By Ken Isaacson
Steve Cavanagh’s debut novel, THE DEFENCE, features con-artist-turned-top-defense-attorney Eddie Flynn. One advance reviewer has told us to imagine The Verdict’s Frank Galvin crossed with The Firm’s Mitch McDeere, and you’d get something like Eddie Flynn. This is enough to hook me, and I’m looking forward to the book’s release later this month.
The plotline for THE DEFENCE is taut: It’s been over a year since Eddie Flynn last set foot in a courtroom. That was for the trial that cost him his career and his family, and Eddie has vowed never to practice law again. But when Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, blackmails Eddie into defending him in a murder trial, Eddie has no choice but to comply. The Russians have kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter Amy and her life is on the line.
With all eyes on this high-profile case, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and unparalleled skills in the courtroom to defend his client and ensure Amy’s safety. Finally forced to confront the demons from his past and come to terms with the case that all but broke him, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible? And with the clock ticking, will he be able to call on his contacts from the old days in order to double cross the Russians and get his daughter back?
Cavanagh has kindly agreed to answer some questions.
You were born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and later moved to Dublin, where you studied law. Why did you choose to write a US-based legal thriller, with a New York City attorney?
I’m back living in Northern Ireland now, and there is a real burgeoning crime fiction movement in Ulster with writers such as Adrian McKinty, Stuart Neville, Brian McGilloway, Eoin McNamee, and Gerard Brennan. So at the beginning I’d thought of setting the book in Belfast, but as I wanted to write a legal thriller this created some problems. First, we have a dual system of representation—so the accused has a solicitor (who prepares the case) and a barrister (who does the courtroom advocacy) and I didn’t necessarily want to have two main protagonists. To be honest, when I was starting out I didn’t think I had the skill to create two engaging lead characters, and split up the narrative in that way so I thought it would be easier to set the book in the States where both roles are performed by a single attorney. The other contributing factor is that I’m a huge US crime and thriller fan, and I felt a strong pull to write fiction set in the US. As for New York, well the fast pace of that city felt right when I knew the plot of the book and that the entire story would take place over two days.
It must have been challenging to write convincingly about the American system of justice if it’s so different from the UK and Irish systems. What were some of those challenges, and how did you overcome them?
The basic conduct of trials is very similar, and I wanted to write about the art of the advocate and explore how a great trial attorney would share the same skills as a con artist. They both have to be able to think on their feet, and possess great powers of persuasion, distraction, manipulation, and misdirection. So in that regard there were not huge differences in terms of what I wanted to focus on. I did however conduct a load of research into the US justice system—I read textbooks, looked up judicial precedents so that I knew the system inside out. It also helps that I’ve been given a master class in courtroom advocacy from some of the best trial lawyers in the US—via the National Institute of Trial Advocacy based in Boulder, Colorado.
I’ve heard you say that you became a lawyer by accident. How did that happen?
Long story short—I’d been accepted for two degrees at University and had to decide which one I wanted to do by registering for one or the other. I’d decided to do Business Studies, then had too many beers the night before and ended up registering for the wrong degree course the following morning. Instead of Business Studies I’d mistakenly registered for law. So, essentially, I became a lawyer because I joined the wrong line one day while nursing a hangover.
Who are some of the authors that have been the biggest influence on your writing?
There are so many—Michael Connelly, Lee Child, John Grisham, Jeffery Deaver, John Mortimer, Raymond Chandler, Ross McDonald, John D. McDonald, and John Connolly. And a good many Irish authors too. Increasingly, like most of the crime and thriller community, I look towards Irish writers like Brian McGilloway, Declan Burke, Stuart Neville, and Adrian McKinty. I try to be as good as those guys. I fail, but I keep trying.
Can I assume that THE DEFENCE will not be the only time we’ll get to see Eddie Flynn in action? Is the next installment in the works? What can you tell us about that?
Book 2 in the series is going through edits at the moment. It’s still early days but I can tell you that it’s another breakneck thriller but this time Eddie has two clients, and he can only save one.
Will THE DEFENCE be available in the US? How can we get a copy?
The Defence will be available in the US, and in some style. I can’t reveal anymore about that at the moment, but you can check out my website for updates on US publication.
Steve Cavanagh was born and raised in Belfast before leaving for Dublin at the age of eighteen to study Law. He currently practices civil rights law and has been involved in several high profile cases; in 2010 he represented a factory worker who suffered racial abuse in the workplace and won the largest award of damages for race discrimination in Northern Ireland legal history. He holds a certificate in Advanced Advocacy and lectures on various legal subjects (but really he just likes to tell jokes). He is married with two young children.
To learn more about Steve, please visit his website and follow him on Twitter @SSCav