James Grippando's Found Money
Sizzling case of lost and found family secrets
Meet the Author
James M. Grippando is a trial lawyer who lives in south
Florida. His is the author of Pardon, The Informant, and The Abduction.
A Further Look
"Found Money" First Chapter|
"The Abduction" First Chapter
Buy "Found Money"
Buy "The Abduction"
Meet the Author
|The HarperPaperbacks interview with James Grippando:
Q: Your latest book, The Informant, deals with a serial killer whose
barbaric method of murder is sure to leave your reader speechless.
Or should I say tongue-tied? How did you come up with the serial
killer's signature of murder?
A: I don't believe in using violence
for shock value. That is to say, I didn't think of the signature and
then build a character around it. I created a character and then
developed a signature that suited his complex motivations. John
Douglas, the FBI agent who pioneered criminal profiling, often says
that to understand the serial killer, you have to look closely at
his work. I took that advice to heart in choosing the killer's
signature in The Informant.
Q: The descriptions you gave of the FBI and their part in catching
the serial killer read with the authenticity of an insider, as says
former FBI agent John Douglas. The events that led up to catching
the serial killer involved profiler and tactical knowledge. What
kind of research did you do for this?
A: I started by reading the
leading books on profiling and serial killers. I read everything I
could get my hands on. I reviewed FBI training materials -- slides,
videotapes, case studies. Once I felt educated, I talked with
professionals who actually do this kind of work. One of the more
helpful sources was a psychiatrist who examines criminal defendants
to determine whether they're competent to stand trial. The most
help, however, came from law enforcement personnel, particularly an
FBI agent with whom I kept a running dialogue throughout the
drafting of the novel.
Q: Nobody likes a snitch. The serial killer takes his dislike of
squealers to the extreme. How do you feel about snitches?
"Snitch" has such a negative connotation, but it all depends on the
person's motivation. Whistleblowers who expose corruption in
government or dangers in work areas, for example, are often labeled
"Snitches" even though their only motivation is to clear their
conscience or to correct an injustice. Others spill their guts only
if there is something in it for them -- be it money, a perverse
satisfaction in seeing others get in trouble or the chance to go on
television talk shows and bask in their fifteen minutes of fame.
Those are the ones nobody likes, and I don't like them either.
Q: At the root of this novel is a very moving love story between
Mike Posten and his wife Karen. It is incredible how you were able
to link two seemingly incongruous things like a serial killer's
impetus for murder and a failing marriage. At the heart of both
problems seems to lie the question of trust, and the risk of
betrayal. How did you see the role of trust unfold and perform in
A: The basic question is, who can we trust, why and what
are the consequences? Karen sums it all up when she tells Mike,
"Only two kinds of people can talk without inhibitions. Strangers or
lovers. Everyone in between is just negotiating."
Q: Out of all the characters in your novel, who do you identify with
the most, and why?
A: Strangely, I'd have to say Karen Posten, the
wife of the male lead, Michael Posten. She agonizes about falling
into that no-man's land between strangers and lovers, where there is
no such thing as total honesty.
Q: The Informant has many plot twists and turns. The organization
and structure seem quite demanding. How do you develop your ideas
for your books? Do you find outlines helpful?
A: In the most general
sense, I develop ideas by observing events and playing the "what if"
game. The trigger for The Informant was the whole notion of
"checkbook journalism." Some journalists will pay sources, others
think it's sleazy. I asked myself, "What if a Pulitzer prize-winning
reporter could help catch a serial killer only by breaking his own
rules and paying an anonymous informant?" All of my writing starts
this way, usually with one sentence. Once I have the hook, I expand
the idea to a paragraph, then to a page, then to a three page
synopsis. Then I put it down for a while. If I still like it when I
come back in a week or so, I develop an outline. Outlining for me is
absolutely essential. I like a complex plot, but as a reader I hate
to be confused. I spent three months on the outline for The
Informant before I ever started writing.
Q: Besides your writing career, you have also practiced trial law.
In what ways do your law background and experiences help your
A: Being a good trial lawyer means being a good
storyteller. I don't mean that in a negative way. You don't make
things up as a lawyer, but to persuade a jury you have to present
the facts in a way that is both compelling and believable. You have
to develop a theme, decide which arguments to make and then figure
out the best way to make them -- all within the time constraints
established by the judge and by the attention span of the jurors.
More than anything, having stood in a courtroom before a judge and
jury has made me more sensitive to readers. I don't bore them with
digressions. I don't use two pages when two sentences are enough.
And I don't bill them by the hour.
Q: The hardcover of your new book, The Abduction, is coming out in
April of 1998. Can you tease us with a little description of the
A: The Abduction is the first thriller about a presidential
election in which neither candidate is a white male. It pits a
charismatic white woman running against the nation's most respected
black man. A week before the November 2000 election, a child related
to one of the candidates is abducted in what only appears to be
politically motivated kidnapping. The real motivations run deeper,
more personal. Intrigued?
Q: Do you have any advice to give for potential authors who are
trying to get published?
A: Perseverance. My first published novel
was The Pardon in 1994. I say "published" novel because my actual
first novel is an unpublished script sitting on a shelf in my
closet. It took me four years to write it, but it didn1t sell. I
felt like quitting, but my agent encouraged me to write another.
Over the next seven months, I wrote The Pardon. It sold to
HarperCollins in two weeks and is now available all over the world
in nearly a dozen different languages. Just think if I had given up.