Thursday, 5 May 2011

J.D.Rhoades interview: Lawyers, Guns And Money

Lawyers, Guns And Money by J.D.Rhoades
£2.12, $2.99

J.D. Rhoades is an author, attorney, newspaper columnist, radio and TV commentator, Internet junkie, raconteur, and guitarist, none of which show any signs of making hm rich anytime soon. He lives in Carthage, North Carolina.

Can you sum up your book in no more than 25 words?

A small town lawyer used to keeping secrets discovers he's not the insider he thought he was, and risks death to do the right thing.

25 exactly. Damn, I'm good.

What was your motivation for writing it?

Money. What else?

But seriously, folks....

Since I'm an attorney as well as a writer, people have been asking me for years when I was going to write a book about lawyers. Problem is, most "legal thrillers" get the practice of law all wrong. Closest I've ever seen anyone come in print  is George V Higgins in his novel KENNEDY FOR THE DEFENSE. Higgins, through that  remarkable gift he had for writing dialogue,  managed  to capture that combination of idealism and cynicism that actual criminal lawyers develop over time. The idealism comes from the fact that you're doing something that people often despise, but something that's nevertheless important, namely making sure no one has to face the brute power of the State without an advocate. The cynicism comes from some of the people you have to deal with in pursuing that goal, and I'm not just talking about your clients. So I wanted to write a book like that.

I've also always wanted to write a "classic" style hardboiled PI novel, with the wisecracking gumshoe with the tough exterior but a tender heart for the underdogs, the guy who takes on a case that looks simple but ends up all twisty and possibly deadly. Then it occurred to me that the two types of books weren't all that far apart.

 Andy Cole, as the book starts out, is a pretty cynical guy; he likes the money, the women, and the feeling of power and importance he gets from being an insider, a guy who knows and keeps all the secrets in his small Southern town. But then he starts getting pressured to sell out a client who he believes is innocent in the name of keeping those secrets, and he's got to make some hard choices that might get him killed.

Do you have any other projects on the go?

Right now, I'm working on something completely different. I've always loved the "space opera" subgenre of sf, and right now the book that's demanding to be written is in that genre. The heroine/narrator is the last survivor of a black ops unit of genetically engineered vampires (solves the problem of supply very nicely when your soldiers eat the enemy).  She and her lover, the medic who saved her life on the battlefield, are out for revenge on the people who tried to exterminate her and the other living weapons they created when the war was over. There are also zombies and werewolves. I describe it as FIREFLY meets KILL BILL, with monsters.

  I have no idea what I'll do with it when it's done. My agent recoils in horror at the very thought.

What are you reading now?

Jonathan Maberry's THE DRAGON FACTORY. Like his previous book in the series, the zombie technothriller PATIENT ZERO, it's huge, crazy, over -the-top fun.

Which author should be much better known?

It occurred to me as I was answering that earlier question on motivation that this is the second book I've written that was inspired by a George V Higgins book, the first being my debut, THE DEVIL'S RIGHT HAND (which owes a lot to THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE.) So I'd have to say Higgins, although he could be awfully uneven. 

Do you read outside of the crime genre?

Oh, yeah. I read a lot of science fiction, fantasy, history, biography, pretty much anything, really. I'm the guy who sits down at the breakfast table and reads the back of the cereal box if there's not a book handy.

How much difference does a good cover make?

I think it's essential for both print and e-books. For print books, it's what makes the difference between someone picking your work off the shelf and giving it a look or just passing by.

A good cover is even more essential, in my opinion, for an e-book. People still want to be reassured that they're getting something that's been done professionally, and not some piece of thrown together crap.

When I put my first e-book, STORM SURGE, online in February 2010, it had a frankly terrible cover that I made myself. It went nowhere. Finally,  I hired Jeroen ten Berge, who's done covers for Blake Crouch and a bunch of other people. The book's really taken off with his cover.  He also did the cover for LAWYERS, GUNS AND MONEY and is working on covers for the backlist books that are up online now.

What's your favourite part of the writing process?

I love that moment when a character I've been trying to get a handle on suddenly comes into focus, then comes to life in my head and practically starts writing him or herself. I love those moments when you slide your chair back, look at what you've jut written and go "whoa, where the hell did THAT come from?"

What are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?

I've often been praised for the "pace" of my books, the way I keep the story moving forward quickly and pull the reader along with it. Sometimes, though, I think maybe that leads to me rushing things a little. I'm working on that, trying to learn to let the reader stop and smell the roses for a bit before I blow the garden up.

Lawyers, Guns And Money by J.D.Rhoades
£2.12, $2.99


  1. Thanks for having me over, Al!

  2. Nice interview. A vampire black ops unit, huh? Intriguing.

  3. J.D. Rhoades. I love this guy.

  4. I hadn't seen much of you online recently, JD, so it was great to get to know you a little better here. Your novel sounds terrific too.