Seven years ago, Phillip Margolin seized the imagination of thriller readers everywhere with his chilling breakout bestseller, Gone, but Not Forgotten. After five subsequent New York Times bestsellers, Margolin now returns to the haunting terrain of Gone, but Not Forgotten with a mesmerizing tour de force of psychological suspense, an electrifying tale of revenge and retribution that shows a master storyteller at the very peak of his craft.
Thursday: Subject is still combative after four days of applied pain, sleep deprivation and minimal food.
Vice squad detective Bobby Vasquez, for months on the trail of a slippery underworld figure, receives an anonymous tip that directs him to a mountain cabin. He races through the idyllic Oregon woods, expecting to close the book on a long-standing vendetta. What he finds instead opens a Pandora's box of horror that will haunt him to his dying day.
8:10: Subject bound and gaffed and placed in upstairs closet at end of hall. Turned out lights in house, drove off, then parked and doubled back. Watched from woods.
Within hours, Vincent Cordoni -- a brilliant surgeon with a history of violence and drug abuse -- is arrested for a heinous crime. Facing a seemingly insurmountable wall of evidence, he turns to Portland's top criminal defense attorney, Frank Jaffe-who, along with his ambitious daughter, Amanda, must put on an inspired defense. Amanda's first taste of criminal defense work is as intoxicating as it is chilling, but it raises moral questions she's loath to address. Is she defending an innocent man? Or is she using her considerable skills to set a monster free? Then Cardoni disappears under bizarre circumstances. Four years later, a second set of murders has begun ....
8:55: Subject exits house, naked and barefoot, armed with kitchen knife. Remarkable strength of character. Breaking her will be a challenge.
Has Cardoni resurfaced to ply his deadly trade anew? Is there a copycat killer? Or has the real killer been someone else all along? The police will do everything they can to stop Cardoni -- but they have to find him first.
Following a twisting trail of clues, including a harrowing diary that clinically records the killer's horrible deeds, Amanda Jaffe and Bobby Vasquez join the hunt-and themselves become targets of the twenty-first century's first genuinely monstrous psychopath.:
About the Author
Phillip Margolin has written nineteen novels, many of them New York Times bestsellers, including his latest novels Woman with a Gun, Worthy Brown’s Daughter, Sleight of Hand, and the Washington trilogy. Each displays a unique, compelling insider’s view of criminal behavior, which comes from his long background as a criminal defense attorney who has handled thirty murder cases. Winner of the Distinguished Northwest Writer Award, he lives in Portland, Oregon.
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Education:B.A. in Government, American University, 1965; New York University School of Law, 1970
Read an Excerpt
A lightning flash illuminated the Learjet that waited on the runway of the private airstrip moments before a thunderclap startled Dr. Clifford Grant. Grant scanned the darkness for signs of life, but there were no other cars in the lot and no one moving on the tarmac. When he checked his watch his hand trembled. It was 11:35. Breach's man was five minutes late. The surgeon stared at the glove compartment. A sip from his flask would steady his nerves, but he knew where that would lead. He had to be thinking clearly when they brought the money.
Large drops fell with increasing speed. Grant turned on his wipers at the same moment a huge fist rapped on his passenger door. The doctor jerked back and stared. For an instant he thought the rain was distorting his vision; but the man glaring at him through the window was really that big, a monster with a massive, shaved skull and a black knee-length leather coat.
“Open the door,” the giant commanded, his voice harsh and frightening.
Grant obeyed instantly. A chill wind blew a fine spray into the car.
“Where is it?”
“In the trunk,” Grant said, the words catching in his throat as he jerked his thumb backward. The man tossed an attaché case into the car and slammed the door shut. Water beaded the smooth sides of the briefcase and made the brass locks glisten. The money! Grant wondered how much the recipient was going to pay for the heart, if he and his partner were receiving a quarter of a million dollars.
Two rapid thumps brought Grant around. The giant was pounding on the trunk. He had forgotten to pop the release. As Grant reached for the latch another lightningflash lit the view through his rear window'and the cars that had appeared from nowhere. Without thinking, he floored the accelerator and cranked the wheel. The giant dove away with amazing agility as the sedan careened across the asphalt, leaving the smell of burning rubber. Grant was vaguely aware of the screech of metal on metal as he blasted past one of the police cars and took out part of a chain-link fence. Shots were fired, glass shattered and the car tipped briefly on two wheels before righting itself and speeding into the night.
The next thing Clifford Grant remembered clearly was banging frantically on his partner's back door. A light came on, a curtain moved and his partner glared at him in disbelief before opening the door.
“What are you doing here?”
“The police,” Grant gasped. “A raid.”
“At the airfield?”
“Let me in, for God's sake. I've got to get in.”
Grant stumbled inside.
“Is that the money?”
Grant nodded and staggered to a seat at the kitchen table.
“Let me have it.”
The doctor pushed the briefcase across the table. It opened with a clatter of latches, revealing stacks of soiled and crumpled hundred-dollar bills bound by rubber bands. The lid slammed shut.
“Wait. Got to . . . catch my breath.”
“Of course. And relax. You're safe now.”
Grant hunched over, his head between his knees.
“I didn't make the delivery.”
“One of Breach's men put the money on the front seat. The heart was in the trunk. He was about to open it when I saw police cars. I panicked. I ran.”
“And the heart is . . . ?”
“Still in the trunk.”
“Are you telling me that you stiffed Martin Breach?”
“We'll call him,” Grant said. “We'll explain what happened.”
A harsh laugh answered him. “Clifford, you don't explain something like this to Breach. Do you understand what you've done?”
“You have nothing to worry about,” Grant answered bitterly. “Martin has no idea who you are. I'm the one who has to worry. We'll just have to return the money. We didn't do anything wrong. The police were there.”
“You're certain he doesn't know who I am?”
“I never mentioned your name.”
Grant's head dropped into his hands and he began to tremble. “He'll come after me. Oh, God.”
“You don't know that for sure,” his partner answered in a soothing tone. “You're just frightened. Your imagination is running wild.”
The shaking grew worse. “I don't know what to do.”
Strong fingers kneaded the tense muscles of Grant's neck and shoulders.
“The first thing you've got to do is get hold of yourself.”
The hands felt so comforting. It was what Grant needed, the touch and concern of another human being.
“Breach won't bother you, Clifford. Trust me, I'll take care of everything.”
Grant looked up hopefully.
“I know some people,” the voice assured him calmly.
“People who can talk to Breach?”
“Yes. So relax.”
Grant's head fell forward from relief and fatigue. The adrenaline that had powered him through the past hour was wearing off.
“You're still tense. What you need is a drink. Some ice-cold Chivas. What do you say?”
The true extent of Grant's terror could be measured by the fact that he had not even thought of taking a drink since he saw the police through his rear window. Suddenly every cell in his body screamed for alcohol. The fingers lifted; a cupboard door closed; Grant heard the friendly clink of ice bouncing against glass. Then a drink was in his hand. He gulped a quarter of the contents and felt the burn. Grant closed his eyes and raised the cold glass to his feverish forehead.
“There, there,” his partner said as a hand slapped smartly against the base of Grant's neck. Grant jerked upright, confused by the sharp sting of the ice pick as it passed through his brain stem with textbook precision.
The doctor's head hit the tabletop with a thud. Grant's partner smiled with satisfaction. Grant had to die. Even thinking about returning a quarter of a million dollars was ridiculous. What to do with the heart, though? The surgeon sighed. The procedure to remove it had been performed flawlessly, but it was all for nothing. Now the organ would have to be cut up, pureed and disposed of as soon as Grant took its place in the trunk.Wild Justice. Copyright © by Phillip Margolin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Table of Contents
What People are Saying About This
Wild Justice is what good storytelling is all about. Skillful plotting, good writing, an excellent cast of characters.
(Nelson Demille, author of The Lions Game)
The scariest book I've read since Red Dragon
A Conversation with Phillip Margolin
If you love serial-killer thrillers but are tired of duds that evoke Thomas Harris but offer very little originality and surprise, then look no further than Phillip Margolin's crazy, sick, and incredibly fun latest, Wild Justice. As promised, this one is wild. Not only that, it's disturbing, suspenseful, and brilliantly conceived. Barnes & Noble.com Thriller editor Andrew LeCount spoke with Margolin -- a criminal defense attorney with over 25 years of court experience (including 30-plus homicide cases) under his belt -- about Wild Justice, sociopaths, Perry Mason, the frightening murder case that jolted his writing career, and his own fruitful, yet demented, imagination. Enjoy!
Barnes & Noble.com: So, how are you?
Phillip Margolin: Very good, about to go on tour for Wild Justice. I'm also working on my new book.
B&N.com: Already, huh?
PM: Oh yeah, I've got 325 pages done.
B&N.com: You're not wasting any time. Is it scheduled for next year?
PM: Yeah. I finished the first three parts of the book; I just have the last part to do. I've spent the last four or five days rewriting a character -- a detective who was just too boring. [laughs] I changed his sex, his race, made him a more interesting person.
B&N.com: Well, can't wait for that one.
PM: It's a fun book; it's pretty different from Wild Justice. But I like to do each book differently.
B&N.com: Well, about your new thriller, Wild Justice: It's certainly wild.
B&N.com: And it's a blast to read. I just blew through it.
PM: Thanks. Yeah, in addition to the action, most of my other books have some sort of moral or ethical scene that runs through them. But Wild Justice is just pure beach read. I just wanted people to have a very good time and not to have to really think too much. The purpose of this book is to get you from Portland to New York on a plane without you noticing you've been flying. I just had a very, very good time writing it.
B&N.com: Well, it certainly chewed up the hours for me.
PM: I look at it like a roller-coaster ride. There's a serial killer in Portland who's a surgeon; we just don't know which surgeon. I wrote the book to give people a good, enjoyable read. There's no pretensions to art, nothing at all -- I love to read, I like to be entertained, and I love to read a book that I can't put down. I try to write the same type of book that I like to read -- I'm very excited about Wild Justice because I really feel like I did what I set out to do. And it's basically a hoot. It's got action, horror, suspense, awful villains, and likable heroines in, very very bizarre and exciting situations.
B&N.com: I can attest to that. You were a criminal defense attorney for 25 years. How'd you make the transition to thriller novelist? When did the writing bug hit you?
PM: Well, it's a long, weird story. I decided when I was in the seventh grade that I wanted to be a criminal defense lawyer -- probably from reading too many Perry Mason novels. But, that was it for me. I really had no other profession that's ever interested me. I certainly never thought I'd be a writer. I'd been a voracious reader since I was very little; I just loved to read. I still read about one to three books a week; it's probably my biggest hobby. So, one side effect of being a voracious reader is that I was totally in awe of writers, but never in a million years thought that I would be able to publish a book; I would read Joseph Conrad or Ernest Hemingway, and I'd say, "My God, I could never do that!" -- and I still don't think I can write like Hemingway or Conrad...
B&N.com: Few can.
PM: But in any event, I graduated from college, spent time in Libera, West Africa, in the Peace Corps, then went to NYU Law School. During my last two years at NYU, I taught junior high school in the South Bronx and would take night school classes to finish up -- I was carrying a very heavy load, so I really had no free time other than to eat and breathe. Because I wanted to graduate with my class, I took summer classes, too. During my last semester, I already had a job set up in Oregon clerking for the chief judge of the Court of Appeals, which was starting in August, and my wife -- I got married in the middle of law school -- had a job, so I didn't have to teach school that last summer, plus I only had three classes, and, since I already had a job, I only had to get D's in those. So, I basically had this free summer and decided -- since I didn't know what to do with myself -- to try to solve what was for me one of life's great mysteries: How do those guys fill up 400 pages with words? I'd say, "My God, how could you write a book -- that's amazing!" So I spent that summer writing a novel based on my Peace Corps experiences -- not to get it published or because I felt I had something to tell the world, but simply to see if I could write more than 25 pages. I mean, that was it! The idea that I could write more than 25 pages on something...I just didn't think I could do it.
So, I spent two years writing this novel in my spare time; it was really bad, but I had fun doing it. It was a hobby, like collecting stamps or playing golf. So, since I liked the process so much, I decided to write another book -- a really ghastly, bad mystery; but again, I was having so much fun with it. Then, in 1974, at the age of 30, I mailed in a short story to a national magazine, and it was picked up! I remember I was paid $65; I would have paid twice that to get into print -- I was absolutely thrilled that this national magazine was going to publish my short story. And that gave me self-confidence. I said to myself, "Gee, maybe I can actually do this."
In the meantime, I had become familiar with this very famous Oregon murder case called the Peyton-Allen case -- those were the two victims; in my personal opinion, it's the single most amazing real-life murder case in American history, but no one knew about it because it was an Oregon case. So I decided to try to write a fictional account of the Peyton-Allen case. The real case is so astonishing -- your plot is already there for you.
So, I had five chapters and an outline written when a buddy of mine from law school called up from New York and said that he and his wife were coming out to Portland on vacation. I said, "Fabulous!" I hadn't seen him in four or five years. I thought this guy was with a midtown firm, but it turns out he's with International Creative Management -- the largest literary agency in the world. So, I said, "Marty, I'm writing this book..." And he said, "Oh s**t," because I'm sure he gets hit on all the time. But he was really nice, and he took the five chapters and the outline back to New York and gave it to someone who'd never sold a book before -- he'd just started with the agency. Two weeks later, I came back from trial to see everybody sitting around my office with a champagne bottle. I said, "What's up?" They said, "Your agent called!" I hadn't even known I'd had an agent -- Marty hadn't told me he'd given my book to this guy. My coworkers said, "Your agent called and they sold you book!" It took two weeks.
B&N.com: Are you still with the same agent?
PM: No, in 1986 Jean Naggar became my agent. I dedicated Wild Justice to her because she has been fantastic. Jean is the person who saw Gone, but Not Forgotten's potential as a bestseller. She, and everyone else at her agency, is terrific!
B&N.com: Great story about how you first got published. It's pretty amazing.
PM: Yeah, that's what I think. Heartstone is the name of the book, which was published by Pocket Books in 1978 and received an Edgar Nomination for Best Paperback Mystery of the Year. All of a sudden I'm a published writer! Two years later I wrote my second book, The Last Innocent Man. Both books received pretty good reviews, but I couldn't make a living out of it, and, really, my first love was law; the writing was a hobby -- I still think of it as a hobby, even though I'm doing it full time. So I stopped writing for about 12 years to concentrate on law. My legal practice had gotten very very exciting right around the same time my books started to get published. In '78, the same year that Heartstone came out, I argued at the United States Supreme Court. And I also started doing a lot of major murder cases, big appeals; it was very exciting. But that's how I broke in. My whole writing career is very strange and weird -- totally unplanned and unexpected.
B&N.com: That seems to be the way to dive into it, though -- take it up as a hobby; do it for yourself. If you end up getting published -- hey, that's just icing on the cake.
PM: Yeah, I advise people to always do that. You know: Don't quit your day job and never write to get published or for money. Just do it for fun. Because it's really a hard business. People ask me, "How do you break in?" Well, go to law school and get really friendly with a guy who's going to work for a big agency. It's really useless information for people who want to find out how to get an agent.
B&N.com: Yeah, it's tough. But without an agent, it's really tough to get anywhere in this industry.
PM: Oh yeah, you can't. It's almost impossible. I guess getting an agent is even harder than getting published, I think.
B&N.com: What else can you tell us about the Peyton-Allen murder case?
PM: Well, it would take us days...but in the late '50s or early '60s, Larry Peyton and Beverly Allen had gone out on a Saturday night date; they had just graduated from high school and were never seen alive again. The boy's body was found on Lover's Lane in his car -- he'd been brutally stabbed and beaten to death with a blunt instruments; there was even a bullet hole in the car's front window. Beverly Allen disappeared -- no one knew where she was. This was a time when there was a very low homicide rate in Portland. These were middle-class kids -- it was just a big thing. I even talked to someone last night at a book signing who told me her mother would say, "Don't go making out at Lover's Lane, or you'll get killed like Peyton and Allen." It was a bugaboo that parents would always tell their kids. So, anyway, Beverly had disappeared. They had a massive hunt for her through Forest Park -- we have 40 miles of forest and hiking trails in the city of Portland. I don't know if you've ever been here...
B&N: No, never have.
PM: Portland's spectacular. It's probably the nicest city in the United States to live in. One thing about it is this huge amount of forest that's physically in the city. Anyway, they had all these people looking for the body, but no one could find it. Six weeks later her body was found over by the Sunset Highway, about 40 miles from where the boy's body was found -- she'd been raped and strangled. About eight years later a witness, who claimed to know nothing, was hypnotized and given Sodium Pentothal -- truth serum. Under the influence of these drugs she named three people who were supposedly the killers. These guys claimed they were totally innocent -- one of them had been decorated in Korea, another one was a book salesman in Salem, the third guy had just gotten out of the penitentiary (armed robbery). Supposedly, these three guys were in a gang when they were teenagers and had had a drag race with Peyton, who forced their car off the road. The three got angry and went looking for him. They found Peyton and his girlfriend at Lover's Lane.
B&N.com: How horrible.
PM: But the only evidence on these guys was this hypnotized testimony. Back in the mid-'60s, this repressed-memory thing was totally unheard of. And, of course, using hypnosis to refresh a witness's memory was very unusual. Anyway, right before trial, this guy claimed that he was looking to get laid in North Portland. Several days before the body of the girl was found, he was told that a gang was holding a white girl as a sex slave in someone's basement. The three defendants were all white, the gang was all black, and there was no connection between the defendants and this gang. This guy claimed to have seen this girl strangled to death when she wouldn't have oral sex with one of the gang members. There's all sorts of bizarre scientific evidence having to do with the sperm in the girl's vagina; they dug up the girl's body eight years later to match a fingernail to the corpse; there were three trials -- one of 'em was a circus that made the O. J. Simpson case look like a tea party. The second trial was one of the most brilliant jobs of lawyering that I'd ever heard of -- it would put Perry Mason to shame. In the end, two of the guys were convicted, and one was acquitted on the same exact evidence. The case was in the courts for 20 years; investigations into the allegation that girl had been strangled involved investigators having to sit up with shotguns, deal with firebombings of cars -- it just went on and on. The brief that got me interested in the case was 800 pages long. I don't know how much you know about law, but most briefs are 20 to 40 pages, and you need special permission to write one more than 50 pages. This was 800 pages long!
B&N.com: And they could still call it a brief!
PM: This barely scratches the surface of the case. My book Heartstone starts out sort of like the real case, then goes off on flights of fancy. I don't know why no one's ever done a nonfiction book about Peyton-Allen -- I've done 30 homicide cases myself, and I'll occasionally pay attention to a national case, and all of 'em just pale in comparison. They're all dull -- I mean the O. J. Simpson case was dull compared to this. The scientific evidence aspects alone are so intriguing. And the stuff they did to try to figure out time of death! And the trials -- three separate trials! The first two were phenomenal.
B&N.com: Have you ever considered writing a nonfiction work about it?
PM: No, because that's what I did for 25 years. That was my day job -- it's like a bus driver wanting to drive a bus on his vacation. For me, the true crime stuff just doesn't hold any interest.
B&N: Let me ask you this: As a criminal defense attorney, how did you cope with defending someone you knew was guilty?
PM: When I was in the Peace Corps, I was in West Africa in a dictatorship -- a very bad dictatorship, where there was no rule of law. If the government wanted to do something bad to you, they'd just do it! They'd come in the middle of the night, take you away, torture you, and kill you. During my stay there I really developed a tremendous respect for the rule of law. I've always felt that the system as a whole is much more important than the individual case. In our system, when we broke free from the British, we felt that government was bad, that it was evil. So we set up our criminal justice system with the idea that, if the government says you did something wrong, they might be lying or trying to get you for political reasons. So we set up our system to make sure that the government is really put through the test when they accuse someone of being a criminal. Whether my client is guilty or innocent is sort of irrelevant, because our system is built on the premise that when the government says you're guilty of something, they've got to put up or shut up. The defense doesn't have to do anything. We don't have any burden to prove that we didn't do a bad thing. So, what I do as a criminal defense lawyer is to make sure that my client has the best possible representation, make sure that the prosecutor is trying the case properly and not breaking the rules of evidence or doing things that violate the Constitution. Same with the judge: I keep the judge honest. If he lets in evidence he's not supposed to, I make an objection so someone can review it to make sure my client gets a fair trial.
I've always felt that it's very important to give the most terrible people a fair trial -- like Timothy McVeigh or Ted Bundy -- because if we can give a fair trial to someone who's horrible and that everybody wants to get, then we know that the average citizen can trust the system to get a fair trial. If you start cutting corners and say, "Well, the guy's guilty, why give him a fair trial?" -- what you're doing is you're cutting corners. On a few occasions, I've had clients who I personally felt were guilty, regardless of the fact that they said they weren't. I didn't believe them. I thought they were full of it. The natural impulse is to say, "Oh, the guy's guilty, why work hard?" But I didn't do that. I had several cases where I thought the person was guilty but they really weren't. If I had laid down on the job, they would have been convicted, but I didn't and they were acquitted. If the person doesn't tell you they're guilty, they're innocent as far as I'm concerned. Even if they do tell you they're guilty, you still have the obligation to make sure the system works correctly.
B&N.com: Do you generally ask your clients if they did it?
PM: No, I only ask a person if they've done it if there's a plea bargain involved. If my client is insisting he or she's innocent, what I'll do is say, "Okay, here's the plea offer we've been given, and here's your chance at a trial." A lot of times a person will say he or she's innocent even though the evidence is through the roof. I'll say, "Look, this is really a good plea offer. If you're guilty, you should take it. If you're innocent, you should not." Because, I find, usually if the person's innocent, no matter how bad it looks, if he or she'll take the stand and explain their side to the jury, they'll get an acquittal. I never want to let an innocent person plead guilty, but I don't need to know if the person is guilty or innocent to defend them adequately in most cases. The government has the burden of proof, so, really, the question is, what does the government have and can we call it into question.
B&N.com: The serial killer in Wild Justice is classified as an Organized Nonsocial. Talk a bit about what an Organized Nonsocial is.
PM: If human beings have 26 facets, these guys have 24. They look like normal people, but they're off-kilter. They don't have a conscience; they don't understand the proper way to interact with others. It's very fascinating, the guys that I've met who are sociopathic -- usually, something happened when they were young. You know, all children are sociopaths -- every single kid is just like Hannibal Lecter. They're totally ego-involved. Kids only think of themselves -- they don't think of other people. If there's one cookie on the plate, a three-year-old's going to take that cookie. He's not going to think, "Should I share it my sister?" If your kid says, "I want a cookie" and you say, "Well you can't have a cookie until you eat your peas," the kid'll say, "Well, if you give me the cookie, I'll eat the peas." "Okay," you say, "here's the cookie." They eat the cookie. "Okay, now eat the peas". They say, "I'm not gonna eat the peas." They'll lie, they'll steal. [laughs] One of the things that a parent does is teach their child how to be a normal person and how to interact with others -- how to show compassion and develop empathy. The reason we don't hurt people -- the reason I'm not going to hurt you -- is because I can understand what it's like to be hurt. I would feel sorry to have you suffer. But if I, as a young kid, was sexually or physically abused, or deprived of love, or if my parents hated each other and I saw my father beating my mother, I would learn that that's the appropriate way to do things. And so, a lot of sociopaths develop an inability to empathize with others or consider the effect of their actions on others. That's what makes them different -- they do what they want to do without considering the effects of their actions on other people.
B&N.com: And you've personally defended sociopaths?
PM: Well, sure. I was a criminal defense attorney for 25 years -- represented hundreds and hundreds of people. A certain percentage of the criminal population is sociopathic. Sociopaths work on a pleasure/pain principal: Do what you feel is good for you, regardless on the effect on other people. That's a great attitude to have if you want to be a criminal. You don't have any remorse or conscience.
B&N.com: Wild Justice also deals -- in part -- with illegal organ trade. Any evidence that this horrible thing actually takes place?
PM: Oh, I don't know. I just thought it would be cool. It's the thing that the whole book pivots on -- that one incident at the airport. It could've been drugs or something. I just thought illegal organs would more gruesome.
B&N.com: Yeah, especially the "unwilling donor" aspect to it.
PM: Yeah, it was just to make the book really disgusting. [laughs]
B&N.com: You've done admirably.
PM: [laughs] Good, good. Yeah, I like to freak people out -- it's fun. And I thought that'd be a good way to get the novel rolling -- with the heart in the truck.
B&N.com: Talk a bit about your experience defending women accused of murdering their abusive husbands. Wild Justice, Gone, but Not Forgotten, and The Burning Man all touch on the subject.
PM: Well, that's one of the more wonderful things that I've done. Most of the time when you're a criminal defense lawyer you're representing people who did what they've been accused of doing. So rarely you're on God's side. While representing battered women, I always felt that I was on God's side -- I always felt that I was the good guy. In 1979, a judge asked me if I would take a court appointment to represent a woman who'd been charged with killing her husband. Back in 1979, there wasn't much known about the Battered Women's Syndrome; most people thought that if a woman stayed in a relationship with a man who beat her, that it was a sadomasochistic/sexual thing. When I got this case, the woman had been beaten severely for 14 years by this guy; finally, she killed him while he was threatening to cut out her eye. This was a 54-year-old woman in a wheelchair -- she was a hopeless alcoholic because of the treatment she'd endured. He used to beat her so badly, that when I asked her kids, "How often during the month would your dad beat your mother," they said, "Oh maybe once or twice." I said, "Well, did he slap her?" They responded, "Oh yeah, that was every day." They didn't even think that slapping or punching her was a beating. But I thought, "Eh, it must be some sexual thing." Then I called a Dr. Lenore Walker, a psychologist in Denver who had done work in this area, and she gave me a wonderful education about the real reasons women don't leave husbands who beat them. I got very involved with this case 'cause I really liked my client, and I felt that she was justified in doing what she did; even though technically she violated the law, I didn't feel that morally she had.
Before this case, nobody had used the Battered Women's Syndrome as a defense in a homicide case in Oregon. It had not been used that much anywhere around the country -- it was very new then. So I had Dr. Walker come out -- it was more of an educational experience for everybody than a trial -- we were trying to explain why my client killed her husband. The jury came back and found my client guilty of manslaughter, but they wrote a letter to the judge saying they didn't want her punished badly, which is very unusual. The probation office recommend straight probation with no jail time. The D.A. felt she should serve six months in a local jail. My client actually wanted to serve the time because she felt very bad about what she'd done. I'm pretty sure I could've gotten a reversal, but she didn't want to go through it all again -- she was a very nice lady. So, that was my introduction, and I started lecturing about it and then, because I got the reputation, I got a number of other similar cases -- I think I had a total of five. B&N.com: Did you like doing these cases?
PM: I wouldn't say that I liked to do them because they're very unpleasant and emotionally draining. But I always felt very good about representing battered women because they're trapped in these horrible situations you can't even imagine -- I always felt that I was really helping someone who deserved the help.
B&N.com: For people who enjoy difficult-to-put-down fiction such as Wild Justice, can you offer up any author suggestions you might have?
PM: Well, sure -- I'd love to, because, like I said, I'm a big fan. Let's see, I consider Thomas Harris's Red Dragon to be one of the most brilliant thrillers ever written. It's almost a perfect book. Harris is just a superb writer -- and that book, especially. It's an intellectual, scary book. You couldn't write a better book than Red Dragon.
Stephen Hunter is another of my all-time favorites. I just finished his new book ( Hot Springs), but my favorites are Point of Impact and Time to Hunt, which I think are just brilliant. I also like Michael Connelly and Harlan Coben -- I'm a big fan. There are so many other good writers. I think my favorite all-time novel is a book called Stone City by Mitchell Smith. And I like Joseph Conrad and Ernest Hemingway, Dostoevsky -- I like to read all sorts of books. Richard Dooling, I think, is wonderful; I don't think he's gotten a lot of recognition, but I think he's terrific -- White Man's Grave and Brain Storm are books of his that I am in awe of. White Man's Grave is one of the funniest books I've read -- I just think it's brilliant. Nelson DeMille is another favorite. Michael Palmer -- I love his medical thrillers.
B&N.com: It's been great fun talking to a writer who's as much a fan as he is a writer.
PM: I'm still more of a fan than a writer. I mean, when I meet other writers, I'm always thrilled. Because I read so much, and I have certain people that I'm in awe of. When people ask me what I do, it took me a long time to say, "I'm a writer." It's hard for me to believe because everything that's happened has been so amazing.
B&N.com: Do you miss practicing law?
PM: I love being a writer, and I love being a lawyer -- it's just a matter of substituting one thing I love with something else I love.
B&N.com: And it's nice that, since you write legal thrillers, you can at revisit your practicing days via your writing.
PM: Yeah, although most of the stuff in my novels is made up. I do use situations occasionally, but most of the weird stuff just comes out of my bizarre, sick-o imagination. Wild Justice is all made up; that's just totally creepy ways of thinking that normal people don't do.
B&N.com: Thanks so much for chatting.
PM: Thank you! I was really nice talking to you.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The front cover says it all "twisted and brilliant". I absolutely loved it. Believe me I had my jaw dropped a couple of times.. It was.. Nasty, Gross, Scary and everything else. not for people afriad of blood. It was so real, and real creepy... 00000 Oh and the ending will leave you SHOCKED beyond belief. I just knew I knew who killed those people in that horrible way, but when things got tied up in the end I just could not believe it! I stood with my mouth wide open and book in hand almost letting out a scream in my throat.. And to think that.. (wait can't say anymore) This is a read that will keep you up all night untill every single last word is read.
This is the second book I have read by Philip Margolin & it definitely won't be my last! I am hooked & plan on reading all of his books. This book is non-stop action with many twists and turns. It kept me guessing to the end who the killer was. I even started reading it out loud to my husband and kids (with some parts omitted) & they loved it. They wouldn't let me read it without them!
This is the only book I've ever finished in one day. I literally could not put it down! I can't remember being so engrossed by a book since The Day After Tomorrow. Wild Justice was scary, suspenseful and exciting. I've read every book Philip Margolin has written, and I always eagerly await his next book. Wild Justice was certainly worth the wait. I'd say it's his best one yet. If they keep getting better, I can't wait for his next one!
Well written; believable characters (except for Cardoni) ... you won' know "who done it" wil the end .... kept me turning pages!
Phillip Margolin is one of my favorite writers since I read "Gone But Not Forgotten". Read him and he will be one of yours too.
This is about the 4th book i have read from Phillip Margolin. I love the twists throughout the book. I had an idea of who the serial killer was, but i wanted to know how he managed to commit the murders. I read this book while working out at the gym, and could not stop walking because i didn't want to stop reading! Very good book!
This is my second one I've read of Phillip Margolin and I am defenitly going to read another one right away!!!!!!! VERY VERY SUSPENSEFUL AND SO MAY TWISITS
This book was great, it keeps you guessing the whole way. And you never know what is going to happen next! It kept me turning the pages and I was happy with how everything was brought together!
This book is the kind of book that kept my nerves on edge. I wanted to put the book down so I could go to sleep but everytime I was about to close it for night something else impale me to consciously read on and on. I read the book in 2 nights after work.
Have read all of Margolin's books and this best one yet! If you read this book, get ready to hold your breath and sit on the edge of your seat until the last page is turned. Can't decide who was scarier, the serial killer or the guys after him.. Enjoy!
I would recomend this book to friends and family who enjoy Coben and Patterson
Mr. Margolin knows how to "reel" you in! Always keeps you "hooked" till the last word is written! Leaves you waiting on his next novel with much anticipation!
Very exciting. Love his books. A real thrill ride!
Well written but I guessed the killer about half way through.