Wednesday, April 27, 2011

James Grippando - Lawyer as Storyteller

Photo credit: Sigrid Estrada
According to best-selling novelist James Grippando, “Lawyers are natural storytellers – and I mean that in a good way.” His journey from courtroom to writer’s desk began in 1988. A University of Florida graduate, Grippando was five years into a promising legal career when he decided to write a novel in his spare time. He’d caught the writing bug from his mother (whose doctoral dissertation became a top nursing textbook), his high school English teacher (who taught him that good writers, must be voracious readers), and Sid Homan, head of the University of Florida’s English Department. Six years and one failed manuscript later, The Pardon was published. Its success launched Grippando into the ranks of full-time novelists.

The Pardon introduces Jack Swyteck, Miami defense attorney and estranged son of a Florida governor. Grippando credits his experience at Florida's 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, "Court of Last Resort" for death row inmates, with inspiring the story. "Every so often, a case would make me wonder: What if this guy is innocent? That sounded like a good premise for a novel." While Grippando claims that he is not Jack Swyteck, he admits to some similarities. "Jack is a sole practitioner. I sometimes feel that way since writing is an isolated existence. Jack also tries hard to do the right thing and sometimes needs a friend to shake him and tell him to have fun." Grippando describes his character as "someone I'd like to hang out with rather than someone I'd like to be."

Since the debut of The Pardon, Grippando has published 17 novels he describes as "thoroughly researched suspense with a twist." These include nine Swyteck books, eight stand-alone novels, and Leapholes, a novel for young adults. The story of a magical old lawyer who goes into law books and travels through time to revisit landmark cases, Leapholes is "a book that will teach kids that the law is based on real people."

 Grippando's newest release, Afraid of the Dark (March 2011), has Jack Swyteck in his most dangerous case yet. To prove that his client didn't murder his girlfriend, Swyteck will not only have to prove that, at the time of the crime, his client was being interrogated as a suspected terrorist at a CIA "black site," he will also have to establish something the government steadfastly denies: that the site ever existed. The plot stretches from black sites to the dark side of cyberspace. The Associated Press calls Afraid of the Dark "a compelling thriller that has more twists and turns than a snowy mountain pass." Grippando's legion of readers must agree, because after just five days of sales, Afraid of the Dark debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Although Grippando spends over six hours a day “writing outdoors under an umbrella,” he has also taken a part-time position as counsel with the David Boies firm to “stay plugged into the legal community.” While he misses the camaraderie of law practice, he loves having the freedom to explore different subjects. He also enjoys being able to golf, cycle, and spend time with his wife, Tiffany, and their three children.

Grippando has already finished his 2012 release. With the success of Money to Burn (2010), Grippando returns to Wall Street, where, he says, “there are no shortage of villains.” He hopes his books will “stimulate some thoughts about serious subjects.” But above all, he wants his readers to have fun. 

For more about James Grippando, visit his website at

Next: On the Job with Elaine Viets

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for this Jackie! I can't help read this and think to myself, wow, have I really been doing this for almost two decades?