Write what you know

My novels are set in Washington, D.C. Mercy Johnson, the protagonist, is a criminal defense attorney. So, I’m following the old adage. I was a criminal defense attorney for over 30 years. I lived in D.C. for 25 years. In my stories, I try to be faithful to my experience. A few clients I represented were just downright mean. Others were severely mentally ill. Many were just people who made stupid choices. Some were caught up in the criminal justice system because of who they were, or where they were. I try to show in my stories that the system is not always fair or honest, that some prosecutors do not faithfully execute the duties of their office, that some police take shortcuts to arrests or convictions. But I also try to show that many good people are prosecutors, police, judges.
I call my novels legal thrillers. As an avid reader of the genre, I am bothered that some writers go for easy stereotypes: criminal defendants are bad people, the attorneys who defend them are sleaze-bags, prosecutors wear white hats and ride white horses, police are beleaguered and always on the side of truth and justice. One of the aims of my writing is to bring balance to the picture. I committed myself with my first novel to tell the truth as I saw it, and as my experience verified it. In my view, the issues are far more complicated than stereotypes or easy answers would allow.
China White is the story of twenty kilograms of nearly-pure heroin, and the people whose lives are touched by its discovery in a shipment from the Golden Triangle to the doorstep of a young D.C. college student.
Sleepytime takes the reader into a Virginia prison with a man whose sleep disorder makes him look a lot like a burglar but whose family and friends refuse to believe he is guilty and fight to free him.
Two Wrongs shows that even a dedicated and zealous federal prosecutor can kill when her daughter is in danger and that her choices as she faces the consequences of her husband’s killing reflect a deep-seated need to shield her daughter from her own dangerous actions.
Mercy Johnson is the defense attorney in all these cases. She is African-American, in her fifties, married for 25 years, lives with her husband and grandmother in a historic neighborhood in northwest D.C. I consider Mercy to be a composite of the women lawyers with whom I was privileged to practice. To create a character not like me, I gave her attributes that I wish I possessed but do not, AND she is not a cat person. I love all animals, but I have cats. Sometimes more of them than I really need. For years I have worked with rescue groups and with trap-neuter-return groups. I figured if I constantly reminded myself that Mercy merely tolerates her husband’s cat, I could keep my distance from her.
My fourth novel is Discovering Grace. I hope to finish it this year. The other three are available on Amazon (paperback and Kindle), at Park Road Books in Charlotte, The Book Shelf in Tryon, NC, Main Street Books in Davidson, NC and in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg library system.

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