Monday, June 18, 2012
The Running Man In The Suit
By Reece Hirsch
I'm going to opt to answer last week's question -- if I could no longer write the sort of books I write, what would I write instead?
I currently write what might be described as "running man in a suit" books, also known as legal thrillers. You've seen the book jackets, which inevitably display the shadowy outline of a dude in a dark business suit, briefcase in hand, running. If the guy is in so much danger, why doesn't he drop the briefcase? I can't answer that question.
I suppose if I couldn't write legal thrillers, I'd still end up writing from my experiences as a partner in a law firm. I'd write books in which the dude in the suit takes a breather and doesn't run so much. I'd slow the pacing down a bit, show lawyers doing more of what they do in real life -- sitting behind desks and practicing law. I know the drama isn't quite so heightened, but, believe me, it's still there.
In particular, I'm fascinated by the mega-lawsuits that some large law firms handle, the kind that go on for decades like the case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce in Dickens' "Bleak House." I can think of a few current and former colleagues who started working on a case as first-years fresh out of law school and, twenty or so years later, were still litigating the very same matter. I find this phenomenon fascinating because over the course of a single, massively expensively, knock-down-drag-out litigation, the attorneys grow old and some die (unlike legal thrillers, by natural causes), the cultural landscape shifts, law firms rise and fall, and even the law itself is altered. The combatants also change, as the corporations embroiled in the dispute cycle through several generations of management. When there are hundreds of millions or billions of dollars at stake, corporations tend to fight to the bitter end, like dinosaurs tearing at each other until they disappear together into the tar pit.
I think there are a lot of interesting storytelling possibilities in that sort of mega-case because so many changes in the world at large end up getting refracted through the prism of the lawsuit. Maybe one day I'll write that sort of book, but I don't think it would qualify as a legal thriller. But if that book were to be written and published, I'm betting that it would still have that running man in the suit on its cover.
Note: Despite my grousing, it should be noted that the cover of my novel The Insider actually did not feature the running man in the suit. My publisher opted for the more tasteful "man in suit staring pensively out of office tower window" pictured above.