Marcia Clark is a former LA, California deputy district attorney, who was the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson murder case. Admitted to the State Bar of California in 1979 she wrote a best-selling non-fiction book about the trial, “Without a Doubt”, and is a frequent media commentator and columnist on legal issues. She lives in Los Angeles.

Her debut crime thriller, Guilt by Association, is the first title to be released by Mulholland Books in the UK on May 12th. Marcia launches the new “Off the Record” section with an article looking at her career as a prosecutor and now as a novelist ….

Art Reflects Life by Marcia Clark

Marcia Clark

Marcia Clark

It always does, doesn’t it? Art is a means of commenting on the human condition. And when it comes to fiction – oddly – if it doesn’t feel “real,” you won’t invest in it, you’ll walk away. So if an author wants anyone to actually read her book, art had better reflect life or that book will wind up in a dust bin. That doesn’t mean the story has to feel real in a literal sense – if that were true, the genre of science fiction would never have taken hold. And that’s why good science fiction always tells a human story. The leading characters may be blue with green breath, but they deal with personal issues and problems that we’ve all experienced. And so, through the device of aliens and derring-do in deep space, science fiction tells us about ourselves.

But we’re also picky about what kind of life we want to read about. We’re more intrigued when art reflects an interesting life. One is more likely to pick up a novel written by an astronaut about space travel than a novel written by the owner of a dry cleaning business about dirty clothes.

I was fortunate enough to have a career as a criminal lawyer and prosecutor, which gave me the chance to see a side of life and of people that most never see. It’s the kind of life experience that’s perfectly suited to fiction.

And I loved being a prosecutor. It was an exciting, important and satisfying career. But I’d also, always loved writing and dreamed of writing a novel someday. So it was a natural choice to marry my two favourite things by writing novels about being a prosecutor. In Guilt by Association, I’ve tried to convey the essence of my life as a prosecutor in the Special Trials Unit. Being in that particular unit was a unique experience unto itself. Unlike most other prosecutors, who first see their case file as they’re on their way to the courtroom to pick a jury, in Special Trials, prosecutors got to work a case from the ground up; we’d meet with the detectives from the day they found the body, and do whatever it took to get the case ready for trial. That meant a lot of field work, going out to find and interview witnesses, visiting the crime scene, and coming up with ideas for unearthing more evidence. That sounds like fun, doesn’t it? It is. But there was a downside. The Special Trials Unit took only the most complex and high profile cases, and that meant grindingly long hours in the office, doing the research, the motions, the organization necessary to prepare for trial. And it meant being in trial for months, sometimes years – I had a double homicide case that was in trial for two years – and many of those courtroom days were long, dry and deadly boring.

Guilt by Association

Guilt by Association

In Guilt by Association, I do refer to the grind involved in the work, but I don’t dwell on it. It would’ve been more “real” if I’d spent chapters showing the protagonist, prosecutor Rachel Knight, slogging away into the wee hours writing motions, researching case law, and poring over law books, but who wants to read about that? Not me. The point of this book was to tell the essential truth while still having fun. I wanted to have fun in the writing and I wanted you to have fun in the reading. So you’ll forgive me, I hope, for instead focusing on the thrill of the chase, the intrigue of unusual “murder most foul,” and the warm camaraderie between Rachel Knight, and her buddies Toni and Bailey.

That is certainly the core truth of what life was like for me as a prosecutor.

Mulholland Books at Hodder & Stoughton is the sister of the new Mulholland Books imprint at Little, Brown US – both imprints will launch in April/May 2011. Following Guilt by Association, in June, is a tense action thriller called Fun & Games by Marvel Comics author Duane Swierczynski.

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2 Responses to “Art Reflects Life by Marcia Clark”

  1. Nice work – have the US edition here on the tbr pile – hoping I get to read it before publication date.

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