Thursday, June 16, 2011

Interview with Paul Levine - Author of Flesh and Bones

Paul Levine Interview

First of all, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to interview you for Black Diamond’s Book Reviews!  I really think it is important to do author interviews.  People go out and read and review the books, but they don’t necessarily know much about the author.  Interviews give the readers a chance to find out more about the author, and I think it is more likely that a reader will develop some kind of connection to the author and be more likely to follow that author andread upcoming books!

Could you tell me a little about yourself?

I started as a reporter for The Miami Herald.  Went to law school at University of Miami after covering the lewd conduct trial of Jim Morrison of The Doors in 1870…I mean, 1970, it only seems that long ago.  I was a trial lawyer for 17 years in Miami, a place where vultures constantly circle the courthouse.  Talking about the birds riding the updrafts, not lawyers in their Porsches.

When did you start writing and how did you get started?

On a windsurfing trip to Maui in 1987, I got injured and sat on the beach, writing my first “Jake Lassiter” book in longhand.  Bantam bought it in  a four-book deal.  “To Speak for the Dead” was the first one.  “Flesh & Bones,” in my opinion, is the best one.

What kind of books do you like to write?

Murder trials.
Novels of suspense.

Do you have any rituals that you use when you are writing?

I eat chocolate and drink coffee all day. 
(Cheryl says - we would get along great - I eat chocolate all day too, but I drink pop)

What are you reading now?

Just finished two outstanding novels.  “The Lock Artist” by Steve Hamilton and “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” by Tom Franklin.  Trying to get into “Water for Elephants” now.

What are some of your favorite books and authors?  

Honestly, too many to mention.  In my genre, John D. MacDonald and Raymond Chandler.  I won’t name current crime fiction writers because I’ll inadvertently leave out my friends.  Out of my genre, John Updike and Tom Wolfe have always just knocked me out.

Has writing your own book changed the way that you read?

Unfortunately, instead of reading for pleasure, I’m watching for technique.

Are you able to read when you’re writing and if so what books inspire you when you’re working on a novel?

I try not to read anything in crime fiction while I’m writing.  If I read Elmore Leonard, for example, I start to pick up his style.

What is a typical day in your life like?

Work all morning; run errands then work out in afternoon; read at night.  Life in the no-passing lane.

Did you know what you wanted the title of the book to be?  How involved were in choosing the name of the book?

Jake Lassiter defends model Chrissy Bernhardt, a stunning model,  on a murder charge.  Much of the book is set in the world of modeling on South Beach.  “Flesh & Bones” therefore came naturally with its double meaning.

Who was your favorite character to write, and why did you like that character?

Jake Lassiter has always been my favorite character.  He’s an ex-pro football player turned night-school lawyer.  A brew and burger guy in a pate and Chardonnay world.  He’s matured in “Flesh & Bones.”  Really starts seeing himself as he is and is honest about his shortcomings.  Here’s his interior dialogue when he realizes he’s falling for his client, and she might be guilty of murder:

A good lawyer is part con man, part priest -- promising riches, threatening hell.  My ethical rules are simple.  I won't lie to the court or let a client do it.  But I've never been in this position before.  How far would I go for a woman who mattered?  Is there anything I wouldn't do to win?”

It takes a while to answer the question, but when Jake does, it is with brutal honesty:

“I never intended to be a hero, and I succeeded.  I wish I'd been faster then, smarter now.  I wish I could paint a picture or build a bridge.  I wish there was a woman -- just one -- who had lasted.  A best friend and only lover, a soulmate, not a cellmate.  And now I knew.  There is nothing I wouldn't set Chrissy free.”

Did you have to do much research when working on 
Flesh and Bones? If so, do you tend to write first or research first?

I did substantial research on “recovered memories,” as Chrissy claims that – while under hypnosis – she remembered long-past incidents of childhood sexual abuse.  So, I spoke to psychiatrists and did some reading.  Murder trials also require some brushing up on the law.  I do all that before writing the book.

As a published author, what’s been the biggest surprise about life after the publication of your first book?

Well, that was 1990.  Then, I just had to sit down and do it again and again and again.  Fourteen times.  The surprise is that I’m able to make a living doing what I want.

What’s next for you?

In September, Bantam comes out with the first new Jake Lassiter hardcover since 1997.  It’s “Lassiter,”  and I think you’ll like it.

What three artists would I find in your Ipod or CD player?

Iris Dement, Julie London, Waylon Jennings, among others.

If I came to your home and looked in your refrigerator what would I find?

Grolsch beer.  Cashews.  Sweet potato pancake mix.  Chocolate.  Greek yogurt.  Raspberries, strawberries, blueberriesand blackberries from the Studio City Farmer’s Market.  More Grolsch beer and some Sam Adams, too.

What famous person do other people tell you that you most look like?

Lately, from a couple insane friends, Ronald Reagan.  I don’t see it.
(Cheryl - yes, I can see that kind of!)

What is the one thing about yourself that others would be shocked to know?

I’ll answer that after the statute of limitations has run.

Choose a book title for the story of your life.

“He Came, He Saw, He Took a Nap”


I just got an e-mail from Paul Levine.  I just have to share part of it.  Here is what he says:

Last summer, on the 20th anniversary of publication of “To Speak for the Dead,” I pledged all proceeds of the ebook edition to the Four Diamonds Fund charity. The book rocketed to number one on Amazon’s Hardboiled Mystery Bestseller List and raised thousands of dollars for cancer treatment at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.

This summer, I'm doing it again. "Flesh & Bones" is now an ebook, specially priced at $.99, with all royalties going to the Fund.

Not only is this a great book, but the money that you pay for the book
will go to a very good cause!

You can find his website at:

 © 2011, Cheryl of Black Diamond's Book Reviews. All Rights Reserved. If you are reading this on a site other than, Black Diamond's Book ReviewsUrban Image Magazine, or Cheryl's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

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