Frank O'Connell's need to live on the edge cost him his family, his home, and a partnership in his father-in-law's prestigious D.C. firm. Then Ashley Bronson walks into his life. The murder of a former cabinet official has just propelled her from the society column to the front page, and, inexplicably, she wants Frank to defend her. Frank thinks his biggest challenge is defending a client against the prosecution's overwhelming evidence. He's got a lot to learn. Subsumed in a defense in which ethics are bent and morals compromised, a desperate Frank hits upon an inspired strategy -- and unwittingly becomes a dangerous threat to people in high places -- a threat that must be stopped no matter what the cost. Confronted by forces they don't understand, besieged lawyer and client have only each other as the courtroom battle begins....
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In Her Defense is a sharply funny and ironic debut legal thriller that obligingly serves up all the best elements of the genre: a seemingly unwinnable case, mysterious forces conspiring against the attorney and his client, and a tumblingly relentless pace. D.C. defense attorney Frank O'Connell isn't climbing the career ladder anymore--he's been to the top, looked around, and then jumped. Deeply unsatisfied with his comfortable life, he's abandoned a successful partnership with his powerful father-in-law, jettisoned his marriage, and is clinging to an uncertain existence funded by court appointments to represent indigent shoplifters and drug dealers: "I was in trouble and I knew it. I'd come to rely on little tasks and routines, like closing the sofa bed each morning and washing the dishes as soon as I ate--not to mark my progress but as hedges against a backslide into oblivion."
Enter Ashley Bronson, a beautiful and wealthy socialite who stands accused of murdering her father's best friend, Raymond Garvey. Ashley claims that Garvey drove her father to suicide but won't explain how or why. Frank is a pragmatist, keenly appreciative of life's myriad ironies: "I could probably design a trial strategy around her physical assets alone--get a jury of men, put her on the stand, and have her look 'em in the eye and talk. Christ, she could read the phone book and we'd get a deadlock. It was too bad I knew she was guilty." Ashley's admission of guilt and Frank's desperate attempt to create a trial strategy over, under, around, and through that admission make for a cleverly Machiavellian legal procedural. Add to this Frank's growing conviction that something isn't quite "clicking" in this seemingly open-and-shut case, and you've got a narrative that accelerates toward an unashamedly over-the-top denouement. In Her Defense is a welcome addition to a crowded genre--we hope that Frank O'Connell (and Stephen Horn) will be around for many more pitched legal battles. --Kelly FlynnFrom the Publisher:
A Conversation With STEPHEN HORN
Author of In Her Defense
Q. In Her Defense brings to mind the works of John Gris ham, Scott Furrow, and Jonathan Harr's A Civil Action, all of which have captivated the reading public. What is it about the legal thriller that makes it a such compelling genre?
A. The legal thriller is the opportunity to raise all kinds of matters -- crime, politics, social justice, even those of the heart, and do justice in a satisfying, plausible way. In the end of the book you know you will find out the truth, whereas in the real world, in the news, even in famous trials, you are often denied that resolution. And let me add that since the ancient Greeks the public has loved and hated its lawyers. It's fun to see them triumph or get their just desserts.
Q. You start with a guy at the bottom, personally and professionally --he's getting divorced, living in a small sad apartment, representing two-bit drug offenders who can't afford a lawyer. And he gets the proverbial case of a life time -- a rich, beautiful client, accused of murder. Except there's a hitch, she confesses that she did it. Why that setup, why make her guilty?
A. After I left the Justice Department, I spent a lot of time in the cellblocks, representing poor clients who usually did it. People always asked, 'How can you defend someone who's guilty?' I rarely found their guilt so black and white, there was always something, some shade of gray, to build the case on. Trial lawyers are competitive people who like to win, and often that means a guilty person goes free, which can create a lot of angst. It's interesting to see how far a lawyer will go when he's motivated, and Frank O'Connell is very motivated. Aside from the usual reasons, he's fallen in love with his client. Let me also say that I always found guilty clients more interesting.
Q. You were a prosecutor in the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department in the 1970s. Without giving too much away, how much of what you did there made it into this book?
A. I worked on some of the Justice Department's most controversial matters. My first assignment was the shootings of Kent State students by Ohio National Guardsmen. My second was to investigate conspiracy theories in the assassination of Martin Luther King. Essentially, our job involved investigating and prosecuting people in power who trampled the rights of ordinary citizens. I don't want to give too much away, but the case that made it into the book concerned the time we investigated ourselves, and when it was over, I was testifying before a Senate Committee, and the President had to issue pardons.
Q. This is your first novel; was this something that was brewing for a long time?
A. No. I began it as an entertainment for myself, a change of pace from writing briefs and legal memos. And it was fun. With fiction there are no rules, no page limits, no client. You aren't constrained by a set of facts, only your own imagination. My wife liked the story, so I decided to try and have it published.
Q. Did that take a lot of plotting?
A. No. The story arose naturally. I had an opening line and a closing line and a central twist based on my experience at the Justice Department. I would write a bit, think about it, write some more and then put it away. It was something to do when I had spare time.
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Book Description HarperTorch, 2001. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0061098752
Book Description HarperTorch, 2001. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0061098752
Book Description HarperTorch, 2001. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110061098752
Book Description HarperTorch. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0061098752 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW6.1022829