I recently had the opportunity to interview Scott Turow who will be one of the guests of honor at the Bouchercon 2020 this fall in Sacramento, and he kindly agreed to answer a few questions for the Rogues. If you’re not familiar with him or his legal thrillers, he’s a Harvard-educated attorney who still practices law (part-time these days). His most recent book, THE LAST TRIAL, will be out May 12, 2020. Per Booklist, in a starred review:
“Turow has established the gold standard for legal thrillers for decades, and he delivers another bar-raising example of his talent here, with his signature absorbing legal details, cerebral suspense, and fascinatingly flawed characters all on full view.”
1. Which is harder: writing the first or last sentence? For me, the last, although once I have the first sentence I know the novel is on its way. The last, however, requires me to fully understand what I am writing about.
2. Where do you like to write? One of the great blessings in my life was that my high school journalism teacher, Dr. Boyd Guest, insisted that reporters needed to be able to write anywhere. No cork-lined rooms for them! As a result, I learned to write anywhere that people will leave me alone. It’s a well-known story that I wrote much of Presumed Innocent on the morning commuter train. Airplanes also suit me well. Recently the single best place to write has been my home office in the house we rent in Naples, Florida during the grey months in the midwest, where I am often at work at sunrise.
3. What do you do when you need to take a break from writing? Respond to email and play golf.
4. If you could have lived in a different time period, what would that be? Clearly some time in the future, at least 50 years forward. I’d love to look in on my grandchildren, see how we’ve handled global warming and witness the new wonders that science has brought us.
5. What’s your favorite drink? Club soda at the moment. I’m trying to cut down on Coke Zero, which I also adore. Lagavulin is an indulgence for a celebratory moment.
6. When you were ten (or thereabout) years old, what did you want to be when you grew up? Around ten, I first declared that I was going to be a novelist, my mother’s wished-for ambition for herself.
7. If you could do it all over, would you still become a lawyer? Without question. There is no doubt that the practice of law is an often nasty business, with plenty of strife between opponents and lots of silly economic pressures, but the law itself remains, as my character Sandy Stern would tell you, a noble profession, about deciding how the little of life (that) people can control can become fairer.
8. Do you have a literary hero? A teacher, mentor, family member, author who has inspired you to write stories? Saul Bellow, by the time I was in college, was the famous Jewish-American Chicago Novelist whose work seemed to hit home. But his life was no ideal. Dickens continues to fascinate me. About five years ago, we spent Christmas Day in his former house in London. He was an immense talent, who never forgot how hard his younger life was, and who was one of the first to recognize the enormous health risks to the poor from urban pollution.
11. Do you have any words of inspiration for aspiring lawyers? (My daughter is 1L, so had to ask.) Yes. The most fulfilled lawyers I know live lives where they are never remote from the core job of practicing attorneys, which is to do justice. If it becomes about only meeting deadlines or pleasing clients or making money, the law becomes a grind. If you stay in touch with the law’s larger ambitions, you can feel allied with something truly worthwhile.
Stay safe, everyone! I hope you’ll leave a comment to let us all know how you’re doing!