Rotenberg is a practicing lawyer who lives in Toronto and has based his series in the same city. I love reading a book with Canadian references - Timmies, the Globe and place names as well - Eglinton/Bloor, Jane and Finch. Knowing the settings are real and having seen some of them make the novel all that more authentic.
But what makes Rotenberg's novels really pop is his knowledge of the Canadian legal system, his trial expertise and the number of years he's been at it. His plots, characters and dialogue all have the ring of authenticity and that 'insider's' point of view. It just makes his novel all the more believable.
The Guilty Plea brings back characters from Rotenberg's first novel 'Old City Hall'. Homicide Detective Ari Greene, Officer Daniel Kennicott, lawyers, Crowns and others. I found all of the characters believable and connected with them. Their personal lives are just as engrossing as the primary plot line.
In the Guilty Plea, Terrance Wyler, the youngest son of a Canadian food conglomerate is found stabbed to death in his kitchen while his young son sleeps upstairs. His estranged wife shows up at her lawyers - with the bloody knife from Wyler's kitchen. Open and shut case. But she swears she's innocent. As Greene investigates, he finds more questions than answers.
I very much enjoyed The Guilty Plea, although I found the end a bit rushed. I will definitely be adding Rotenberg to my 'must read' list. Read Chapter One of The Guilty Plea.
I've read that you embraced writing from a young age and reluctantly became a lawyer. What was the impetus to finally combine the two?
Survival. I really don’t think I could have lasted as a lawyer without this secret dream of being a writer. My private 5:00a.m. world really kept me going. And the wonderful irony: without a doubt the better I’ve become as a writer the better I’ve become as a criminal lawyer. Both involve putting together all sorts of facts, and telling a story.
Have these characters been percolating for awhile? Simon and Schuster have signed you for a number of books - hopefully for us at least one a year. Do you have a long term plan for the same core group of characters?
‘At least’ once a year. Okay, I’ll write three or four a year! But yes, Simon & Schuster have been wonderful. I’ve promised them 20 book in 20 years. That’s the plan. Hear that Ari and Daniel and Nancy?
And with that new commitment, will you continue to practice law? How do you manage now!?
Just set that alarm an hour earlier. In fact the reality is that to do a book a year I’ve had to cut back on my law practice. Ask my partners, I gave them the last murder trial that came my way and they are doing it night and day.
I love that I can picture many of the neighborhoods and places in Toronto that are featured in your novels. Any favorite haunts?
Thanks. I heard a theory the other day called “The Third Place.” (Sounds like a good title). In other words we need a place we live, a place we work and a “third place.” A few weeks ago I ended up slipping into a Coffee Time doughnut shop at 5:45 in the morning. The place was in a horrible strip mall in a very poor part of town. The waitress had that all-night tired look in her eyes and a thick Russian accent. In the corner sat two very fat, very sad looking older men in thick doing their crosswords. Not talking to each other or anyone else. I almost cried. There was something so touching about it. As I write this I’m in a coffee shop on Parliament Street, espresso machine is fizzing, music is blaring, babies are crying. As good as it gets.
What are you reading now for entertainment? Any favorite authors? Influential authors?
How has the local legal community reacted to your books? Anyone thinking they're seeing someone they know?
The other day I was in court and the court reporter grabbed a pad of paper, and wrote on the back “loved your book.” And here’s a funny story. After Old City Hall came out, a judge stopped me in the hall one day and said: “Robert, that lawyer in the book, Nancy Parish, I know exactly who you based her on.” “Oh,” I said, smiling a bit to myself I must admit, “Who?” He then named a female lawyer. “Funny you should say that,” I told the judge. “You know, I’ve never heard of that woman in my life.” We both laughed. Here’s the kicker – I had no idea who that woman lawyer was.
(and this is just purely an off the cuff idea - what about auctioning off a character in your next book for charity?)
Hmmm. I really need to raise some money for the Canterbury Clinic, the drug rehab clinic I’m involved with. Why don’t you email some suggestions of how to do this. Love the idea.