Jake wasn’t the brightest lawyer to work out of Miami. And he often let his awkward ways with women get the best of him.
But you could never call Lassiter insincere.
He worked hard for his clients, even when they didn’t return the favor. He knew the law.
He knew his way around the Miami court system, and when to avoid the courthouse steps during the daily cleanup to remove chicken parts and goats’ heads used in Santeria rituals. Ahh, those only in South Florida moments.
And he knew Miami, though sometimes he would get lost in Little Havana because numbered streets were renamed to honor heroes favored by the city commission.
In the hands of author Paul Levine, Lassiter, a Miami Dolphins linebacker turned hard-nosed lawyer, helped launch the current wave of Florida mysteries.
It seems like just yesterday – not 20 years ago – that Levine started the Lassiter series with 1990’s To Speak for the Dead.
It also seems like just yesterday – not 20 years ago – that I started reviewing mystery fiction, and one of the first ones I tackled was To Speak for the Dead. (For the record, I liked it.)
Levine, a former newspaper reporter, law professor and a trial lawyer, published seven Jake Lassiter novels during the 1990s, putting the series on hiatus in 1997.
The series earned Levine the John D. MacDonald Florida Fiction Award. To Speak for the Dead was named one of the 10 best mysteries of the year by the Los Angeles Times.
Jake Lassiter has returned this month – in more ways than one.
To mark the 20th anniversary of his first novel, Levine has put To Speak for the Dead out as an e-book on Amazon Kindle and Smashwords for anyone with a non-Kindle e-reader.
That’s hardly a revoluntionary idea, with many authors now going that route.
But Levine is giving ALL proceeds of the To Speak for the Dead e-book to the Four Diamonds Fund, which supports treatment and research at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.
“I’ve lost three people to cancer in the last few years, one of them the 14-year-old daughter of my best friend, so this is a cause close to my heart,” said Levine.
The Four Diamonds Fund was started by the parents of 14-year-old Chris Millard, a writer of childhood mythic tales, “Sir Millard and the Four Diamonds,” who died of cancer. A portion of one of his stories is on the website.
To Speak for the Dead, which was translated into 15 languages and adapted into an NBC movie in 1995, also has a special significance to Levine.
“The book is meaningful to me, too,” he said. “It got me out of the courtroom. Or at least, out of trying cases. I still visit courtrooms for pleasure and research — but not yet as a defendant.”
All seven Lassiter novels will be published as e-books in the next year.
And Levine is going to bring back the series with the new hardcover novel Lassiter, set for publication during September 2011 by Bantam.
After his series, Levine moved from South Florida to Los Angeles, where he still lives. He wrote 20 episodes of the CBS military drama JAG, and co-created the Supreme Court show First Monday, starring James Garner and Joe Mantegna. He also has written two stand-alone thrillers including last year’s Illegal, plus the four-book Solomon vs. Lord series.
It will be fun to have Jake back again.
But even those who have never heard of Gerritsen’s novels about Boston police detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles will find much to like in this gripping, well-plotted and intelligent crime drama.
Rizzoli & Isles launches Monday, July 12, at 10 p.m. (Eastern and Pacific time; 9 p.m. Central time).
Unlike most of the crime dramas on TNT that rely on the characters’ eccentricities to add texture to the plots, Rizzoli & Isles is a straight-ahead, serious cop show.
The focus here is on the crime detection that springs from the working relationship between the cops and the medical examiner’s office. Rizzoli & Isles sparingly uses humor, springing from the characters’ witty and smart conversations.
Rizzoli & Isles is an adult crime drama that is more like Law & Order – without the endless reruns.
The first two episodes I screened feature well-devised plots that are realistic and intriguing. Some scenes are a bit graphic, but actually are quite tame when compared with some of the current network crime shows such as the CSI’s, Criminal Minds and the Law & Order franchise.
And the analogy to Law & Order has some merit. Rizzoli is played by Angie Harmon, who played Law & Order’s assistant district attorney Abbie Carmichael from 1998-2001 and was, for my money, the best ADA the show ever had. Harmon is an intelligent actress who always brings a degree of sophistication to her roles. Those high standards continue in her role as the independent Rizzoli.
Sasha Alexander also brings a sense of refinement to her role as Isles. Alexander is best known for her role as Special Agent Caitlin “Kate” Todd in the first two seasons of the drama NCIS. She also was a regular on Dawson’s Creek, Presidio Med and The Nine.
The friendship and respect that Rizzoli and Isles have for each other will be a major part of the series, as it is in the novels.
The two women are the ying and yang – Rizzoli with her close-knit Italian roots and Isles with her blue-blood background. Isles is always impeccably dressed while Rizzoli is more comfortable in torn jeans and isn’t bothered by a dirty shirt. Both women are intelligent and know the value of deep friendships. Their respect for each other won’t preclude them from having disagreements.
Rizzoli & Isles also features Lee Thompson Young as Rizzoli’s new partner Det. Barry Frost; Lorraine Bracco in a throw-away role as Jane’s mother, Angie Rizzoli; and Bruce McGill as Rizzoli’s former partner and now mentor Det. Vince Korsak. (For trivia buffs, McGill’s played D-Day in National Lampoon’s Animal House, one of my favorite movies.)
Here’s hoping that Rizzoli & Isles runs for years; and that it draws new readers to Gerritsen’s novels.
Rizzoli & Isles begins on TNT at Monday, July 12, at 10 p.m. (Eastern and Pacific time; 9 p.m. Central time) following the sixth-season premiere of The Closer.