“SOLOMON’S LAWS” BARELY LEGAL
By Paul Levine
“When the law doesn’t work...work the law.”
So says Steve Solomon. It’s his First Commandment, and you won’t find it in the statute books. Which makes the following conversation even stranger. A Miami lawyer recently told me that he uses “Solomon’s Laws” to train young associates in his firm.
That’s akin to teaching manners to sharks by tossing them chunks of red meat.
“Someone’s gonna get disbarred,” I told the lawyer.
“No way. Those laws teach lawyers to be fearless and creative.”
Also irreverent, insolent, and contemptuous. I ought to know. After all, I practiced law for 17 years and had my share of courtroom victories, defeats, and being held in contempt. Honestly.
I also created Steve Solomon, a beer and burger guy with a night school degree and a crooked smile. He’s the rule-breaking half of Solomon & Lord, while Victoria Lord is his proper and meticulous partner. Victoria graduated from Yale and believes in the sanctity of the law.
In “Solomon vs. Lord,” these squabblers extraordinaire defend a young woman accused of killing her wealthy, older husband during a night of kinky sex. Reviewers have compared the bickering law partners to Nick and Nora in “The Thin Man,” Dave and Maddie in “Moonlighting” and Tracy and Hepburn in well...everything.
So what are Solomon’s qualifications as a legal philosopher? Well, he barely graduated from Key West School of Law; he passed the Bar exam on his fourth try; he advertises on the back of buses; and he’s frequently held in contempt of court. Atticus Finch, he’s not.
I always believed there was something special in the attorney-client relationship, and so does Solomon, who has this advice for clients: “Lie to your priest, your spouse, and the I.R.S. But always tell your lawyer the truth.”
On the other hand, there’s this advice for lawyers: “Always assume your client is guilty. It saves time.”
In jury selection, I always used this rule, now codified in “The Deep Blue Alibi.” “Choose a juror the way you choose a lover. Someone who doesn’t expect perfection and forgives your bullshit.”
Some of Solomon’s Laws have nothing to do with the practice lf law, but rather reflect hard lessons learned from his checkered personal life: “When meeting an ex-girlfriend you dumped, always assume she’s armed.” In Florida, with the proliferation of concealed firearms permits, that’s a particularly appropriate rule.
Here’s a law from “Kill All the Lawyers” that used to get me in trouble.
“A creative lawyer considers a judge’s order a mere suggestion.”
Then there’s this law, which pops up after Solomon encounters a sunbathing femme fatale: “When you run across a naked woman, act as if you’ve seen one before.” If you ask whether that one is based on personal experience, I’ll plead the Fifth.
For an overview of criminal law, here’s a tidy observation from “Habeas Porpoise:” “A prosecutor’s job is to build a brick wall around her case. A defense lawyer’s job is to tear down the wall, or at least to paint graffiti on the damn thing.”
That’s the thing about Steve Solomon...he never runs out of paint.
INTERVIEW WITH PAUL LEVINE, AUTHOR OF “SOLOMON VS. LORD”
(We recently talked to Paul Levine, author of the “Solomon vs. Lord” legal thrillers. The books were nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, International Thriller, and James Thurber awards, and have just been released as Kindle Exclusives).
Q “Solomon vs. Lord” opens with the lyrics from an old Frank Sinatra song called “But I Loved You.” That’s a little odd for a legal thriller, isn’t it?
A: Would you like me to sing a verse?
Q: Only if you must.
A: “Opposites attract, the wise men claim,
Still I wish that we had been a little more the same,
It might have been a shorter war.”
Q: So, is it a thriller with humor or a mystery with romance?
A. A legal thriller with humor. A dramedy.
Q: If you had to compare the story to earlier works...?
A: Shakespeare, of course.
Q: Of course.
A. Seriously. The ‘opposites attract’ set-up goes all the way back to “The Taming of the Shrew.” Then there’s Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man.” “The Bickersons” on radio. “Moonlighting” on television. Two people love-hate each other. Life sizzles when they’re together, fizzles when they’re apart.
Q: Let’s look at the book’s teaser:
“Victoria Lord follows all the rules...
Steve Solomon makes up his own...
When they defend an accused murderer, they’ll either end up in ruin, in jail, or in
Does that leave anything out?
A: All the kinky sex.
Q: We’re not sure if you’re being serious.
A: Totally. My working title was “Fifty Shades of Plaid.”
Q: One reviewer described the book as “Carl Hiaasen meets John Grisham in the court of last retort.” Fair assessment?
A: I probably bring humor to my work because, as a trial lawyer, I saw so much nuttiness in the courtroom.
Q: In “The Deep Blue Alibi,” there’s a chapter at a Florida nudist resort. Is it fair to ask how you researched the scene?
A: Like Jackie Chan, I do my own stunts.
Q: What about the title? Are you paying homage to John D. MacDonald’s “The Deep Blue Good-Bye?”
A: “Homage?” That’s French for cheese, isn’t it?
Q: Now you’re being facetious.
A: That’s what they pay me for
Q: Let’s be serious. You’ve won the John D. MacDonald Fiction award. You’re not denying his influence on you.
A: After I moved to Florida, I read all of MacDonald’s Travis McGee books. When I wrote my first Jake Lassiter novel (“To Speak for the Dead”), one of my first fan letters was from John D. MacDonald’s son. I think JDM nailed Florida’s weirdness and corruption.
Q: Does that explain the title of your third Solomon & Lord novel, “Kill All the Lawyers?” A combination of Shakespeare and MacDonald.
A: As lawyers constantly point out, that line was spoken by a villain in “Henry VI.” The guy wanted to overthrow the government, and killing all the lawyers seemed like a good place to start.
Q: While we’re on the topic of titles–
A: Which you seem to be obsessed with.
Q: What about “Habeas Porpoise?”
A. I didn’t steal that one from Shakespeare.
Q: Or anyone else. That would seem to be original.
A: Here’s the story. When Bantam published the book, my editors rejected the title as too funny. Now, the story opens with two highly trained dolphins being kidnapped by some hapless animal rights people, so I thought “funny” was okay. But we settled on “Trial & Error” for the book. When I got the rights back for e-book publication, I restored the original name.
Q: Tell us about your background. Your education.
A: At Penn State, I majored in journalism. At the University of Miami Law School, I majored in the swimming pool.
Q: You’ve been a successful television writer. What advice would you give to people who want to break into Hollywood?
A: Marry a blood relative of Jerry Bruckheimer or J.J. Abrams.
Q: Lacking that, when aspiring authors or screenwriters sit down at the computer, what should they be writing?
A: Ransom notes, maybe? Look, it’s really hard to break into the business. Some people suggest writing a spec script. But that’s a tough route. Years ago, Elmore Leonard said, “Writing a script and sending it to Hollywood is like drawing a picture of a car and sending it to Detroit.” So I’d recommend entry level positions as assistants or script readers. In the TV business, assistants sometimes manage to sell a script to the show they’re working on.
Q: Any last words about “Solomon vs. Lord?”
A: I wasn’t kidding about the kinky sex.
More information on Paul Levine’s website: http://www.paul-levine.com
(The “Solomon vs. Lord” novels have been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, International Thriller, and James Thurber awards. All four legal thrillers are
now Kindle Exclusives. For more information, please visit the author’s website: http://www.paul-levine.com)
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