Douglas Corleone’s LAST LAWYER STANDING is a gritty, edge-of-your-seat crime novel set in a Hawaii that is unrecognizable to probably everyone but the criminal underworld of Oahu.
In this third Kevin Corvelli mystery, the hotshot defense lawyer takes on a pair of high-profile cases. In the first, Corvelli represents the governor of Hawaii who’s had the misfortune of having his mistress turn up dead in an election year. In the second, Corvelli defends a career criminal, a man who once saved Corvelli’s life, who’s now on trial for murder.
The novel races along as the two cases ultimately intersect. Along the way, Corvelli is up against police corruption, Justice Department politics, an international assassin, and a shadowy figure who local criminals describe as “Keyser Söze’s evil twin.” Will Corvelli risk everything—including his life—to protect his clients? Will he be the last lawyer standing? You’ll have to buy the book to find out.
Though I had heard of the series, this was my first Corvelli novel. I have since picked up its two predecessors. One of the things I most enjoyed about LAST LAWYER STANDING was that the author has a gift for storytelling amid contrasts. The protagonist is a neurotic New Yorker practicing law in laid-back Hawaii. He’s personally flawed, yet professionally brilliant. The setting is in Paradise, but the story takes place in the frightening underbelly of Hawaii’s Chinatown. And the good guys often are bad, and the bad guys often are, well, good.
As a lawyer myself, I particularly appreciated Corleone’s trial scenes. They were tightly drawn and filled with funny insights that only someone who’s actually waited for a jury could inject into a scene. And as a one-time resident of Hawaii, I also was impressed with Corleone’s ability to capture the local Hawaiian dialect (“pidgin”). One of Elmore Leonard’s rules of writing is to use regional dialect “sparingly” and only when it can be done effectively. Corleone pulled it off masterfully, giving the story an additional ring of authenticity.
The bottom line is this: Whether you’re a fan of legal thrillers, mysteries, or hard-boiled crime fiction, LAST LAWYER STANDING is a must read that delivers.
Mr. Corleone kindly agreed to answer a few questions:
The protagonist in your Kevin Corvelli series is a former New York criminal defense attorney who relocates to Hawaii, which sounds a lot like you. How much of Corleone is Corvelli?
More than I usually like to admit. Kevin Corvelli struggles with many issues that I’ve struggled with in the past. Since a protagonist has to be larger than life, what I tried to do is imbue Kevin with my flaws as well as (what I perceive to be) my strengths, and then I greatly exaggerated them all. For instance, Kevin’s a hell of a lot more courageous both inside and outside the courtroom. But he’s also a lot tougher to get along with than I am. Another major difference: Kevin left New York City for Hawaii because he blew a major criminal case, which ultimately resulted in the death of an innocent client. I left New York City for Hawaii because I didn’t like New York winters, and I wanted away from the stress that comes with practicing law in a major city.
How do you manage to keep the series fresh and original?
I think the best way to keep a series fresh is to keep the main character fresh. Kevin Corvelli is a much different person in the closing chapters of Book 3 than he was in the opening chapters of Book 1. I also try to keep Kevin’s cases fresh. The first book ONE MAN’S PARADISE is very much a straight-up murder mystery. But the second book NIGHT ON FIRE deals with an arson at a major Hawaiian beach resort that resulted in the deaths of about a dozen people.
Researching the role of arson investigators was thrilling for me, and hopefully that thrill was passed on to the readers. In the third book LAST LAWYER STANDING, I wanted to go broader in scope, so Kevin takes on two cases which ultimately intersect. He’s also dealing with much larger social issues like police and political corruption.
The Hawaii in your stories is a darker place than most readers might expect. How have local readers responded to your depiction of Paradise?
Very well. LAST LAWYER STANDING contains my first “Author’s Note,” which points out that the Chinatown depicted in the novel is much different than the Chinatown I enjoy walking around on Friday nights. I also made a point of telling readers that the Honolulu P.D. in the book doesn’t represent the real Honolulu P.D. here in Hawaii. Probably the note is unnecessary, but I didn’t want to take any chances. If I get pulled over on H-1, I don’t want to have to explain why I portrayed the Honolulu P.D. as the dirtiest law enforcement agency since the NYPD in SERPICO.
You write a blog where you sometimes discuss the publishing industry, so I was interested in your views on the e-book phenomenon?
I think it’s important to separate the e-book phenomenon from the issues surrounding the travesty currently being perpetrated by the U.S. Department of Justice. I own an e-reader and I buy about half my books in digital form. I think the technology’s great, and I’m delighted to hear people tell me they’ve just read my book on Kindle or Nook. My 23-year-old cousin just today posted on Facebook that he purchased LAST LAWYER STANDING from iTunes. That made me sound a hell of a lot cooler than I really am. That said, there are a lot of false statements being made about the Big Six publishers. I’m usually not one to go to bat for large corporations, but certain jaded authors who may or may not have legitimate issues with the Big Six have been steering aspiring writers in a terrible direction, and I think that’s unconscionable. If you’re career-oriented, seeking a literary agent after you finish your book is still the smartest move you can make.
Has living far away in Hawaii made it more difficult to promote your novels nationally?
That’s a question I’ve struggled with. The Kevin Corvelli novels are set in Hawaii, so I make appearances at local bookstores and libraries and book clubs, and I fly to the mainland for the main crime writing conventions like Bouchercon. Next year, Minotaur will be releasing my first international thriller, and I plan to launch in New York and hit as many cities as I can. Sometimes, I feel a bit left out, feel like I’m missing all the good parties. But in the digital age, it matters a lot less where you live than how well you interact with readers online, especially through social media.
What are you reading right now?
Right now, I’m reading GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn, and I’m blown away.
GOOD AS GONE, which will be released by Minotaur Books next spring, is about a former U.S. Marshal whose search for a missing American girl takes him across the European continent. The publisher is really getting behind this book, which is crucial. So much time and energy is being put into this new series that I feel like a debut author all over again, and I couldn’t be more excited.
Douglas Corleone is a former New York City defense attorney and winner of the MB/MWA First Crime Novel Competition. He now lives in the Hawaiian Islands with his wife and two children. This is his third novel.
To learn more, please visit his website.
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