The Edgar-nominated author acclaimed for his crackling courtroom scenes delivers an adrenaline-laced, no-holds-barred thriller—his most powerful novel to date—as a disgraced lawyer travels the twisted border between justice and revenge.
Haunted by a tragedy in his past and wanted by the cops for his latest malfeasance, trial lawyer Jimmy “Royal” Payne needs to skip town. That’s when he crosses paths with twelve-year-old Tino Perez, newly arrived from Mexico with no money and no papers. The gutsy kid first robs Payne, then pleads for his help. Marisol, the boy’s mother, is missing, after crossing the border with a vicious coyote.
Payne doesn’t go out of his way for anyone. But ex-wife Sharon, the L.A.P.D. detective he still loves, gives him a choice: help the boy or go to jail.
Following a chain of greed, corruption, and betrayal, Payne traces Marisol’s steps from Mexicali to California’s Hellhole Canyon, swept into the dark current of illegal immigration, human trafficking, and sexual slavery. Soon the cynical lawyer and the savvy kid are bonding…and battling cunning predators on both sides of the border. It’s the two of them against an army of cops, coyotes, vigilantes, and sex slavers. Most dangerous of all is Simeon Rutledge, a wealthy grower and the biggest employer of farm workers in California.
Just why is Rutledge willing to bribe Payne—or kill him—to keep Marisol under wraps? Will Payne’s quest redeem his mistakes and resurrect his dead marriage—or get him buried in a shallow grave? Either way, he’ll find out there’s no escaping his past….
From the shadows of migrant stash houses to the fertile fields of the San Joaquin Valley, Illegal delivers a searing mix of live-wire prose, shattering violence, and rich characterization. Set against a backdrop of larger social issues, this is a masterful tale from one of the most skillful practitioners of the contemporary thriller.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||4.20(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Levine lives in Los Angeles, where he is working on his next Jimmy Payne thriller.
Read an Excerpt
By Paul Levine
BantamCopyright © 2011 Paul Levine
All right reserved.
Judge Rollins drew a handgun from beneath his black robes, pointed the snub-nosed barrel at Jimmy Payne’s chest and said, “Who you pimping for, you low-life shyster?”
Payne gaped at the revolver.
This cannot be happening.
The judge gestured toward the stacks of hundred-dollar bills on his desk. “C’mon, Payne. You’re not smart enough to dream this up on your own.”
They faced each other in the judge’s chambers, a tranquil refuge of leatherbound books and walnut wainscoting. Payne felt his knees wobble. “I swear, Judge. I just represent the defendant. Ramon Carollo.”
“Not like you to defend human traffickers. I remember the hell you raised when those wetbacks got barbecued in a trailer truck.”
“I like to call them ‘undocumented aliens.’?”
“Why? They from Mars?”
The judge vaulted out of his high-backed chair. Quick for a big man. Silver hair swept straight back, like feathers on a snow goose. Shoulders as wide as a bookcase.
“Take off your clothes, Payne.”
“You heard me.”
“I swear I’m not wearing a wire. You can pat me down.”
Payne wasn’t sure he could. His joints seemed rusted shut.
With jerky motions, Payne kicked off his shoes, unhooked his belt, and dropped his trousers.
“You bring me nine stacks of hundred-dollar bills, fifty to a stack.” Judge Rollins motioned toward the open briefcase on his desk and did the math in his head. “Forty-five thousand dollars.”
“That’s the offer,” Payne agreed.
“Odd amount. Like it was supposed to be fifty thousand, but some half-assed bag man skimmed five off the top.”
“No, sir.” Payne lowered his tie and slipped out of his shirt. “Forty-five is all I’ve got to spend.”
“No sale, shitbird.”
“I thought it was worth a shot, Your Honor. But let’s just forget the whole thing. I’ll put my pants on and—”
“Drop those undershorts, too.” The judge waved the gun like a king with a scepter.
Payne pulled down his red-and-white boxers with the Los Angeles Clippers logo. He preferred them to the Lakers purple-and-gold shorts, not for the colors, but because he favored underdogs.
“Now turn around and spread your cheeks.”
“No way, Judge.”
At thirty-seven, Payne was in good shape. Flat stomach, decent chest, a sinewy runner’s body. He spun around and bent over. “Like I said, Your Honor, no wire.”
Judge Rollins gazed off. “I don’t know whether to shoot you or arrest you.”
Jimmy straightened and turned around. “Just let me go, Judge. There’s a lot of good I can do out there.”
“Out where? You’re Jimmy Payne. Royal Payne. You cut corners. You represent undesirables. You piss people off.”
“Honestly, Judge. I’m gonna change my life.”
“People don’t change, Payne. They just get old and die. Sometimes, they don’t even get old.”
Payne stepped sideways toward a set of shelves decorated with framed vanity photos. Judge Rollins with Mayor Villaraigosa, Senator Boxer, some local bigwigs, and a pretty young woman in a pink sash, the Rose Bowl queen, maybe. Alongside the photos, the scales of justice. Bronze. Heavy. Tilted heavily to one side. One more step and Payne could grab the scales by the blindfolded lady and take a swing at the judge.
“Freeze, sleazebag.” Rollins pulled back the hammer of the .38. As the click echoed in his brain, Payne thought of his son, Adam. Ten years old. Loved baseball. Cheeseburgers. Surfing. A boy needs his father.
Just how the hell did I get into this?
From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Illegal by Paul Levine Copyright © 2011 by Paul Levine. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
One year has past since the illegal DUI killed his ten year old son Adam and consequently his marriage to former cop Sharon and even his law career defending the underdog. Jimmy "Royal" Payne could not sink any lower, but LAPD Public Integrity Unit Detective Eugene Rigney manages to help him do so. Rigney blackmails Payne with his handling of the Molly Kraft case which could lead to jail time; instead he tells Jimmy to offer a $50,000 bribe to Judge Rollins. Jimmy pockets $5,000 and bribes the Judge. When exposed Rollins commits suicide, Jimmy is ostracized at court and on the run from a contempt charge, and I.A. investigates Rigney.
In Mexico Marisol Perez knows that she and her son twelve years old Agustino ¿Tino¿ must flee their hometown. The mom arranges with coyote El Tigre to take them across to the States. Before they leave she gives her son a business card of J. Atticus Payne who helped a family friend in case they get separated. The kid makes it to L.A. on a donkey forced to carry drugs while the mom is stuck at the border. The bilingual foul mouthed Tino and the bitter cynic ¿Himmy¿ hook up searching for the lad¿s undocumented mom while the law searches for Jimmy.
Payne is somewhat typical of a Paul Levine male protagonist (sort of a California version of Floridian Steve Solomon of Solomon and Lord), a hard shell containing a soft boiled hero. He and his sidekick keep the story line focused as they cause havoc on both sides of the border. The support cast brings the freshness to the plot and the illegal immigrant issue from kindhearted but kick butt Wanda the Whale to crazy sharpshooter Chitwood; but especially mega-farm owner Simeon Rutledge with his perspective on courage as a family carrying the young across a desert and a mountain while patriots take shots at them. Readers will appreciate this fine thriller as Payne obtains redemption with his need to help Tino at all cost.