Getting his client off death row could save his career… or make him the next victim.
What was your creative process for creating Daniel Pike?
I thought it would fun write some more legal thrillers. After nineteen Ben Kincaid novels, I was ready for a break, but with a few years off to write poetry and nonfiction about writing, it seems fun again. I wanted Dan to be a modern man, very in tune with the zeitgeist, smart, fun to spend time with–but not perfect. Perfect people are boring. I can’t relate. Dan has a special skill for rooting out the truth–useful for a criminal lawyer. He’s a bit quirky–wears sneakers to court, carries a backpack rather than a briefcase, lives on a boat. But he has a passion for justice, for preventing the government from railroading innocents, and as the book develops, you’ll see why.
What makes him the last chance lawyer?
After a disastrous event early in the book, he joins a new team of lawyers that take their cases from the mysterious Mr. K, who sends them cases no one else can handle (at least not as well). K pays Dan’s salary, not the clients, so money is not the main focus. Dan becomes a lawyer for those who, due to finances or other circumstances, have few options.
How is he different than lawyer Ben Kincaid in your other series?
Dan is everything Ben was not, at least when he started. Dan is confident, showy, outgoing, and successful. Ben was a dogged bur usually effective lawyer. Dan is a showboat. What he learns in this novel is how to be more than a showboat.
“Daniel Pike would rather fight for justice than follow the rules.” What is justice from his point of view?
When Dan talks about justice, he means correcting the imbalance in the modern judicial system. Dan knows from experience that the criminal justice system is stacked in favor of the prosecution. We may say people are presumed innocent, but in truth, most people assume the accused are guilty until it is proven otherwise. The threat of incarceration is so great people plea bargain to crimes they didn’t commit. Dan tries to bring the system back into balance.
What is the relationship between the objective rule of law and an attorney’s subjective use of it?
I’m not sure what you mean by “the subjective use of it.” The law is the law. Legislators write it, and judges apply it. The defense lawyer’s job is to hold the jury to the law, which says they cannot convict unless guilt has been proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is a high standard. And meant to be.
What can you tell us about the kind of case he’s undertaking?
At first, Dan is representing a nine-year old immigrant who will be deported, because temporary protected status has been revoked for those from her country (after decades), unless she is adopted. Then the prospective adoptive mother is accused or murder.
What were some challenges while writing this book, or beginning a new series?
Unlike when I started with Ben, I planned this to be a series from the start. You will see some of the threads sewn into the first book. This is a self-contained novel, but there are elements planted that will expand and combine to form a much larger story over the course of many books.
In July, the second Daniel Pike book (which I’ve already finished). Court of Killers.
William Bernhardt is the author of forty-seven books, including the bestselling Ben Kincaid series, the historical novels Challengers of the Dust and Nemesis, two books of poetry (The White Bird and The Ocean’s Edge), and the Red Sneaker books on fiction writing. His most recent novel is The Last Chance Lawyer, the first in a new series of legal thrillers featuring rebel lawyer Daniel Pike.
In addition, Bernhardt founded the Red Sneaker Writers Center to mentor aspiring writers. The Center hosts an annual writers conference, small-group seminars, a monthly newsletter, a phone app, and a bi-weekly podcast. More than three dozen of Bernhardt’s students have subsequently published with major houses. He is also the owner of Balkan Press, which publishes poetry and fiction as well as the literary journal Conclave. He has published many new authors as well as prominent authors like Pulitzer-Prize-winner N. Scott Momaday, and Grammy-Award-winner Janis Ian.