Author Garret Holms brings major credibility to his international book award winning legal thriller Grant of Immunity, having worked as a prosecutor, defense attorney, and trial court judge. I recently met Garret at the 2015 Readers Favorite Int’l book award ceremony in Miami, Florida (he was awarded a silver medal) and we traded writing stories and tips that may help us both as thriller authors.
He told me he enjoyed reading my award winning thriller ‘Taming the Telomeres’ and I promised to read his novel (which I did and it was excellent!) and then he agreed to this interview about his courtroom thriller, and our author-to-author chat follows:
Q: Please summarize, without spoilers, your award winning novel Grant of Immunity? And is it part of a series?
A: Grant of Immunity, is set in 1976, Los Angeles. Sarah Collins, a young mother of two, is brutally raped and murdered at the Hollywood Reservoir. For nineteen years, the murder remains unsolved and the case goes cold. In 1995, the streets of Los Angeles are being terrorized by Jake Babbage, a traffic cop who uses his position of power to rape and murder innocent women. On his way to court one day, Babbage sees Judge Daniel Hart. The two recognize each other, and the terrifying night of nineteen years ago comes back to haunt the highly respected judge. The aftermath of the encounter brings long-buried secrets to light and tests the moral fiber of Judge Hart, who has committed himself to protecting those victimized by the very crimes of which he is now accused.
Grant of Immunity is the first book in a three-book series of novels that have Judge Daniel Hart the protagonist. The second book in the series will be completed during 2016.
Q: What appeals (pun unintended) to you about writing legal thrillers?
A: The courtroom is the best stage for a gut-wrenching thriller. It’s where tempers fly and tensions flare.
Oftentimes, when you read legal thrillers, lawyers and detectives are cast as leads while the judge is a secondary and somewhat elusive character. As a author in the legal thriller genre, I wanted to explore the judge’s position in the judicial system with accuracy while showcasing the bare emotions that are often tucked away when one is in an authoritative position like that of a judge.
I enjoy creating well-rounded characters that transcend their respective titles or roles in a legal thriller. This is the writing challenge I love: to construct an authentic set of events, including powerful courtroom scenes, that engage, entertain and educate the reader.
Q: Outline the legal experience in the type of law you write about?
A: As a prosecutor and defense attorney, I’ve tried countless cases. I know the disappointment that comes with losing after weeks of going over how I would present the evidence. I also know the joy of winning, and how it feels to speak to the jurors in those circumstances.
I’ve handled countless trials as a judge. I know what it’s like to have everyone in the courtroom watching your face as the evidence unfolds as well as the challenge of having to decide difficult legal questions quickly and correctly.
Q: What’s surprised you the most about your experience with the law, and translating this into writing legal thrillers?
A: After years working in our criminal justice system, I still believe our system of justice is the best in the world. What surprised me is how difficult it was to translate everyday courtroom life into a riveting work of crime fiction.
Q: How hard is it to be accurate about the legal system and present an accessible narrative?
A: The legal system has strict rules of evidence and uncompromising standards of ethical behavior. Sometimes authors, for storytelling purposes, overlook these rules.. For example, years back, there was popular movie where, during a criminal trial the defendant’s public defender and a member of the jury worked together to investigate and determine if the defendant was guilty. In the end, they determined the defendant was innocent and that the true murderer was . . . the judge! This was a great story with a profoundly surprising twist. But, it could never happen in real life. The lawyer and juror were obstructing justice and the lawyer could be disbarred for such acts. In my view, this is the equivalent of an action movie where the hero outruns an explosion or of a horror movie when the coed goes back into the house even though she knows the ax murderer waits inside. My goal on the other hand is to write a compelling and engrossing story that is consistent with the way our justice system works without the gimmicks.
Q: Are there legal concepts that you find very hard to convey in a fiction thriller?
A: It can be challenging to convey certain legal concepts in a digestible way for the average Joe. If a plot depends upon a subtle legal theory, it must be presented in a way that the reader understands and is interested in. If done correctly, the reader is engaged and finishes the novel with a sense that they learned something new and insightful about our criminal justice system.
Q: What do you think the public’s biggest misconceptions about the legal system are?
A: Some of them think that a good lawyer will do anything to win his or her case, legitimate or not, ethical or not, legal or not. Others believe that prosecutors are only concerned with winning their case, even if an innocent person is convicted and even executed. There are people that view judges as cold, aloof and impatient. There are people who view many police as corrupt also.
I try to counter this by presenting a story where you have both good as well bad cops, careful as well as careless lawyers; caring as well as callus judges. I aim to develop stories that look inside these characters and demonstrate that guilt or innocence is not black or white, but shades of gray.
Thanks so much for the interview Garret, and you can pick up Grant of Immunity on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble, and the audiobook is on Audible.com, or iTunes. Check out Garret Holm’s author website as well. We look forward to book two in your series featuring Judge Hart as well.