flash, Lassiter. Nobody says “floozies” anymore.

Jake: News flash, Word Boy. You’re the ventriloquist. But it’s true that I’m in love with my doctor and she’s come up with experimental treatments that might help hundreds of other former players with C.T.E.

Paul: Would your brain injury have anything to do with your bizarre conduct during Kip’s trial?

Jake: You mean my hearing voices and lapsing into a George Carlin routine in the judge’s chambers?

Paul: Judge Speidel said you were flirting with contempt.

Jake: Flirting, hell! I took her all the way.

Paul: Judge Speidel seemed miffed that you didn’t give him due respect.

Jake: Federal judges! So damned high and mighty.

“Federal judges are phantoms who inhabit marble palaces, hidden from prying eyes and cameras. They sit on thrones and are served by a retinue of clerks, assistants, deputies, and, for all I know, court jesters.” – Jake Lassiter in “Cheater’s Game”

cheater's game cover
Lassiter tackles the college admissions scandal and tangles with a federal judge in “Cheater’s Game.”

Paul: Face it, Jake. Your closing argument was unethical.

Jake: I’m not bad. You just write me that way.

Paul: You basically asked for “jury nullification.” Acquit my client even though he did everything the government charged him with.

Jake: I prefer to call it a “Texas verdict.” Do you know what that is?

Paul: You just told me a minute ago. So…what was the jury’s verdict?

Jake: I’d tell you if I could remember. But you’re the one who gave me memory problems, you multisyllabic babbler!

Paul: I’m not the one who told you to use your helmet as a battering ram.

Jake: You put me on the kickoff team, the suicide squad! What did you think would happen?

Paul: So, what now? You gonna retire again or smash down the doors to the courthouse and try another case?

Jake: Not up to me, is it, Svengali?

Paul: Now that you mention it, there’s a case I just heard about that’s right up your alley.

Jake: Great. You know what I always say?

Paul: Of course, I do.

Jake: “I want a cause that’s just, a client I like, and a check that doesn’t bounce. Two out of three, and I’m ahead of the game.” So, I’ll see you around, Scribbler.

“Cheater’s Game” is available in paperback, ebook, and audio. For more information, please visit my Amazon Author Page.

SHATTERED JUSTICE – A Boxed Set of Three Bestsellers

If you’re a crime fiction fan and looking for an introduction to Paul Levine’s best-selling legal thrillers, search no further than Shattered Justice, a boxed set of three of the author’s favorite novels, available on three e-publishing platforms. This trio introduces you to the two series that made Paul famous:  Jake Lassiter and Solomon vs. Lord. It also contains the gripping standalone thriller, Illegal.

Solomon vs. Lord

The first in the Solomon vs. Lord series features a mismatched legal team: irreverent, rule-breaking trial lawyer Steve Solomon and his uptight, by-the-book counterpart Victoria Lord. The two have a love-hate relationship, but they make a surprisingly good team. In this gripping debut, the duo must work together on the case of a beautiful young woman charged with killing her incredibly wealthy and incredibly kinky husband in what proves to be the steamiest trial of the century.

To Speak for the Dead

Meet Jake Lassiter, a linebacker-turned lawyer with a hard bark and a tender heart. In this international bestseller, named by the Los Angeles Times as one of the best mysteries of the year, Jake Lassiter defends orthopedic surgeon Dr. Roger Salisbury against a charge of medical malpractice in a routine case that takes a sinister turn. To Speak for the Dead was adapted into an NBC movie, under the title Lassiter: Justice on the Bayou.


Set in California and Mexico, Illegal tells the tale of Jimmy (Royal) Payne, a down-on-his-luck lawyer who must take on the dangerous world of human trafficking as he tracks down a beautiful Mexican woman who disappeared during a midnight border crossing. Haunted by a tragedy in his past, Payne must tackle cops, coyotes and a corrupt and powerful rancher in his quest for answers – and redemption.

PAYDIRT–Rigging the Super Bowl

“Paydirt” is a genre-busting crime thriller featuring a broken man who will do anything — including rigging the Super Bowl — to recover his life and win back his wife and son.

Bobby Gallagher had it all…and lost it. Fired from his prestigious job, disbarred from the legal profession, divorced from the wife he loves, and in debt to the mob, Bobby embarks on a life-threatening mission.  Assisted by his 12-year-old son Scott, he embarks on what appears to be an impossible task: rigging the Super Bowl. They must fix the game, win a huge bet…and avoid getting killed.

Frequently compared to the family-based style of crime thriller penned by Harlan Coben, “Paydirt” combines sly wit with high suspense and an unforgettable ending.  Rigging the Super Bowl has never been so much fun…or dangerous.


“In the tradition of Harlan Coben’s thrillers, “Paydirt” is a sizzling caper with spine-tingling suspense, laughs, thrills, some football, and a touch of romance!”– The Daily Review

“This book is great for mystery lovers, suspense lovers, and even those loving and believing in the good ol’ All-American past time and those who play while being true to themselves. A nice, heart warming story with lots of twists and turns.” – Amazon 5-star Review

“Paydirt is one of those books that has characters that stay with you long after the book is finished. The story was a fast and engaging read. I loved the way Levine built up the suspense about the Super Bowl while still keeping the story believable. This is a highly recommended read for anyone who loves a great fiction read. I am definitely a new Paul Levine fan.” – Vine Voice 5-star review

ILLEGAL–A Human Trafficking Thriller

A down-and-out L.A. lawyer with nothing to lose…
A beautiful Mexican woman who disappears crossing the border…
And the powerful and corrupt rancher who would destroy them both.

This riveting thriller  finds a cynical lawyer doing battle with cops, coyotes, and a vicious rancher as he takes on the dangerous world of human trafficking.

Haunted by a tragedy in his past and wanted by the cops for his latest illegal shenanigans, down-on-his-luck lawyer Jimmy (Royal) Payne is skipping town when he encounters Tino Perez, a gutsy 12-year-old boy newly arrived from Mexico with no money and no papers. After robbing Payne, the boy then pleads for his help in finding his mother, Marisol, who disappeared during a border crossing with a vicious coyote who preys on women caught up in human trafficking.

Will Jimmy Payne’s life end in a shallow grave?

With Tino in tow, Payne traces Marisol’s steps from Mexicali to California’s notorious Hellhole Canyon – meeting some nasty characters along the way. Will Payne’s search for answers redeem his mistakes and resurrect his dead marriage – or will he end up buried in a shallow grave? He soon realizes that there’s no escaping his past in this violent and gripping thriller that’s set against the backdrop of wider social issues including the brutal worlds of sex slavery and human trafficking.


“Levine is a brilliant stylist as well as storyteller. Illegal is the most original, offbeat and wholly entertaining thriller of the year so far. It’’s one of those rare thrillers that reaches every level it strives for and hits a bull’’s-eye with every staccato phrase Levine fires off. Timely, tumultuous, and in a word, terrific.” – Providence (RI) Journal

“Levine is one of the few thriller authors who can craft a plot filled with suspense while still making the readers smile at the characters’ antics.” – Chicago Sun-Times

Illegal is a riveting read, filled with action, pathos, and even humor. The portrait of the dangers and predations that Latinos face crossing the border is chilling and rings with authenticity. But the book’’s best quality is the way Levine invests his characters with believable humanity. A compulsively readable yet character-driven thriller.” – Booklist

“Human trafficking, sexual slavery, illegal immigrants move Illegal’s plot, which is as thought-provoking as it is action packed. [Levine] doesn’t shy from depicting the ruthlessness of human smuggling. Illegal is proof that Levine is always stretching his writing skills in new and exciting directions.” – South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“Levine deserves kudos for bringing the wrenching, often gruesome details of today’s immigration stories to life while drawing readers into this fast-paced and witty novel. For those familiar with immigration policy and law, Illegal will resonate with the stories behind the headlines. For those new to the issue, the book will be a rapid plunge into one of today’s most fractious, complex and heartrending problems. Good for Levine that in the midst of this heavy drama, his complex characters pull us into their lives and keep us turning the pages.” – Los Angeles Daily Journal

Illegal has such a strong page-turning narrative that Levine’’s detailed reporting on immigration never gets in the way of the suspense and the black comedy.” – Connecticut Post

“The scenes and stories relating the abuses heaped upon the illegal immigrants are some of the most disturbing you are likely to read. Levine promises more from Jimmy Payne. And that’’s good news, especially if he continues to tackle weighty and relevant issues.” –Bookgasm.com

“The seamy side of smuggling human cargo is deftly exposed by the clear and concise writing of the Edgar Award nominated author. Levine should be commended for bringing the plight of the illegally detained victims into a forum which is both entertaining and insightful. Illegal is highly recommended.” –- Midwest Book Review

“Entertaining. Payne has a broad enough backstory and personal charm to head up a series on his own.” – Publishers Weekly

“Illegal could have been a simple adventure story, but Levine has given it a greater depth as he brilliantly captures the plight of illegal immigrants.” – bookpleasures.com

“Highly recommended.” – This Writing Life

“The combination of real-world situations, nail-biting suspense and a new character in the Levine mythos make Illegal a title for your must-read list.” – Bookreporter.com

“Levine’s action packed tale opens our eyes to the struggles for personal freedom. Tino has all the makings of becoming a literary star.” – Suspense Magazine

“A world of entertainment…an intriguing plot and a cast of colorful characters that make this a very enjoyable read.” – Booksellersworld.com (Nancy Eaton)

“Exciting and fast moving…Get it! You won’t be sorry.” – Mainly Mysteries Book Reviews

“A fascinating thriller.” – ErrantDreams.com

“Once the road trip begins, Levine drives the plot full tilt, like an eighteen-wheeler that’s just blown the brakeline on a downhill run. I couldn’t put the novel down, and I’m betting that any reader who picks it up won’t be able to either.” – BlogCritics.com, Mel Odom

“This novel is fun, adventurous and poignant all in one. Not since I read T. C. Boyle’s Tortilla Curtain have I absorbed a novel that covers the plight of illegal immigrants viewed from both sides of the issue. Great book that you will not be able to put down once reading.” – Gather.com, Gil Wilson

“The characters are strong and memorable…and in the case of one of the nastiest of the lot, interestingly complex. I should also not be surprised to see Illegal as a film. It manages to capture some of those elements of grandeur, anger, and dogged individualism that have long been the heart and soul of drama set in the American west and bring them into a thoroughly contemporary context.” – Reviewing the Evidence.com, Yvonne Klein

Illegal is a great start to a new series and I can’t wait to see what trouble Jimmy Payne gets himself into next. 4 stars.” – Shhh, I’m Reading.com

“Taking on the hot political potato of immigration gives a new twist to a tautly written thriller. I couldn’t put it down.” – BookBitch.com, Stacy Alesi

Free eBooks: The Road to Hell

Free ebooks by established authors are hard to find.  However, The Road to Hell is a boxed set of four of Paul Levine’s gripping short stories offered FREE for a short time on several e-publishing platforms. These stories all have the word “hell” in their titles, but they have more in common than just that. In each of them, the heroes must travel dark and dangerous paths, confronting devilish and powerful villains in their search for answers. Those journeys take place by land, by sea or simply in the mind, and will have crime fiction fans gripped from beginning to end. If you’re looking for free ebooks, look no more.

“El Valiente en el Infierno” (The Brave One in Hell)

When his mother dies, a 13-year-old Mexican boy bravely crosses the border and goes in search of his father, a migrant working in the United States. In a short story inspired by a tale the author heard in Mexicali, and a roadside sign he saw near the Mexican border, the boy’s courage is tested to the limit when he crosses paths with two gun-toting American vigilantes.

Free EBooks: A Hell of a Find

Development Hell

This well-known Hollywood phrase is used to describe the purgatory in which books and screenplays get stuck while in “development”, rather than being made into films. In this short story, a bedraggled Edgar Allan Poe comes to blows with a slick Hollywood producer in a “pitch session” that shows off the author’s colorful imagination to full effect.

A Hell of a Crime

The insecure prosecutor at the centre of A Hell of a Crime exists in the shadow of his more prominent lawyer-parents, but all is not as it seems in this dysfunctional legal family. With a father who was revered as a District Attorney, and a mother who’s a powerful trial lawyer, our prosecutor protagonist has the weight of decades of legal experience behind him. But why does his mother interfere as he prepares to prosecute in a murder trial?

Solomon & Lord: To Hell and Back

Mismatched Miami law partners Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord are back, in a short story that sees the ethically-challenged Solomon up to no good. Straight-laced Victoria is suspicious when Steve tells her he’s off to go fishing with sleazy con man Manuel Cruz. Knowing that Cruz embezzled a bundle from Steve’s favorite client, Victoria suspects that there’s something fishier going on than fishing. What’s Steve up to this time? Something between mischief and murder.

So, if you’re looking for free ebooks, The Road to Hell is a good place to start.  It’s available FREE at Kindle, Barnes and Noble , and Smashwords for a limited time.