Interview With The Author:  Paul Levine


John Dwaine McKenna

Sharing his insights and thoughts with us today is Paul Levine, whose newest Jake Lassiter thriller is reviewed in MBR No. 402.  It’s both an honor and a pleasure, as well as a humbling experience to interview so prolific an author with such a well-defined and appealing character as Lassiter, whose longevity is astonishing.  Thank you for your input.

Here’s our first question . . .

Why do you write?  

I can’t help myself. Writing is an illness. A nasty flu. If you’re infected, you have this inner need to tell stories. Writers, actors, stand-up comics, lecturers at Chautauqua’s all suffer from this incurable ailment.

Are any of your characters autobiographical? 

Jake Lassiter, protagonist of the series that began in 1990 with To Speak for the Dead, is a former NFL linebacker who became a Miami trial lawyer. I was a sportswriter who became a Miami trial lawyer. Lassiter is a lot tougher than me. In court, he’s the bull in the China shop. He’ll be held in contempt and not care. He’ll take a punch for a client. But like me, Jake “won’t lie to the court or let a client lie.” Lassiter also likes to say: “I’ve never been disbarred, committed or convicted of moral turpitude, and the only time I was arrested it was a case of mistaken identity…I didn’t know the guy I hit was a cop.”

What makes a character compelling?

Complexity. Layers. Dimensions. No person in real life has only one character trait. Same in fiction. A hero can be brave but fearful. A villain can be treacherous but a good parent and kind to his dogs.

What makes a character despicable? 

“Despicable” is in the eye of the beholder. Well-drawn villains often believe their actions are justified. In Chinatown, Noah Cross believes that bankrupting farmers is fine and dandy if it serves the larger purpose of bringing water to an expanding Los Angeles. He can even excuse murdering his son-in-law and sexually abusing his daughter. Now, that’s despicable!

Do any one of the above attributes make a more interesting character than another?   

Surely, multi-dimensional characters – both heroes and villains – help convey a sense of reality. I’d add that villains who are as smart as the hero – or smarter – also contribute to the story by making the hero’s quest more difficult.

What type of scene is most difficult for you to write? 

Easiest to write: Courtroom scenes. I’ve lived them, and the rhythm is like a favorite tune.

Challenging: Writing an action scene that isn’t derivative of a dozen movies that are stored in my brain.

Really difficult: Bedroom scenes are just loaded with land mines. After that first kiss, just how do you write a scene that has never been written before?

What’s your next project?   

Jake Lassiter will handle a case that may change the game of football from grade school to the NFL.

Do you have any other comments, suggestions, tips, anecdotes, quotes or inspirational material you’d like to share? 

In Cheater’s Game, Lassiter tackles the college admissions scandal. Here’s a bit of his closing argument:

“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?”

Where could you be reached on the World Wide Web?

My website is https://www.paul-levine.


Twitter: @Jake_Lassiter

Author Bio: The author of twenty-two novels, Paul Levine won the John D. MacDonald Fiction Award and has been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, International Thriller, Shamus, and James Thurber prizes. A former trial lawyer, he also wrote twenty episodes of the CBS military drama JAG and co-created the Supreme Court drama First Monday starring James Garner and Joe Mantegna. TO SPEAK FOR THE DEAD was his first novel and introduced readers to linebacker-turned-lawyer Jake Lassiter. In Summer 2015, his Lassiter novel BUM RAP was the Number One bestseller on Amazon. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed SOLOMON VS. LORD series of legal capers. For more information, visit his website at or his Amazon Author Page at or follow him on Facebook at or on Twitter @Jake_Lassiter.


Thanks again for your time and candor.  It’s been a pleasure.  Please stay in touch and let us know about your next project. All of our Book Reports and Author Interviews are on our website: