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Philip Margolin's Wild Justice
Mass murder, torture, and a handsome physician come together in this thriller about black-market organ sales.
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Meet the Author
 
Philip Margolin author photoWhat's A Nice Guy Like Me Doing In A Place Like This?
 
I'm a pretty normal person, which throws a lot of readers who meet me for the first time. I think that's because readers frequently confuse the persona of a writer with what he writes about. Wild Justice, like my first bestseller Gone, But Not Forgotten, has a twisted villain who commits terrifying crimes. When Gone was published in 1993, it was encased in a creepy black book jacket and did not have an author photo. Many readers told me that they thought my publisher did not include a photo because anyone who could write a book as creepy as Gone had to have something wrong with him. When they saw that I didn't look like Hannibal Lector, they really got spooked. I could see by the expressions on their faces that they were wondering how someone who looks so ordinary could write so realistically about grisly murders and twisted psyches.
Part of the answer lies in the fact that I was a criminal defense attorney for a quarter of a century. In 1996, I stopped practicing law to write full time. About six months after I retired, a prominent Oregon defense attorney called to ask if I wanted to work on a case with him. I explained that I was no longer practicing law. "Boy," he said, "it must feel strange associating with normal people every day." That's when it dawned on me that I had spent the last 25 years of my life doing lunch with arsonists, rapists, and people who had slaughtered whole families. When you spend that amount of time in prisons and jails talking to people like that, they start seeming normal to you.
When I do book signings, I like to take questions, and one question I am frequently asked is, "Where do you get your ideas?" The answer is that they come from everywhere. Heartstone and The Burning Man were fictionalized accounts of real cases. I wrote The Last Innocent Man to answer the question most frequently posed to criminal defense lawyers: "How can you represent someone if you think they are guilty?" The inspiration for Gone, But Not Forgotten came from a discussion at a dinner party. I truly believe that a criminal defense attorney should represent anyone, no matter who they are or what the charge, but Pam Webb, a good friend, asked me a question that started me wondering if there was a person--Adolph Hitler, for instance--who was so horrible and had committed crimes that were so awful that I would refuse to represent them? A year later, that germ of an idea had turned into a novel about a female attorney--nationally known for taking cases involving issues that are important to women--who decides to represent a man who may be a horrifying serial killer, someone who dehumanizes women before he kills them.
The idea for Wild Justice popped into my head one day several years ago, but it took me a while to figure out what to do with it. I imagined a narcotics officer who gets an anonymous tip: A person he has never heard of is supposed to have a large quantity of drugs in his house. But he's in a bind: A policeman can't search a house based on an anonymous tip, unless he can corroborate the tip with other, reliable evidence. When my imagined policeman is unable to do this, he gets frustrated and breaks into the suspect's house to see if he is on a wild goose chase. While searching for drugs, he makes a horrifying discovery and realizes that the suspect is a serial killer. He can't use any of the evidence he has found because he discovered it during an illegal search.
I thought this was a terrific idea for a story, but I couldn't figure out what happened next. I filed the idea away in my "Ideas" file and forgot about it. Two years ago, the other shoe dropped and I figured out the rest of the story. Am I a normal person who gets weird ideas because I spent 25 years working with abnormal people? Or am I just weird? My wife and kids think I'm pretty normal, but who knows--anyway, I don't really care, as long as the ideas keep coming. --Phillip Margolin

 

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