Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sharks, Vultures, and One Classy Lady

From Paul

I'm a former trial lawyer, so it's natural that I write legal thrillers. My protagonists are -- how shall I say this without using the words "shady" or "shysters?" -- ethically challenged. Jake Lassiter, Steve Solomon, and now Jimmy (Royal) Payne often choose extracurricular methods in and out of court. It was Lassiter who said, "They don't call us sharks for our ability to swim."

All of which brings to mind my pen pal and favorite comic artist, Jeff Leedy. (His work can be seen -- and purchased -- here. Jeff, too, has a wry view of lawyers, famously expressed in "Counsel Approaching the Bench."

I love the Point-of-View, as if witnessed by a third shark. Me? No, my own portrait from those days -- emblazoned on a business card -- was a vulture.

VOCABULARY 101: Tod Goldberg's recent blog posting admits that, as a youth, he confused the words "thespian" and "lesbian."

This brings to mind the classic, though probably apocryphal story from the 1950 Senate campaign between Claude Pepper and George Smathers in Florida. According to legend, Smathers used these lines when talking to folks in rural north Florida:

"Are you aware that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law, and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper, before his marriage, habitually practiced celibacy."

Well, maybe Smathers never said that. But this is undeniably true. His campaign tarred the incumbent as "Red Pepper." Smathers won.

BARBARA PARKER: Jim Born will have more on Thursday but let me say here how much Barbara Parker will be missed. Like many of us, she began a writing career later in life. An outstanding lawyer, she returned to school and studied creative writing with novelist Les Standiford at Florida International University. Barbara passed away last Saturday after a long illness. She was a prominent and respected member of the Florida writing community. I have many fond memories that go back more than 15 years. (Below: The Miami Book Fair, 2006, Jim Grippando at left).

Paul Levine


  1. Paul, you do move in refined circles, don't you? I love Jeff Leedy's work. In fact, I have almost - not quite, but almost - parted with some hard earned cash for one of those prints.

    How sad to hear of Barbara's passing- those of you who knew her personally will feel her loss keenly. And you are right, for those of us who made the leap to becoming professional writers in our "middle years," her story is an inspiration.

  2. "Art that makes you laugh." I love it. Actually, I love anything that makes me laugh.

    Paulie, exactly two weeks before the release of Illegal! Yay!

    I never met Barbara but have been reading much about her from the mystery community in the last few days. My condolences to her family and friends.

  3. The world, let alone the writing community, can use as many "Classy Ladies" as it can get. Sad to hear of Barbara Parker's passing.

  4. Brabara was great.


  5. Jake sure had a lot of jokes about the vultures around the Dade County courthouse. Something about the souls of repentant lawyers? Oh yeah, lawyers never repent. (Or don't have souls. I forget which). Hmmm...