By Paul Levine and Jake Lassiter
Author’s Note: This is the last time I sit down with that belligerent, ungrateful wretch Jake Lassiter who owes his very existence to me. He first appeared To Speak for the Dead in 1990, and now thankfully a dozen books later, I’m bidding him goodbye in Bum Deal, in which he switches sides and prosecutes a murder trial while fighting off symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the brain disease that afflicts former football players. So, no more banging heads in the courtroom. No more trading punches and badgering me with complaints. Sayonara, pal.
UPDATE, May 11, 2020: Whoops! Lassiter takes on a new case, tackling the college admissions scandal in Cheater’s Game. I told him he wasn’t physically up to it, but did he listen?
Paul: Sit down, Jake, and take a load off.
Jake: You busting my chops about my weight, noodle neck?
Paul: What are you these days, two-fifty, two-fifty-five?
Jake: You’re the one who writes the descriptions, scribbler. I remember in MORTAL SIN, you said I looked like a young Harrison Ford.
Paul: These days, it’s more like an old Ford pickup. I shouldn’t have fed you so many burgers, poured you so many beers.
Jake: I’m as health conscious as the next guy, as long as the next guy is sitting on a bar stool. (“I’m a brew and burger guy in a paté and Chardonnay world.”)
Paul: Maybe if you’d evolved into a modern man, you’d have a longer run.
Jake: Sorry that you can’t find my mug on Instagram. And that I don’t have a life coach, an aroma therapist, or a manicurist. And I sure as hell don’t do Pilates.
Paul: Forget all that. Let’s talk about BUM DEAL.
Jake: I’ve seen the promos. What’s this, “Jake Lassiter: The Final Chapter?”
Paul: BUM DEAL is the last of the series. That’s all. (Yeah, that’s what I thought at the time! Jake didn’t ask my permission before getting involved in CHEATER’S GAME.)
Jake: That’s all! I got no life outside those pages.
Paul: Time to hang up the briefcase, just like you hung up your cleats.
Jake: I didn’t retire. The Dolphins cut me, and I went to night law school.
Paul: Same deal here. You’ve lost a step in the courtroom. Face it, you’re getting along in years.
Jake: Look who’s talking! When are you moving into the Old Writers’ Home?
Paul: Deal with it, Jake. You’ve got brain damage from all those concussions playing football. Maybe you shouldn’t have run full speed into the goalposts. Or all those helmet-to-helmet tackles back in the day.
Jake: You made me do that, you pulp fiction masochist.
Paul: You lose your train of thought. You’re more ornery than usual.
Jake: Look who’s talking, or did I already say that? So what do you expect, people are gonna buy the first twelve books just to find out what happens to me in the thirteenth?
Paul: Every book in the Lassiter series stands alone. They can be read any order.
Jake: That’s right, the LASSITER SERIES! Not the Levine series. No one gives two hoots about you. It’s me, the hard-charging defense lawyer who’s the star.
Paul: In BUM DEAL, you switch sides and prosecute.
Jake: The hell you say! I’d never do that.
Paul: See, the ink is barely dry, and you’ve already forgotten. You’re appointed to prosecute a surgeon accused of killing his wife. Only one problem, or maybe three. No witness, no evidence, and no body.
Jake: That is a bum deal! You’re setting me up to lose.
Paul: Aren’t you the guy who says, “If your cause is just, no case is impossible.” It applies to the state, too.
Jake: That’s your wordsmithery. I just say the lines you feed me.
Paul: Oh, one more thing. Your pals Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord defend the case.
Paul: The lead characters in Solomon vs. Lord. Your best pals. See what I mean about your thought processes.
Jake: I’m just messing with you, word boy. But, please not Solomon and Lord. I taught those two kids all my tricks.
Paul: Sorry, Jake. You’ll just have to dig deep and try something new. How about sticking to the rules, standing by the facts, and living with the outcome?
Jake: Why do writers always say things in series of three?
Paul: Probably because it’s pleasing to the ear, easy on the brain, and part of hard-wiring.
Jake: Hilarious, pencil pusher. Say, why would I want to prosecute, anyway? My heart is with the little guy, not the behemoth of the state.
Paul: You’re burned out. Too many guilty clients over too many years.
Jake: There’s truth in that. I lose a lot. Or plead my guy guilty. It’s a dirty little secret, but that’s the deal with most criminal defense lawyers. If anyone knew our real winning percentage, they’d cop a quick plea or jump bail.
Paul: You’ve said that before, Jake. In BUM RAP. Remember?
Jake: Not my fault you’ve got so little imagination that I repeat myself, carbon copy boy. BUM RAP. BUM LUCK. BUM DEAL. What’s the next one, BUM BOOK?
Paul: You forget already? No next book. This is it. The end. The final chapter. Finis. No más.
Jake: Jeez, you’re depressing me.
Paul: Maybe this will cheer you up. Dr. Melissa Gold, an esteemed neuropathologist, takes an interest in you, during and after office hours.
Jake: So just as I’m losing my marbles, you’re giving me a lady that lasts? Is that fair?
Paul: That’s life, pal.
Jake: I hope you get carpal tunnel in both arms, smart guy. You got any other happy news?
Paul: Bum Deal opened as the number one bestselling new legal thriller on Amazon with 98% four and five star reviews.
Jake: Sometimes, 2% of the people are right. Tell me, this, you grim storytelling reaper. Is the last scene in the book my funeral?
Paul: Would I do that to you, Jake? Really. Would I?