I’ve seen the term legal thriller several times in my wanderings through Amazon. It’s always struck me as implying something inherently contradictory. The law, like the mills of the Gods, grinds slowly. The leisurely pace of the law, especially in courtroom matters, just seems unsuited to the thriller designation.
Along comes indie writer J. W. Kerwin to provide compelling evidence to the contrary.
Gentle Reader, it isn’t often that I happen upon an indie with both sound storytelling skills and worthy stories to tell. According to the late, great Theodore Sturgeon, “90% of everything is crud.” (Alternately, from the late, just as great R. A. Lafferty, “The lowest common denominator of the universe is both low and common.”) Old Ted passed away before indie fiction came along, so unless he’s been tracking developments from heaven, he’s probably unaware of just how great an understatement that 90% can be.
That makes it a joyous occasion to happen upon exceptions to the torrent of trash. Kerwin’s books are such exceptions.
Litigator and courtroom lawyer Brendan O’Brian isn’t an “action hero.” He works with his legal skills and reasoning ability. His New Jersey law practice, with emphasis on his defense-attorney work, puts him under the crosshairs of some very nasty characters. The two O’Brian novels Kerwin has issued to date, Slow Death In The Fast Lane and A Stranger In My Own Hometown, depict him in conflict with the IRS, the political master of the town of Troy Forge where his practice is situated, and worldwide Islamic militancy. As you’d expect from a hero protagonist, he triumphs...but as you’d expect from a good storyteller, Kerwin doesn’t make it easy for him.
O’Brian pays significant prices for his victories. Along the way he experiences travails of kinds that many of us will appreciate: professional, legal, romantic, and personal. Kerwin tells us about them in impeccable first-person prose. Now and then O'Brian's sense of legal propriety stretches a bit, but always in support of his clients and his appreciation of justice.
Kerwin’s Supporting Casts abound with colorful characters: O’Brian’s partners, including the surprising and important Rick Santorini, his wife Aimee, his eventual girlfriend Stacey, perpetual client Eddie the Skunk, and a selection of other clients, lawyers, judges, and toughs of note. Those colorful characters are all well colored in. They aren’t just there because the story needs them; they give it extra richness and dimension.
Oregon Muse, proprietor of the Book Threads at Ace of Spades HQ, recommended these books. Having read the two novels back to back – each in a single sitting, at that – I’m pleased to add my enthusiastic concurrence: Highly recommended.