My guest today is Joe Eliseon. He is looking at you over his glasses because he wants to make direct eye contact with you, dear readers, as he is about to share his interesting history with you.
The well-seasoned old codger looked at me sideways, stroking his clean-shaven chin. “You know, if we hire you, you’ll be the only lawyer in the firm with a beard.”
“What is it?” I asked. “Some sort of hormonal problem?”
Honest to God, I thought it was something in the water.
Times have changed since I was in law school, interviewing for jobs. I grew my beard back then, wanting to do something women couldn’t do, at least not well. Recruiters described a law firm as “casual” and “relaxed” if they allowed you to take off your suit coat on a hot day. The constant, staccato beat of secretaries’ typewriters told the partners they were making money. Big clients like insurance companies were pushing hourly billing as a cost-control measure.
Today, most law school graduates are women and scraggly beards pass unnoticed among the surviving but otherwise emasculated males. Suits and ties are reserved for court appearances, as if they were the wigs worn by British jurists. There are hardly any secretaries; lawyers do their own typing on keyboards that click quietly rather than clack loudly. Consultants and accountants tell you whether or not you’re making money. Big clients like insurance companies moan over the fact that hourly billing is bankrupting them.
And I don’t practice law any more. I write novels.
Why is that?
There’s no simple answer to the question. It’s like asking me why I became a lawyer in the first place. I’ve given simple answers to the latter question, but I find they change over time. The more I think about it, the more I remember little things that contributed to the decision. Some of them seem more important at one point, others at other points. They rattle around in my head and jostle for position. Figuring out your own motivations is damned difficult. It’s so much easier to figure out other people’s.
Maybe that’s why I write novels. Or I may just have stories to tell.
Let’s talk a little about my books.
I had written a number of short stories before I wrote my first novel, The Seamless Web: A Legal Comedy. In fact, SW started out as a short story about a young attorney who discovers how to manipulate the electronic records of legal cases and starts writing his own cases. That’s the core of the novel, but the characters took over and ran off with the story. My protagonist, Pete Roselli, turned into the legal equivalent of Everyman, having to face the consequences of a little lie that keeps getting bigger and bigger. He finds that a lie, even a little one, leaves you at the mercy of all manner of liars.
My second novel is still a work-in-progress. It’s called D.P.W.: A Political Fantasy. It’s about politics as seen through the eyes of a low-level public employee, a snowplow driver in the Department of Public Works, who finds himself the target of a federal investigation into municipal corruption. Wondering why he has been singled out as a target for his pitiful nickel-and-dime graft, he consults his retired mentor in the Department. This mysterious character, who lives in a broken-down shack in the far reaches of the Department’s equipment yard, explains to him that he’s been targeted precisely because he is a small-timer. Our hero thereupon resolves to fight back by becoming the biggest crook he can be.
DPW’s almost done. I’m finishing up the third draft. I’ll need to do a fourth. But it will be ready for release by summer 2016. Of course, that’s what I said last year.
While you’re waiting, I really do recommend my short story collection: Five Minutes More and Other Stories, in which I skip from haunted law firms to time-travel to ancient Sicilian legends to science fiction to gods new and old.
And visit my Google+ page, where you’ll find links to a baker’s dozen of free short stories that I ought to be charging for.
Visit Joe’s website:
There you will find all his book information, and if you click on “Contact” on the menu at the top, you can find all the links to his wonderful sites and podcasts.