“There is no excuse to be rich….” – An Interview with Alon Preiss

An Interview with Alon Preiss, author of the new novel, In Love With Alice (Chickadee Prince Books, 2017)

December 6, 2016

 

What led you to write this story?

It was just an idea. I had this idea, a couple of decades ago, about a married couple torn apart by circumstances and divorced now for many years, meeting and falling in love again after they have remarried, and committing adultery against their new spouses. But to do this in a way that everyone in the story would be sort of … not exactly….

perf6.000x9.000.inddNo villains. There are no villains in the story.

That’s right. If I’ve done this right, you’re absolutely sympathetic to everyone. The old wife, the new wife. You want everyone to be happy, even though they cannot all wind up happy. Because, in real life, everyone wants to marry Zelda. And in real life, not everyone gets to marry Zelda. And then once you marry Zelda, it’s not really what you’d hoped or expected. Not all it seemed from the outside looking in, being married to Zelda.

Everyone in the book is treacherous.

In a way. When Maurow kisses his ex-wife, Harriet, for the first time in the book, he says that he did something wrong, but that Harriet didn’t. Only one of them had done something wrong. Then Harriet says, not something so very wrong, and Maurow agrees, not the worst thing that someone could do. In today’s world, this is almost like being absolutely upstanding and ethical. So if I’ve done my job properly, you kind of accept them sympathetically in these terms, the way they see themselves. As sort of excusable, sort of not-horrible people.

Where did the idea for the character of Alice come from?

I had a conversation a long time ago, back in the very early 1990s, with someone who had built a real estate business, very massively leveraged, in the 1980s, and then lost everything in the collapse at the end of the decade. He had not paid much attention to anything else other than building this failed business, and that was literally all he had on his resume. Of course he was nothing like Alice, he was just someone in a predicament.  But I gave Alice that predicament, and giving a woman that predicament made the whole story very different, and her personality just grew from there out of the situation. First, she is someone who is very capable, very accomplished, brilliant, with that particular sort of beauty and charisma that you need to succeed in business, extremely proud, and then also she is someone who is utterly crushed. And then what does she do? And not just what does she do … who is she?

You have said that the people she loves, and who love her, are situational.

Yes. We humans are mostly evolution, and after that we are situational.

This book is sympathetic to the rich.

I hope not!

Really?

Look, I suppose there are people in this book who have a certain amount of money.

To say the least.

It doesn’t mean that I am sympathetic to the rich. You might find some of their dreams and hopes to be misguided though stupidly sympathetic, but I am not sympathetic to them as wealthy people or sympathetic to wealth accumulation as an activity. People should not be rich. Being rich is wrong. There is no reason or excuse to be rich.

This book is less political than your first novel, A Flash of Blue Sky.

I would disagree. In my Alice story, the forces of international politics bring one couple together; a meaningless political power struggle and pointless military coup splits up another couple. It’s always there, these ideological struggles, these secular religions.

Real religion plays no role in the lives of these people.

That’s right, on the surface they are all completely rational and secular, but we never really escape it, right? At one point, Alice thinks about someone who is up in Heaven, and then she stops and reminds herself, There is no Heaven, and she wonders how she could have forgotten something like this, which she was completely sure about. But it seems wrong to her that this person who she is thinking about … it is just wrong that this person is not in Heaven. It is impossible to grasp, even for those of us who are absolutely secular and absolutely non-believers. The insignificance of being one person in a universe of two trillion galaxies, the certainty of the eternity of nothingness, the genuine pointlessness and randomness of the evolutionary sentient somethingness that follows and then precedes the two bookmarks of nothingness that define us. Even non-believers catch ourselves accidentally believing, just out of desperation, when our guard is down. How could I forget Heaven does not exist!

That is pessimistic.

Yes.

 

In Love With Alice by Alon Preiss will be published by Chickadee Prince Books on May 1, 2017 in trade paperback.

Available NOW for pre-order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or from ANY BOOKSTORE IN ANY TOWN OR CITY IN AMERICA

“Innocent people can be convicted” – An Interview with Ed Rucker

Ed Rucker is a former defense lawyer and author of the new legal thriller,  The Inevitable Witness (Chickadee Prince, 2017)

 

CPB: Why a novel? Why now?

Rucker: I practiced criminal defense for over 30 years up and down the state of California and a few out of state both in the state and federal courts and I thought that based on my familiarity with how the system works that I might have some things if interest that I could offer and seemed like a mystery novel would be the best vehicle.

What would people not know?

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-10-56-55-pmThe influence of the media, meaning the newspapers and television coverage, plays a part in criminal cases in California, and they can influence the picture that potential jurors have of the case. Also, our judges are elected, and so the media very much can influence the way a judge might rule on close cases and pieces of evidence, worrying that if they decide something that the public outcry might be reflected at the ballot box the next time they run for election.

We had a supreme court justice and two associate justices who were turned out of office, solely because they had reversed a number of death penalty cases.

The main character in your new series of novels in named Bobby Earl, and he is a defense attorney? Are you Bobby Earl?

He’s a composite of a lot of the characteristics that I find are common in defense lawyers. We’re not monolithic, but there are certain common characteristics. Defense lawyers have a certain level of anger, and this is a profession that allows them to vent that in a socially acceptable way and serve a social good in doing that. Most are very competitive people, and they like that combative atmosphere. There’s a bit of the vanity in many of us, we like to be the center of a really intense drama. For many it’s sort of a predilection to stand up for the little guy, the underdog. A common thing is a grudge against authority that is based on childhood experience with the police.

That’s not you?

I have a bit of that, yes. I grew up in a neighborhood in Los Angeles that at the time was sort of way out in the valley and I was a member of this little gang, and we had some run ins. But nothing serious.

You were actually a character in a number of true crime books, including Fire Lover, by Joseph Wambaugh, which was a bestseller. How did that change your life?

Books like that didn’t necessarily enhance any reputation that I had. I had a reputation of not courting the media. I made it difficult for the media to follow a case of mine. I would not return phone calls. I never had a thirst for the limelight. Publicity would be terrible for my clients – if the media gets hold of a case, it influences the prosecutor and the judge, and maybe even the jury, so I always tried to downplay my cases.

The death penalty was kept in California. How do you feel about this?

Of all the types of cases that are tried, death penalty cases are probably at the top of the list where innocent people can be convicted. The only people that can sit on a death penalty case are people who are for the death penalty. If you have any opposition to it you cannot sit as a matter of law, and people who are for the death penalty are very pro-prosecution and inclined to convict. The kind of case itself selected for the death penalty is generally a gruesome crime, and therefore the jury is very hesitant to release anybody who is charged with that, so the amount of evidence that the prosecution has to put forward is much lower from a practical standpoint.

Plus the fear factor – decent people on the jury faced with the dilemma that there’s not a lot of evidence here, but if we let this guy go he may do something horrible like this again.

In the novel, Samantha, who is on the D.A.’s team, has a secretly cooperative relationship with Bobby, who is defending the accused. Why?

She doesn’t want the trial to be reduced to a political theater for the district attorney and the judge who’s planning to run against him. Prosecutors’ offices have talented and untalented people and ethical and unethical people, just like any profession.

Why did you retire?

Because I didn’t have the energy anymore to prepare cases the way I needed to. I never got cynical about my clients, but I got frustrated with some of the younger prosecutors, who sort of looked on every case as the crime of the century and would demand what I felt were inappropriate sentences for the crimes. A little bit because of the media. And their own ambitions. They’re competitive people. Prosecutors are supposed to try for a just result, not the most they can get, and that flies against most human competitive instincts, where you want to run up the score and have a great victory. They just see CSI and Law and Order, and those are very hard charging prosecutors.

As a defense lawyer who focuses on death penalty cases, you have your clients’ lives in your hands. How did you deal with that kind of responsibility?

I always had to find the human part of my clients that I could identify with, no matter how horrendous an act they had committed, because if they are convicted, you have to ask a jury to spare their lives. It is an emotional decision that the jury makes. And unless you are speaking about another human being rather than just some vile creature, you’re not going to be very successful.

Did you ever have a case you won, which in retrospect (or at the time) you wish you had lost?

I tried a lot of murder cases, including thirteen death penalty cases. I was opposed to the death penalty and it’s important to have at least decent lawyers trying them. I had two death penalty cases where there were outright acquittals. I wasn’t worried that either of them would constitute a danger. One was clearly innocent. The other might not be, but he didn’t constitute a danger.

Murder is generally an impulsive emotional act between people who are acquainted with each other. These mafia professional hit men don’t get caught. So in the murder cases where I received acquittals I was never worried about whether they would be a danger, and they weren’t. for some of them I didn’t know if they were guilty or innocent. I had some doubts with some of them, but I didn’t think they constituted a danger, and it turns out they didn’t.

This book is very critical of “the system.” How would you reform/change the way defendants are judged?

First, the election of judges has become a problem – they now have to campaign, you see; in Texas and California and places like that, they raise large amounts of money, so you have law firms appearing in front of them who have had to contribute to their campaigns.

Also, prosecutors should be held responsible for violations or ethical misbehavior. The way it is now, the worst that they face for withholding evidence of innocence or something like that is that the case may be reversed on appeal, and that’s not much deterrent to that type of conduct.

Finally, in California, we are just warehousing thousands and thousands of people. There are dangerous people who should never be released, but they are a small portion of the people we send up there, along with drug crimes and petty thefts.

We spend more in California on our prison system than we spend on the University of California, all of the campuses, and Cal state, put together.

PUBLICATION DATE: MAY 2017. Available NOW on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or at a bookstore near you!!