“BUM DEAL” – The Final Chapter for Jake Lassiter

final Jake Lassiter novel

By Paul Levine

BUM DEAL, the 13th and FINAL book in the Jake Lassiter series, launches today. That’s right. I’m bidding farewell to my old pal Jake, the second-string linebacker who trudged through night law school and became a combative Miami trial lawyer.

Sure, it’s a bit sad for me, but Jake’s been having these problems – memory lapses, confusion, headaches – and it’s time to say goodbye. Dr. Melissa Gold, a neurologist who treats Lassiter during office hours and spends humid nights with him in his Coconut Grove house, fears he may have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) as a result of all those concussions on the football field.

“The past clings to us like mud on rusty cleats,” Lassiter says, and it takes on new meaning in BUM LUCK, given his medical condition.

My first work of fiction – if you don’t count my legal briefs – was TO SPEAK FOR THE DEAD, published in 1990. The book, which has sold well over one million copies, introduced Jake Lassiter, who early on admitted, “They don’t call us sharks for our ability to swim.”

the first Lassiter novel
TO SPEAK FOR THE DEAD introduced Jake Lassiter, linebacker-turned lawyer.

Twelve more Jake Lassiter novels followed, including the ingeniously titled LASSITER, in which our hero hides a shameful secret from his past, LAST CHANCE LASSITER, a prequel that reveals how getting fired from his first job as a lawyer shaped the man, and now BUM DEAL, in which Lassiter confronts his own mortality. All thirteen titles are available free to Kindle Unlimited members. Jake Lassiter lives here

In last year’s book, BUM LUCK, Lassiter began showing symptoms consistent with a “precursor” to deadly CTE. I wrote about the issue in the blog item, “Why Does Jake Lassiter Want to Kill His Own Client?” Now, in BUM DEAL, facing an uncertain future, Jake undergoes experimental treatments for CTE, just as he makes a major change in his life, switching sides in the courtroom and prosecuting a surgeon accused of killing his wife. It’s a nearly impossible case with no forensic evidence, no witness, and no body. Complicating matters are Jake’s best friends-turned-antagonists, lawyers Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord, who defend the surgeon.

Drained of his mental edge just when he needs it most, my old courtroom warrior faces the possibility of losing the case – and his life – in court.

So…does Jake Lassiter win or lose the trial? Or more important, does he live or die? Hey, don’t ask! I’m keeping my trap shut, relying on attorney-client privilege, the Fifth Amendment, and my desire for you to enjoy the tale.

BUM DEAL is available in ebook, trade paperback, and audio.

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR THE JAKE LASSITER FINALE

“Any book with Jake Lassiter is a drop-everything, read-it-now for me – and this one has Solomon & Lord, too. BUM DEAL is fantastic.” – Lee Child, #1 Bestselling Author of the “Jack Reacher” series

“’Bum Deal’ is the real deal. Jake Lassiter at his smart-talking, fast-thinking best. A funny, compelling and canny courtroom thriller, seasoned with a little melancholy and a lot of inside knowledge.” — Scott Turow, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Fascinating, fully developed characters and smart, well-paced dialogue keep the pages turning. Levine manipulates the expectations of the reader as skillfully as Jake manipulates the expectations of the jury” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A terrific setup, razor-sharp repartee, and enough plot reversal to make your head swim like an afternoon daiquiri, Bum Deal is vintage Paul Levine: entertaining and exceedingly smart.” —Andrew Gross, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Jake Lassiter is up against his greatest challenge—an incurable, brain-wasting disease that threatens to rob him of his brilliant, legal mind when he needs it the most. It’s an astonishing, bittersweet, and daring gamble, but those are the qualities that have always set Levine and Lassiter apart from the pack.” — Lee Goldberg, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Jake Lassiter: Wry Wit and Cynical Wisdom

By Paul Levine

UPDATE: BUM DEAL, the 13th and FINAL entry in the Jake Lassiter series, launches June 12, 2018, and may now be pre-ordered here. Fighting brain damage, Lassiter switches teams and prosecutes a surgeon accused of killing his wife. Only problem: no evidence, no witnesses, and no body.

My first Jake Lassiter novel, TO SPEAK FOR THE DEAD, was steeped in Miami lore, which is to say it dripped with heat, humidity…and murder. I dedicated the book to “the city of Miami, where vultures endlessly circle the courthouse, some on wings, and some in Porsches.”

This irritated many of my Porsche-driving lawyer pals, though they didn’t dispute the metaphorical accuracy of the comparison. Jake Lassiter often sees his brethren as sharks, vultures, or other predators. In a dozen novels, including two featuring Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord, BUM RAP (2015) and BUM LUCK (2017), the linebacker-turned-lawyer cracks wise and busts heads as he seeks “justice or a reasonable facsimile thereof.”

Confession: I borrowed that line from Lee Child, author of the “Jack Reacher” novels, who describes my hero this way: “Moving fast, cracking wise, butting heads, Jake Lassiter is the lawyer we all want on our side – and on the page.”

Readers often post their favorite quotes from the Jake Lassiter novels on GOODREADS. Here are a few, which I happen to like, too.

I’m a brew and burger guy in a pâté and Chardonnay world. I’m as health conscious as the next guy, as long as the next guy is sitting on a bar stool.FALSE DAWN

Jake Lassiter drinks here
Jake Lassiter, a brew and burger guy, drinks here.

Another reader favorite from GOODREADS finds Jake Lassiter at his self-deprecating best.

“I’ve been ridiculed by silk-suited lawyers, jailed by ornery judges, and occasionally paid for services rendered. I never intended to be a hero, and I succeeded.”STATE vs. LASSITER

A wily veteran of the courtroom, Lassiter observes with a critical eye and pronounces judgment with a wry tone:

“Justice requires lawyers who are prepared, witnesses who tell the truth, judges who know the law, and jurors who stay awake.FLESH & BONES

“I stood there, 230 pounds of ex-football player, ex-public defender, ex-a-lot-of-things, leaning agains the faded walnut rail of the witness stand, home to a million sweaty palms.”TO SPEAK FOR THE DEAD

Jake Lassiter skyline Miami
Jake Lassiter knows Miami, inside and outside the courtroom.

“Honest people don’t need to put their hand on a Bible to tell the truth, and dishonest people could swear on their mothers’ lives and still lie.” BUM RAP

“That’s called extortion, Mr. Lassiter.”
“Actually, it’s called lawyering.”
BUM LUCK

Jake Lassiter in court
Jake Lassiter draws a fine distinction between “extortion” and “lawyering.”

For more of Lassiter’s wit and wisdom, please visit my Amazon Author Page.

Paul Levine

Mystery Writers Lust After Hollywood

worst book reviews

I came to Hollywood for the health insurance.

That’s right. I lusted after cheap meds, not fame and fortune, when I migrated from Miami to Hollywood 17 years ago. And why not? A doctor’s visit costs ten bucks at the industry-subsidized Bob Hope Health Center. I quickly learned, however, that writers pay their dues in many other ways. Even mystery writers.

Before I traveled west, I thought Hollywood writers rolled into work around 11 a.m., scribbled for a couple hours, drank their lunch at Musso and Frank’s, then cracked wise with starlets the rest of the day. Like Bogart, who came to Casablanca for the waters, I was misinformed.

mystery writers strike
Mystery writers don’t go on strike. Unionized television writers do. (With Larry Moskowitz and Randy Anderson, bringing Disney to its knees).

I quickly learned that television scribes are skilled craftsmen who work damn hard, sometimes all night while cameras roll. The writing itself is tougher than it looks. One-hour dramas employ the same three-act structure as plays and novels. Yes, it’s still the dramatic form advocated by Aristotle. Act one is exposition; act two is complication; and act three is resolution.

HOLLYWOOD PRODUCER: “Aristotle said that? Get me his agent.”

An overriding factor in television writing is the restraint of time. Want to craft a one-hour drama? After commercials, you’ve got 43 minutes to tell your tale. Stream-of-consciousness writers need not apply. Mystery writers who are strong on structure fare better.

I came west in 1999, sneaking into TV at such an advanced age that the Christian Science Monitor dubbed me the “oldest rookie writer in Hollywood.” I had already been a newspaper reporter, a trial lawyer, and a novelist, so I have a track record of either taking on new challenges or being unable to hold a job, depending on your point of view.

mystery writers jag credit
Unlike mystery writers working on novels, television scribblers get immediate gratification (or sorrow). It’s just weeks from script to air.

I began doubting the sanity of this latest move my first day on the Paramount Pictures lot. My dungeon of an office in the Clara Bow Building overlooked a dumpster behind the commissary, and my window air conditioner whined like an F-14 taking off from an aircraft carrier.

Mystery Writers Are Their Own Bosses. TV Writers Not So Much.

Years earlier, as a lawyer, I enjoyed a view of Bimini from the penthouse of a high rise on Miami’s Biscayne Bay and lunched on stone crabs and passion fruit iced tea at the Bankers’ Club. Later, as my own boss, I wrote eight novels at home in Coconut Grove, parrots squawking in a bottlebrush tree outside. Now, with kamikaze horseflies from the dumpster smashing into my window, I was low man on a staff of six writers. As well I should have been. When I got to Hollywood, I didn’t know a smash cut from a cold cut. How did I get here, anyway?

I’d been bitten by the Hollywood bug in 1995 when the late Stephen J. Cannell produced an NBC movie-of-the-week that was adapted from my first novel. I began dabbling in Hollywood long-distance. I wrote an action-adventure feature for Cannell’s company. Think Die Hard in a missile silo. I wrote the first draft of The A-Team feature screenplay that likewise went nowhere. I penned a computer hacker pilot for ABC. Five similar pilots were commissioned by the networks that season; none got on the air. I wrote a miniseries for CBS, which also was never produced. I was beginning to learn of a world where writers were unionized and got paid even though their work was shelved — literally — stacked on shelves with hundreds of other dusty scripts.

I also free-lanced two episodes of JAG, the CBS military drama. When they aired, I had the novel sensation of listening to actors read my words aloud.

Mystery Writers Wondered if I’d Sold Out.

Then Don Bellisario, the creator of JAG, offered me a staff position. I considered the alternatives. Stay in Miami with the mosquitoes and no book deal. Or go to L.A. and get a paycheck plus that free health insurance. Goodbye mosquitoes. Hello coyotes. (The four-legged scavengers, not Hollywood agents.) My friends among the mystery writers watched from afar with alarm. Had I sold out? Would I be eaten alive?

mystery writers on deck
Mystery writers seldom land on the flight deck of aircraft carriers. “JAG” writers did.

I ended up writing 20 episodes of JAG and also co-created with Bellisario First Monday, a drama set at the Supreme Court. The show, which was based loosely on my novel 9 Scorpions , this year was named one of the “ten great Supreme Court novels” by the American Bar Association Journal. It is now available as an ebook, retitled Impact. First Monday gave me the opportunity to work with James Garner, Joe Mantegna, and Charles Durning, three terrific actors. In fact, the entire cast was fine. But we, the producers and writers, failed when we tried to jazz up the stories.

James Garner, Chief Justice mystery writers
Chief Justice James Garner and our fictional Supreme Court.

In reality, most of the drama at the Supreme Court takes place in the Justices’ minds and is difficult to dramatize. Still, we might have been a hit, if not for our dead-on-arrival demographics: most of our viewers were between Medicare and the mortuary. After 13 episodes, we were buried in the slag heap of cancelled shows.

So was the Hollywood experience all bad? As the junior officers frequently said to the admiral on JAG: “Permission to speak freely, Sir?”

Actually, there were many satisfying moments. While TV writers remain anonymous outside the industry, an actor’s compliment on a script or several warm and fuzzy e-mails from viewers mean that someone has noticed your work. The very speed of the process — weeks, not years — from page to screen, makes the medium more intense and immediate than publishing. Then there’s the knowledge that 15 to 20 million people are paying various degrees of attention to a story you created out of a thin air. (Moments later, of course, your story vanishes into thin air).

mystery writers credits
Television credits fade into thin air in just seconds. So do many shows.

Something else, too, something I never anticipated. Writing for TV sharpened my prose skills. I believe my writing is leaner, my plotting tighter, my dialogue zippier. And let’s not forget those regular paychecks plus pension and health benefits.

I have returned to the excruciating yet exhilarating task of storytelling with only the written word. Since Hollywood learned it could exist without my services, I’ve published four courtroom capers in the Solomon vs. Lord series. One of the books, The Deep Blue Alibi, was nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe award. I’ve written three more novels in the Jake Lassiter series. Last year, I brought Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord together with Jake Lassiter in Bum Rap, which was briefly the number one bestseller in the Amazon Kindle store. In June 2017, Bum Luck, the second in that new series, will be published by Thomas & Mercer.

There’s even renewed interest in Hollywood in Lassiter as a television series. No, I’m not interested in writing the show. I’ve got my health insurance — and my sanity — and intend to keep both.

Crime Fiction: Brash New Kid on the Block

Brash Kindle EBooks

By Paul Levine

Crime Fiction authors Lee Goldberg and Joel Goldman remind me of Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks. And no, neither Lee nor Joel has a mustache.

crime fiction chaplin
Charlie Chaplin wanted to control his own work.

Ninety-five years ago, Chaplin and Fairbanks (along with Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith) opened their own studio: United Artists. They’d been working for the big-name studios and thought they could do a better job making movies. They also wanted the creative control that the commercial studios wouldn’t give them.

crime fiction...fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. bears a strong resemblance to Joel Goldman in the sense that they both wear hats.

Brash Books Bursts Onto the Scene

This month, Goldberg and Goldman, both highly successful writers in the crime fiction genre, opened “Brash Books,” a new publisher of ebooks and paperbacks. They are already offering selections from crime fiction stalwarts Bill Crider, Dick Lochte, Dallas Murphy, Barbara Neely, Bob Forward, Tom Kakonis, Noreen Ayres, and others. Here are some of the paperbacks.

The Brash Books tagline is…well, brash: “We Publish the Best Crime Novels in Existence.” Oh, how the ebook revolution has turned the publishing industry upside down. Twenty years ago…make that ten years ago, this would not have been possible. The cost of production and distribution of “dead tree” books would make wanna-be publishers blink.

Crime Fiction Rookies Welcome

While the initial offerings are from established crime fiction writers, Brash is opening the door (or transom?) to unpublished authors, too. Go here to see how to submit your work.  Why do I think they’ll be deluged with manuscripts?

Well, there are lots of unpublished authors out there, some of whom are very good. There is also a contingent of formerly published crime fiction writers who can no longer get a contract with a New York publishing house. But as some doors close, others open.

Crime Fiction Back in Print

In my case, the ebook revolution gave second life to many titles that were long out-of-print in brick-and-mortar bookstores. Those books are now alive and well on Amazon. There’s another benefit for the writer, too. By giving re-birth to the first book in a series — in my case, “To Speak for the Dead” (1990) — electronic publication opened the door to fresh NEW ebooks and paperbacks. Again, in my case, the tenth book of the same series, “State vs. Lassiter” (2014).

As for Brash Books, let’s look back at United Artists a moment. It remained independent for nearly 50 years, producing everything from “The Three Musketeers” with Fairbanks in 1921 to “A Hard Day’s Night” with the Beatles in 1964. I’m hoping Brash Books is around for a half century, too.

Paul Levine

Jake Lassiter: Flirting with Disbarment

Jake Lassiter faces disbarment in “Last Chance Lassiter,” the prequel to the ten-book series featuring the Miami Dolphins linebacker turned trouble-prone lawyer. In the novella, a young Lassiter – a few years out of night law school – slugs a client. Why? The transcript of his Bar Disciplinary Hearing answers the question, as he spars with the judge assigned to his case.

************************************************************************************

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA

THE FLORIDA BAR, Case Number SC-14-238
Petitioner

vs.

JAKE LASSITER,
Respondent

TRANSCRIPT OF BAR DISCIPLINARY HEARING

**************************************************************************************

JUDGE BUCKSTROM: Apparently, Mr. Lassiter, you have a propensity for violence.

JAKE LASSITER: Not really, Your Honor. The only time I was arrested, it was a case of mistaken identity.

Q: How’s that?

A: I didn’t know the guy I hit was a cop.

Q: But in this case, Mr. Lassiter, you have admitted striking your own client.

A: Technically, he wasn’t my client. It was our first meeting, and I hadn’t agreed to represent him.

Q: So why did you hit him?

A: He came at me with a baseball bat from the collection on my office wall. Barry Bonds. Mark McGuire. Alex Rodriguez.

Q: You collect from any players who didn’t break the rules?

A: Innocent until proven juiced, Your Honor.

Flirting with Disbarment
Jake flirts with disbarment in “Last Chance Lassiter.”

Q: So your testimony is…your prospective client attacked you with your own bat?

A: Under Florida’s stand-your-ground law, I could have shot him with a machine gun.

Q: The complainant swears you hauled off and slugged him without provocation.

A: So he’s a liar in addition to being a wife beater.

Q. Now, hold on, Mr. Lassiter.

A: He was charged with spousal abuse and wanted me to suborn perjury. Specifically, he said–

Q: Stop right there! That’s hearsay.

A: I thought this was an informal proceeding.

Q: My report to the Florida Supreme Court is damn formal, pardon my French. And you, sir, are flirting with disbarment.

A: (inaudible)

Q: Did you just laugh, Mr. Lassiter?

A: Sorry, Your Honor. Flirting with Disbarment. Sounds like my life story.

Q: Indeed. I’ve reviewed the litany of Bar Complaints against you. Are you familiar with Florida Bar Rule Seven-D?

A: Not really, but if it’s only number seven, how important can it be?

Q: What!

A: Like in the Ten Commandments. Number seven outlaws adultery. No biggie, if you look at the statistics.

Q: Mr. Lassiter, Rule Seven-D states that “Lawyers must comport themselves with dignity.”

A: Sounds like a slap-on-the-wrist offense. Can I plead nolo and get a sternly worded letter from Tallahassee?

Q: Assault and battery is a felony, and a felony is a disbarable offense.

A: Disbarable? Is that even a word?

Q: That’s enough! Your flippancy will be noted.

A: Now, flippancy is definitely a word. But a funny one. No way can you say flippancy and not smile.

Q: What about the word disbarment? Want to crack wise about that one? Disbarment! Disbarment! Disbarment!

A: I get your point, Judge. I just do things my own way.

Q: If you don’t follow the Ethical Rules, just how do you go about practicing law?

A: I look for a cause that’s just, a client I like, and a check that doesn’t bounce.

Q: How’s that working for you?

A: I seldom win the trifecta.

Q: I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt. Do you have any remorse? Do you regret striking your client? Your prospective client.

A: My Granny taught me that any man who hits a woman is a low-life scumsucker, and if I were ever to see such a thing, I should put a stop to it. Well, I couldn’t stop this bastard, so I just called him a bully and a coward who doubted his own manhood, a pussycat pretending to be a tiger. He’d been admiring the Barry Bonds black maple bat. I was hoping he’d come at me with it. When he did, he swung more like Barry Manilow than Barry Bonds. I ducked and caught him with a left jab to the jaw followed by a right hook to the gut. He tossed his cookies on my loafers.

A: So you have no regrets about this violent incident, which could lead to your disbarment?

Q: Sure, I do, Your Honor. I regret getting caught.

#

“Last Chance Lassiter” is available in paperback and as an ebook from Amazon. More information on the Jake Lassiter Series Pages.