Today I'm thrilled to kick off the blog tour for Motor City Shakedown, the first in a new mystery/thriller series from Jonathan Watkins. Jonathan was nice enough to let me pick his brain a bit about his characters and police procedure, so I hope you all enjoy the interview! Be sure to check the bottom of the post for the full list of participating blogs as well as all the details on a fantastic giveaway. Welcome to Supernatural Snark Jonathan!
If Issabella could conjure up a dream partner (other than Darren of course ;-)) to help her work the SWAT case, what are a few of the characteristics he would have?
Hmm. That’s an interesting question. I think that since Izzy is just starting out on her legal career and is extremely anxious about her prospects as a defense lawyer, she would have initially preferred someone who could serve as a mentor. Izzy is an extremely self-aware person. She knows that she is young and inexperienced and she feels very out of her depth when Darren manipulates her into taking on a big murder case.
A legal partner who consciously decided to guide her through the process of a murder trial would have been Izzy’s first choice—someone calm, maybe even paternal/maternal, who was well-respected in the community. She’s just out of law school, so I think a professorial-type of partner would have put her at ease.
If Darren saw the above wish list, what would the first words out of his mouth be?
“Seriously? You know, Izzy, being a safe lawyer isn’t synonymous with being a good one.”
Which of Darren’s weird investigative methods would Issabella say she was most surprised actually worked?
Hands down, it would be Darren’s barging into court and serving a bogus lawsuit on a sitting judge and the prosecutor’s office. The idea of actively antagonizing a judge and a prosecutor to that degree would leave any defense lawyer aghast, since the reality is that those two offices hold all the cards. The power of a defense lawyer lies exclusively in the Constitution and the rights guaranteed therein. But, as many of us know, the Constitution is open to interpretation—by judges. So making an enemy of a judge is not high on the list of goals for any defender who wants future motions and decisions to go their way in that judge’s courtroom.
But that’s part of the fun in writing Darren. As an often frustrated and beleaguered lawyer representing the poor and the powerless, I get a visceral thrill out of Darren’s disregard for his own well-being in pursuit of what he thinks is right.
If you were to join Darren and Issabella on this case, what set of skills do you possess that you think would most help them?
As a defense lawyer, the one thing I learned early on was that everybody lies. Clients lie in the most extravagant and obvious ways. Prosecutors, cops and judges lie, usually through omission. Clients will profess their innocence to their lawyer even in the face of incontrovertible evidence and even after they have made knowing and detailed confessions to the authorities. Prosecutors will neglect to reveal Brady material (exculpatory evidence beneficial to the accused). Cops will refuse to be honest about their motives for a traffic stop or the real reasons why they performed a legally questionable search. Judges will make rulings based on their own personal biases, but those biases will never appear in their stated justifications for the ruling.
That’s the game, at least in this moment in our history.
In the book, Darren already knows all this. Izzy most assuredly does not, as she hasn’t been in court enough to see it play out again and again. So maybe I would act to accelerate her acceptance of the fact that the game is not played on an even field, which in turn might prompt her to embrace Darren’s methodology a little more quickly.
What’s one thing about police or SWAT procedure you didn’t know prior to doing research for Motor City Shakedown?
When I wrote the book, I was still in my second year of law school. At that point in time, I didn’t know how pervasive the practice of no-knock warrants had become. Generally speaking, cops aren’t allowed to barge into your house unannounced. They have to get a judge to sign a warrant that details why there is probable cause to justify the search. What was surprising then, and is still surprising to this day, is the relative ease with which cops can get a warrant that allows them to charge into your home without any prior notice to you.
I used to work in security. I’ve worked with retired cops in the past and many of my friends are local cops. They are, almost uniformly, some of the most decent and forthright people I know. That isn’t lip service. One of my former co-workers has dedicated himself to finding, arresting, and locking up adults who prey on children. I can’t think of a calling that could be nobler or more personally taxing than that.
The problem is that we, as a people, have continued to vote in politicians and judges who have a decidedly medieval view of personal autonomy and freedom from government intrusion. As a result, just about any pretext will get a cop their warrant.
To be clear, there are situations where a no-knock raid by SWAT is absolutely necessary. No law enforcement agent should be needlessly put at risk of loss of life. But today in this nation, that sort of invasion of personal liberty is all too often predicated on the thinnest of justifications.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions Jonathan!
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MOTOR CITY SHAKEDOWN
Darren Fletcher, once the rising star of Detroit's criminal justice system, has fallen far. All the way to an office in a smoky dive bar on the wrong side of the city. But a single phone call could be the key to climbing out of his downward spiral: a police brutality victim needs his help, and the family's willing to pay. Big-time.
Issabella Bright's daily panic attacks aren't entirely due to her decision to forgo a flashy firm and go out on her own, but that's a large part of it. She never thought she'd resort to ambulance chasing, until the story about a SWAT raid gone wrong proves too intriguing to ignore—it's the perfect chance to prove she made the right decision.
But Issabella's not the only one after the job.
Darren's connections are enough to get past the cops stonewalling them both at the hospital, but only a judge's order makes Issabella even consider teaming up with the disheveled attorney and his weird—and weirdly effective—methods. But as the case deepens and it becomes clear the Detroit PD is concealing a much bigger conspiracy, Darren and his methods may be all that keep her alive.
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Jonathan Watkins lives and works in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He earned his Bachelor's Degree in Art and Children's Literature from Eastern Michigan University and his Juris Doctorate from Thomas M. Cooley Law School. A life-long fan of detective fiction, Jonathan is the author of the Bright and Fletcher mystery series. He lives in Ann Arbor with his wife, who is too good for him. They are blessed with two kind-hearted sons.
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Harlequin is generously offering up the following prizes to one lucky winner!
- 5000 Harlequin Rewards Points (US/Can only)
- $25 Amazon Gift Card
- eCopy of MOTOR CITY SHAKEDOWN
- Monday, September 28th - Supernatural Snark
- Wednesday, September 30th - Book Swarm
- Friday, October 2nd - Bewitched Bookworms
- Monday, October 5th - Good In The Stacks
- Wednesday, October 7th - Happy Ever After Book Reviews
- Friday, October 9th - Parajunkee