Tuesday, March 13, 2012

James Sheehan - The Thinking Man's Grisham

When James Sheehan decided to set pen to paper eighteen years ago, he was looking for a hobby that would ease the stress of his job as a trial attorney. Today, he is the author of three thought-provoking legal thrillers that inspire readers to ponder the complexities of life.
Sheehan, a native New Yorker, came to Florida over thirty years ago to study law at Stetson University. After working for a firm that represented major corporations, he decided to go into private practice where he could represent individuals who were downtrodden or discriminated against. His desire to “humanize” the death penalty issue inspired him to write The Mayor of Lexington Avenue, the tale of Jack Tobin, an idealistic trial lawyer fighting to exonerate an innocent man on death row. Praised as “A terrific novel, a genuine literary achievement” (Booklist), the book established Sheehan as an insightful new voice in the legal thriller genre. By seamlessly weaving together the stories of two childhood friends whose lives take vastly different paths, Sheehan gets readers to examine the thorny subject of capital punishment in a new light.
A year later, Sheehan revisited the death penalty question in The Law of Second Chances, the story of Henry Wilson, a death row inmate, and Benny Avrile, a man facing the death penalty for his role in a robbery/murder. Their lives intersect when Jack Tobin finds himself representing both men. Unlike The Mayor of Lexington Avenue, The Law of Second Chances is based on an actual case. “People always asked me if Mayor was based on a true story. It wasn’t, but I thought I’d do that with Second Chances,” Sheehan explains. “So I researched death penalty cases until I found the one I wanted.” Sheehan was also looking for a character as compelling as the one he created in his first novel. “I had such a great character in Rudy (the innocent inmate in Mayor) that I wanted to come up with one just as good. I think I did that with Henry Wilson.” It seems that the critics agree. The Law of Second Chances has been called “An involving thriller that is also a moving meditation on love and friendship.” (Booklist)
Sheehan’s third book, The Lawyer’s Lawyer, is another in the Jack Tobin series. According to Sheehan, “A lawyer’s lawyer is the lawyer other lawyers look for when they get into trouble, and Jack certainly fits that bill.” The story begins in a small Florida town that is being ravaged by a serial killer. A suspect is eventually arrested, convicted, and sentenced to death. Ten years later, as the execution date draws near, Jack Tobin is asked to revisit the case. This sets into motion a series of events that lead to Jack being tried for murder. Now he must find his own lawyer’s lawyer or risk becoming the newest resident on Florida’s death row. The Lawyer’s Lawyer is slated for release in January, 2013.
In his spare time, Sheehan keeps his brain sharp by reading, his body fit by competing in triathlons, and his soul nourished by spending time with his five grandchildren. In addition to teaching full-time at Stetson Law School, his alma mater, he has finished his fourth novel, The Alligator Man, a legal thriller that could have come straight from today’s headlines. The Alligator Man tells the story of a young Floridian whose life is decimated when the company he works for is driven into bankruptcy by corporate greed, and he decides to avenge himself by murdering the former CEO.  The idea for the book came from Sheehan’s desire to explore what causes a person to become a criminal. “As a society, we treat people in a black-and-white way, but most things aren’t that clear cut,” he says. “The message from my books, and from fiction in general, is that there are lots of layers to life. And books provide a tapestry for life. That’s why people enjoy them so much.”
For more about Jim Sheehan, visit his website at www.james-sheehan.com
Next: Cynthia Thomason – A Place for Romance

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