A Tense Summer Read: “Her, Too”

Kelly McCann is a superstar lawyer in the legal/psychological thriller Her, Too: She wins every single case, and each one brings her kudos, cash, and controversy. That’s because she defends wealthy men accused of sex crimes and in the courtroom she’s merciless, brutal.  

We first see her basking in triumph at a Philadelphia courthouse after a jury acquits the Big Pharma billionaire scientist she’s defending against several charges of rape. The media is out in full force and she could be a Roman Emperor accepting the adulation of the masses–even the protestors prove how famous she is.

She lived to win.  It was the entire secret of her success.  Her courtroom victories weren’t due to any great brilliance on her part.   She had no more talent than the average lawyer.  What she did have was this abiding lust for victory.

But the Wheel of Fortune turns very quickly in her case and she’s soon the victim of a grotesque sex crime herself, something unimaginable.  Thankfully the author doesn’t feel the need to dwell on the details, but what she does do beautifully is portray the new trap Kelly finds herself in and the emotional damage that she suffers.

How can she be free?  Revenge would be a start and the book takes on the feel of a caper as she tries to assemble just the right team to take on her assailant and destroy his reputation and his business.  But she’s out of her depth and is soon shocked by a series of threatening surprises.  Readers might be surprised themselves by some of the twists the story takes and how Kelly changes–and in the identity of the novel’s murderer.  I sure was.

The novel is strongest when it stays in Kelly’s head or in the head of her  investigator Javier because they are far more interesting and complex than the people around them.  Nonetheless, Her, Too is a deeply moving, gripping tale of power run amok and how its victims can fight back, as told by a former attorney who knows the legal system inside out.  It’s also the age-old tale of what happens to overweening pride.

Kistler is a masterful storyteller and I did not want to put the book down.  That may be a cliché, but it’s true. ★★★★

Lev Raphael is the former crime fiction reviewer for The Detroit Free Press and the author of 27 books including 10 Nick Hoffman Mysteries.

Shakespeare & A Writer’s Revenge

I’ve been publishing for a long time and I’ve dealt with all kinds of editors.  Some are laid back.  Some are very hands-on.  Some are hard to pin down.  Some are extremely helpful and supportive.  And a few–very few–are difficult or even opaque.  They tell you one thing but mean something completely different that you couldn’t have guessed at.

Here’s what happened a few years ago with one of those.

I pitched an idea to a magazine about the farkakteh theory that Shakespeare was a Jewish woman (yes!), which is just another bit of nutty Shakespeare Denialism that’s been a flourishing industry for way too long.  James Shapiro wrote an entertaining book about it: Contested Will.

The editor really liked my approach–at least I thought so.

Then he sent back my blog and basically told me that it had to be completely rewritten.  But that wasn’t all: he thought it should be re-shaped to say what he wanted, which was bizarre, since in our previous emails, he’d never told me any of his opinions.  If he had, I would have gone elsewhere.

Was I annoyed?  Of course.  I’d been publishing dozens of articles, essays, short stories, and books for years and dealing with editors who were much more professional than that.  Except for one, “and thereby hangs a tale….”

I sent the piece to The Huffington Post.  They took it right away, beginning my long relationship with that site.  I waited till the blog was posted and wrote back to the first editor that I was sorry he didn’t like my approach, but someone else did.

I included the link.

Sometimes revenge isn’t just sweet, it’s swift.  This time it was so swift that it wasn’t even worth saving the editor for a character to put into my Nick Hoffman mystery series–appropriately disguised, of course.  I just brushed it off.

Lev Raphael is the author of 25 books in many genres which you can find on Amazon.  Follow him on Twitter at

How to Diss Other Authors Safely: A Quick & Dirty Guide

Watching other authors succeed in ways you can never dream of isn’t easy.  Life isn’t fair and that goes double or triple for the writing life.  There’ll be plenty of times in your career when you wish you could hire Olivia Pope and her Scandal team to just shutthemdown.

But speaking out about your feelings isn’t a good idea.  Not so long ago, Lynn Shepherd got  lambasted all over the Internet for having urged J.K. Rowling to stop writing.  In Shepherd’s view, Rowling is a literary Mount Etna whose magma is burying way too many other authors. Cap the volcano, whatever it takes!

Whether she was kidding or being serious, I think she chose the wrong way to express herself.  As an author of crime fiction she had obvious, wonderful tools she should have used, and it’s a path any author who wants to even the score can easily take.

Write about it, but disguise the people involved.  Channel the emotion and use it to fuel fiction of some kind where you can balance the scales in any way you want.  Take control of the situation by turning the “offending” author into a character over whom you have complete control.  Their fate is now completely in your hands.  Make it brutal, gory, grotesquely funny–whatever works, whatever gives you catharsis.

Turn the author’s latest book into a joke or a disaster.  Mock the title, the theme, the reviews, whatever gives you pleasure.  I’ve done that at least once and it didn’t matter that I’m sure the quite famous author never noticed. I had a ball because I thought he was so over-praised by the reviewers and I couldn’t stand his work.

When you channel your frustration this way, you’ll not only end up rising above the feelings weighing you down, you’ll also be extra productive.  Better still, if you do a good job of disguise, nobody but you, your agent, your editor or whoever else you let in on the secret will know.

Masking the situation as fiction, you have the chance of not seeming mean-spirited and be far less likely to incite other people’s fans to shout Bansai! and launch their planes at your fleet.

A veteran of university teaching, Lev Raphael now offers creative writing workshops online at writewithoutborders.comHe’s the author of the forthcoming mystery State University of Murder and 25 other books in a wide range of genres.