Charged with savagely killing his own wife, Dooher is fighting for his reputation and his life in a high-profile case that is drawing dozens of lives into its wake--from former spouses to former friends, from a beautiful, naive young attorney to a defense lawyer whose own salvation depends on getting his client off.
Now, as the trial builds to a crescendo, as evidence is sifted and witnesses discredited, as a good cop tries to pick up the pieces of his shattered life and a D.A. risks her career, the truth about Mark Dooher is about to explode. For in a trial that will change the lives of everyone it touches, there is one thing that no one knows--until it is much too late....
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
Hometown:El Macero, California
Date of Birth:January 14, 1948
Place of Birth:Houston, Texas
Education:B.A. in English with Honors, UC Berkeley, 1970
Read an Excerpt
Mark Dooher couldn't take his eyes off the young woman who had just entered the dining room at Fior d'Italia and was being seated, facing them, at a table ten feet away.
His companion for lunch was, like Dooher, an attorney. His name was Wes Farrell and he generally practiced in a different stratum--lower--than Dooher did. The two men had been best friends since they were kids. Farrell glanced up from his calamari, his baleful eyes glinting with humor, trying to be subtle as he took in the goddess across the room. "Too young," he said.
"My foot, Wes."
"All parts of you, not just your foot. Besides which," Farrell went on, "you're married."
"I am married."
Farrell nodded. "Keep repeating it. It's good for you. I, on the other hand, am getting divorced."
"I can never get divorced. Sheila would never divorce me."
"You could divorce her if you wanted to...
"Impossible." Then, amending: "Not that I'd ever want to, of course, but impossible."
Dooher went back to his pasta for a moment. "Because, my son, even in our jaded age, when ninety percent of your income derives from your work as counsel to the Archdiocese of San Francisco, when you are in fact a prominent player in the Roman Catholic community, as I am, a divorce would play some havoc with your business. Across the board. Not just the Church itself, but all the ancillary..."
Farrell broke off a bite-sized piece of Italian bread and dipped it into the little dish of extra virgin olive oil that rested between them. "I doubt it. People get divorced all the time. Your best friend, for example, is getting divorced right now. Have I mentioned that?"
"Lydia's divorcing you, Wes. You're not divorcing her. It's different. God," he said, "look at her."
Farrell glanced up again. "She looks good."
"Good?" Dooher feasted for another moment on the vision. "That woman is so far beyond 'good' that the light from 'good' is going to take a year to get to her."
"At which time, you'll be a year older and forever out of her reach. Pass the butter."
"Butter will kill you, you know."
Farrell nodded. "Either that or something else. This calamari milleottocentoottantasei, for example."
"Or pronouncing it."
A handsome young man in a business suit--every male customer in the restaurant wore a business suit--was approaching the woman's table. He pulled a chair out across from her, smiling, saying something. She was looking up at him, her expression cool, reserved. Farrell noted it, and something else.
"Don't look now," he said, "but isn't the guy sitting down with her--doesn't he work for you?"
Wes Farrell was on his schlumpy way up toward Columbus and the North Beach walk-up out of which he ran his law business. Dooher lingered in the doorway at Fior d'Italia, then turned and went back inside to the bar, where he ordered a Pellegrino.
He sipped the bottled water and considered his reflection in the bar's mirror. He still looked good. He had his hair--the light brown streaked with blond, camouflaging the hint of gray that was only just beginning to appear around the temples. The skin of his face was as unlined as it had been at thirty.
Now, at forty-six, he knew he looked ten years younger, which was enough--any more youth would be bad for business. His body carried a hundred and eighty pounds on a six-foot frame. Today he wore a tailored Italian double-breasted suit in a refined shade of green that picked up the flecks in his eyes.
From where he sat at the bar, he could watch her in profile. She had loosened up somewhat, but Wes had been right--there was a tension in the way she sat, in her body language. The man with her was Joe Avery--again, Wes had nailed it--a sixth-year associate at McCabe & Roth, the firm Dooher managed. (McCabe and Roth both had been forced to retire during the downsizing of the past two years. Now, in spite of the name, it was Dooher's firm, beginning to show profit again.)
He drank his Italian water, looked at himself in the mirror over the bar. What was he doing here?
He couldn't allow himself to leave. This was something he thought he'd outgrown long ago--such an overwhelming physical attraction.
Oh sure, when he'd been younger...in college a couple of times...even the first few years of the marriage, the occasional dalliance, stepping out, somebody coming on to him, usually on a business trip or one of the firm retreats.
But that had stopped after the one crisis, Sheila getting wind of what was going on with one of them. She wasn't going to have it. Infidelity wasn't going to be part of their lives. Dooher had better decide whether he wanted to sleep around or keep the kids.
A hundred times since, he wished he'd let Sheila go, taking the kids with her.
But in truth, back then, fifteen years ago, he was already unable to risk a divorce, already working with some of the charities, the Archdiocese itself. There was big money there, clean work. And Sheila would have scotched it if things had gotten ugly.
He knew she would have. As she would today.
So he'd simply put his hormones out of his mind, put all of his effort into real life--work, the wife, the kids, the house. He would be satisfied with the ten-fifteen-twenty days of vacation, the new car.
Everyone else seemed to survive in that secure between-the-lines adult existence. It wasn't so bad.
Except Mark Dooher hated it. He never got over hating it. He had never had to play by the same rules as everyone else. He was simply better at everything, smarter, more charismatic.
He deserved more. He deserved better.
That couldn't be all there was. Do your job, live the routine, get old, die. That couldn't be it. Not for him.
He couldn't get the woman off his mind.
Well, he would just have to do it, that was all. He'd call up his fabled discipline and simply will her out of his consciousness. There was nothing to be done with her anyway. Dooher didn't trust the dynamic of lust, that hormonal rush and then the long regret. Well, he wasn't about to get involved with all that.
It was better just to stop thinking about her. Or at least not get confused, keep it in the realm of fantasy. It wasn't as if he knew anything about her, as if there could be real attraction.
In fact, if that turned out to be the case, it would be far more complicated. Then what? Leave Sheila...?
No, it was better not to pursue it at all. He was just in one of his funks, believing that the opportunity that would give his life new meaning was passing him by.
He knew better. In reality, everything disappointed. Nothing turned out as you hoped.
He'd just suck it up and put her out of his mind, do nothing about the fantasy. He didn't even want to take one step, because who knew where that could lead? He'd forget all about her. He wasn't going to do anything.
It was stupid to consider.
Joe Avery looked up from the clutter of paper littering his desk, a legal brief that was already anything but brief. "Sir?"
Dooher, the friendliest boss on the planet, was in the doorway, one hand extended up to the sill, the other on his belt, coat open, sincere smile. "A Mardi Gras party. Feast before fast. Unless you've got other plans..."
"You'll enjoy it. Sheila and I do it every year. Just casual, no costumes, masks, taking to the streets afterwards, none of that. And pretty good food if you like Cajun. Anyway, eight o'clock, if you're free..."
Avery was young and gung-ho and hadn't spoken to Dooher more than a hundred times in his six years with the firm, had never spent any time with him socially. His mouth hung open in surprise at the invitation, but he was nodding, already planning to be there, wondering what was happening.
Dooher was going on. "If you've got other plans, don't worry about it, but you've paid your dues around here--you're up for shareholder this year if I'm not mistaken?"
Avery nodded. "Next, actually."
Dooher waved that off. "Well, we'll see. But come on up. Bring your girlfriend, you got one. Or not. Your call. Just let us know."
Then Dooher was gone.
What People are Saying About This
No one is above the law.
"A great thriller: breakneck pacing, electrifying courtroom scenes, and a cast of richly crafted characters."
"A well-paced legal thriller...one of the best in this flourishing genre to come along in a while."
The Washington Post Book World
"Begin [Guilt] over a weekend...if you start during the work week, you will be up very very late, and your pleasure will be tainted with, well, guilt."
The Philadelphia Inquirer
On Monday, June 30th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed John Lescroart, author of Guilt.
Moderator: All rise The barnesandnoble.com Live Events Auditorium will be in session with the arrival of author John Lescroart online, tonight at 8pm ET. Mr. Lescroart will be discussing his books, in particular his newest, GUILT, a murder mystery where the clues lead to the courtroom. Welcome, Mr. Lescroart!
John Lescroart: Hi, I'm talking from Davis, CA, it's 5 my time and I'm delighted to be talking to you all about books . . . even my books.
Max from East Aurora, NY: I read in your online author bio that you were a 'professional' quiz show contestant? Really? What shows did you appear on, and what, if anything, did you win!?
John Lescroart: I appeared on the "Jokers Wild" two times, "Tic Tac Doe," "Blank Check" and "Headline Chasers" and made about 20 - 25 thousand dollars in the seventies. More interestingly, I was hired to play pilot games in Burbank studios and got paid to play games and see how they appeared on camera. It was a lot of fun!
Molly Rafferty from St. Louis: Are you a practicing Catholic yourself? Or is the bulk of religious text in GUILT really a foreign faith to you. It seems to play such a constructive role in the work that I wonder if you did a lot of religious research?
John Lescroart: Well, Hello Molly! I was raised a Catholic, I went to Catholic High school and even a year at a Jesuit College. I don't practice anymore, but consider myself culturally Catholic. For GUILT, I went to the archdiocese of San Francisco and spent a day talking with many of the major players. It was very enlightening.
Alex from Park Slope: I am a big fan of Dismas Hardy. What brings you back to him, what is it about his character that has inspired you to return to his character in a number of your novels?
John Lescroart: Well, I think that he doesn't have all of the answers. I think if I had to pick one characteristic that would be it - I finds that very refreshing in a hero. Somehow his search for the truth because he is so cynical, tends to become my own and hopefully my readers'. By the way, the book following GUILT will return to Dismas Hardy, it's called THE MERCY RULE and will be published next summer.
Samantha from Maryland: Do you read the work of your contemporaries, the work of other courtroom drama novelists? If so, who do you admire, if not what genre do you enjoy. Also, what are you currently reading?
John Lescroart: Yes, I read Scott Turow, Steve Martini, Richard North Patterson and John Grisham because I'm not a lawyer, I find that these writers give me insight into the legal mind. Currently I am reading Nelson Demille's PLUM ISLAND - I love all of his work.
Pamela Leis from Brentwood, CA: If you studied English in school, what led you to writing legal drama?
John Lescroart: I love Brentwood ! Do you live near OJ? Thats a very circuitous route. I wrote a book in college that was set in a jail and concerned capitol punishment -- before I ever knew there was a thing as legal thriller, so I guess I've always been interested in the interplay between law and morality. I eventually began writing legal thrillers because my mainstream mysteries were not making a living for me, and I felt I needed a wider canvas to explore character more fully, and the legal thriller genre is in many ways is like a true novel -- more dependent on character motivation than on plot.
tom c. from nyc: I have been accepted to law school and have defered until the Fall of 1998. Being a lawyer has always been a dream of mine, in an Atticus Finch sort of way, but it seems as though justice has been watered down, more often than not criminals get off on technicalities, and the legal system is clogged with gold digging lawyers. If your son say came to you and asked your opinion of his ambitions to become a lawyer would you caution him? What advice would you give?
John Lescroart: You know, I know several lawyers, with whom I'm good friends, I think they have the same kind of dilemmas that we all have, that is if you sell out and do things that don't fit your personal integrity then you won't be happy. I think the thing that makes the profession so treacherous is that it demands black and white moral decisions in a grey world, and rewards those decisions to an extraordinary degree with money -- weather they are right or wrong. So to answer your question, and not sound like a politician, if you feel like you have the strength to stand up to the demands of the profession, I think it can be a very worth-while life. On a personal note, I would add one caveat, and that is, that lawyering is a service profession, you are working for clients and depending on them to pay you.
Milbourne from Mass: Did you watch a lot of legal dramas? Or do you do a lot of research into this field before you started writing?
John Lescroart: Well, I watched a lot of Perry Mason when I was a kid, then I read Presumed Innocent, that's pretty much my background. I did work at a law firm in Los Angeles as a word processor for six years, and got to know, I think, a bit about the lawyer mentality.
Bethany from Stamford, CT: What motivates your work, is it a personal search for what is right? A personal search for the modern definition of justice?
John Lescroart: You know, Bethany, I think you are exactly right, though I haven't thought about it in those terms before. I guess I have a vocational view of my career and my life, and I'm appalled that so many bad things are allowed to go on in society and in the courts, so I feel like I'm taking the stand, small though it may be, to find where justice might lie, and point it out so that it might be more obvious to those who are seeking it.
Mitch from New York: Do you tend to work novel by novel, or are a bunch of independent scenarios writing themselves in your mind at all times?
John Lescroart: No, I work novel by novel, I tend to throw everything in my life in to the novel I'm working on. Then I get finished and I have a terrifying couple of months not only of having no ideas, but of believing I'll never have another idea. I'm in that period right now.
Pamela from Brentwood: Ha! Actually, no, I'm not quite in OJ's neck of the woods. What did you think of all that? What do you think of the media exposure in that case? It seems as though the law, morality and the dignity of our legal system was lost . . .
John Lescroart: Well, you're absolutely correct -- and you win the hundred dollar grand prize! A complete travesty from A to Z.
Tony from D.C.: How long was THE 13TH JUROR on the bestseller list? Did you notice whether people (your peers, your publisher) in the literary community treated you differently once you were an undisputed success.
John Lescroart: That's a great question. The history of the 13TH JUROR is that I badly wanted to change publishers when I was ready to submit that book. I got a ridiculously low offer, and turned it down, and decided to submit the manuscript to all other publishers in New York - all of them rejected it. So I went back to my original publisher and he published it. So I thought I had written a dog. Little did I realize that my original publisher had made it very difficult, for business reasons, for any other publisher to bid on the book. I was shocked and amazed when the book hit the New York Times Bestseller list. And indeed, at the incredible critical reception the book received after all the early rejections. Let this be a lesson to all you writers out there who may believe that your book is accepted or rejected on literary merit alone. Finally, I believe the 13TH JUROR remained on the Times' list for three and a half months, I think, though I'm not exactly sure.
Rory from Florida: Two questions 1) In the future, I am going to do a book full of commentaries (I am going into the 8th grade in August), and I want to know where to start. Should I think about what commentaries I want to write? Do some research? What should I do? 2) How do you overcome writer's block?
John Lescroart: First, they always say to write what you know. I had always taken that to mean your bank of knowledge at the time you begin a project, since becoming a 'professional writer' I have depended more upon the truth that you can find about new things and write about them, so that not only do you write about what you know, but you expand the boundaries of what you know and then write about that. So the short answer is, research is where it's at. Second, well, I use two techniques and they're very similar. The main technique is don't acknowledge it, and the second it to repeat a definition of writer's block that I read somewhere . . . "writers block really is just a failure of nerve." Here's an interesting anecdote about writers block When James Thurber was trying to make a deadline at the New Yorker Magazine, his editor came in and asked him how it was going, Thurber replied, " just can;t get it right," and his editor told him, "don't get it right get it written!"
Alice from Springfield, MA: Is there any significance to the names you give your characters, any literary reference, or do they just come to you?
John Lescroart: Dismas Hardy happens to be the patron saint of murderers, although I did not know that when I invented his name. Generally speaking, my characters tend to walk up to me and say Hi -- name and all. I believe this is one of the areas in my own case where the subconscious does a pretty good job. Right now, for example, during this fallow period, I am waiting for the person who will be the hero of my next book to make an appearance and I've got the feeling it may be a woman whose first name, don't ask my why, is Lindy.
Michael from around South Bend: I understand that before you were a writer you were an aspiring musician. What did you play? What type of music, and are you retired or do you still play?
John Lescroart: I played in clubs so I guess you'd call it popular music during the seventies and early eighties. Say Simon and Garfunkle, through the Eagles, however, I wrote most of my own sounds by the end, and think of myself as kind of a Jimmy Buffet with a country edge.And yes I still play almost every day -- I have a guitar in my office. A major label record deal would make my life complete! As a matter of fact, you can buy a tape entitled Lit/Rock ! and it features one of my songs with me singing it along with Norman Mailer and Amy Tan. You can get it though Don't quit your Day Job Productions, P.O. Box 27901-120, San Francisco 94127.
Aimee Lunn from Savannah, GA: Do you write your novels in your head before you put pen to paper (so to speak) -- or does the story take shape while you write? How to you juggle the intricacies and details of such compelling dramas, how do you organize the details?
John Lescroart: First, I outline in a general sense, where I have the central dramatic conflict and in my mind at least the central solution. Then I throw all that away and just write the book. I usually follow my outline for the first twenty or thirty prose pages, then the story begins to take over as it should. Complexities arise and have to be dealt with. I guess I've just learned to trust my instincts -- trying to make sure everyone is properly motivated, and that all characters are moving in the same general direction toward a hopefully satisfying conclusion.
Mark Sherman from Long Island: Do you or have you spent a lot of time in the courtroom doing 'research'? Where have you honed your own courtroom instincts?
John Lescroart: First, I lived for seven years in Levittown as a boy, and also for Long Islanders, I will be signing in Huntington on August 22. Now for your question, when I first decided to write legal thrillers, I went to the San Francisco Hall of Justice and sat in courtrooms for two of the most boring weeks of my life. After doing that, I realized that the heart of any good courtroom scene is that old-stand by conflict; the process of cross-examination and direct testimony is so naturally adversarial that your best bet is to concentrate on the issues and personalities involved and leave the legal niceties until the editing stage, to this end, I am very fortunate that one of my best friends is Al Giannini, my old high school buddy, and practicing homicide attorney in San Francisco. Al reads all of my manuscripts and is a brilliant collaborator, plugging in all the legal stuff where I have been too light on it. My advice is, if you want to write this kind of book, or really any kind of book, seek expert advice from people in the field. This goes back to what I told Rory, about not only writing what you know but learning more, and writing about that.
Rory from Florida: John, one more question. What is your opinion on the quality of publishers?
John Lescroart: Well, publishers are business people, they need to make money to survive, they are not, very often, looking for the daring, the innovative, or the obscure. This is even more true now in todays publishing environment then it was ten years ago. Nevertheless, in my experience, I have found that editors desperately care about quality writing, good stories, and the nurturing of literary talent. Editors are a joy. Publishers are a necessity, because without them neither writers nor editors could make a living with the written word.
Lillian Meyer from Danbury, CT: You must write full time, having so many successful books in print. What are your days like?
John Lescroart: Well, I've been writing full time for four years. It might be interesting to say what my days were like up until the previous decade first, until four years ago, I got up at five thirty and wrote for two hours in my garage, then I went to my day job in Los Angeles where I worked from 9 to 5. Then I would go to one of several law firms in down town Los Angeles, and type legal briefs from 6 to 11. That was my day for seven years. During which time, I published four novels. Now, I get up get my kids off to school with my wife, play music for about a half hour, work out for one hour, and try to get to work by 10 or 10 30. I have a beautiful small office about two miles from my home. I like it better now )
Moderator: Many thanks to Mr. Lescroart for joining us tonight!
John Lescroart: This has been a gas, thanks to all of you for reading my books. I've enjoyed the questions immensely, and I hope we get a chance to do it again! Goodnight!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Couldn't put it down, great book!
A long book, but most of it is necessary to tell the story. I was turned off by the first 20% or so, which seemed to focus on how to make lawyers seem as unappealing and annoying as possible. But I liked how complexly drawn the characters were, and the scope of the book is surprisingly broad even for its length. There are dark hints throughout of what could possibly be a nasty surprise ending, but in spite of that everything comes out rather predictably, with no particularly surprising twists. I also found the final scenes rather overly full of action, like the author decided to throw some graphic excitement in at the end in case someone decided to make a movie out of it, but then maybe I'm just jaded. The middle of the book is where it shines.
This book was fantastic. Fast-paced and fun. A real adventure if you like legal stories. The only thing I found odd is that I compared it to the OJ Simpson trial throughout. The 'dis-similarities' are so similar that it's almost scarry. Great book will look forward to reading more of his books.