Thursday, April 16, 2020

Interview with debut legal thriller author Michael McAuliffe

Today’s special guest is debut author Michael McAuliffe to chat about his legal thriller, No Truth Left To Tell.

Michael McAuliffe has practiced law for over 30 years. He has served as an assistant United States attorney and as a federal civil rights prosecutor at the Department of Justice. In 2008, Michael was elected as the state attorney for Palm Beach County leading an office of 125 prosecutors. After leaving public service in 2012, Michael was the general counsel for a global company. He also has been a partner at a major law firm, a senior lecturing fellow at Duke University’s School of Law and an adjunct professor at the College of William & Mary’s School of Law. In 1993-94, Michael was a CEP fellow and visiting law professor in the Czech Republic.

Michael is an avid alpine mountaineer having climbed and reached the summits of Aconcagua, Denali, Kilimanjaro, Island Peak in the Himalayas, and many other mountains.

He and his wife Robin, a US district judge, have three children, and live in Florida and Massachusetts.

Welcome, Michael. Please tell us about your current release.
No Truth Left To Tell is a story about the feds trying to stop the Ku Klux Klan from starting a new race war in the South in the 1990s. Adrien Rush, a young, ambitious federal prosecutor from Washington, DC, is sent to Lynwood, Louisiana, to work on the Klan investigation with Lee Mercer, an experienced and skeptical black FBI agent. They must solve a series of cross burnings targeting the town’s minorities before the violence escalates. Their case becomes compromised when the feds realize a local police detective employed his own brand of justice to extract the confession from the culprit, who is the grand dragon of the Klan. The inescapable collision of right and wrong, of white and black, has deadly consequences.

The novel is about violent racist extremism and police brutality in America and the high cost of protecting the rights of us all.

What inspired you to write this book?
Early in my legal career, I was a federal civil rights prosecutor in the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. While in the section, I travelled around the country investigating and prosecuting violent extremists, corrupt law officials (many in law enforcement) and human traffickers. The novel is loosely based on those experiences including a case in which I prosecuted thirteen members of the Klan in Louisiana and their grand dragon. Also, many of the victims of racial violence I met while working as a federal prosecutor showed great courage and resolve in the face of terror. For decades, I wanted to create a fictional world that reflected their very real and inspiring bravery and determination.

Excerpt from No Truth Left to Tell:

Nettie Wynn awoke from a deep slumber that night to the siren calls of the fire engine. She grasped the corner post of the full-sized bed and lifted her small frame. She shuffled toward the offending noise, and as she drew back the heavy floral curtains, the cycling lights sprinted into the room and around the walls. She reached out and tried to touch the truck’s folded ladder, but her hand hit the windowpane instead.

With her sleep-blurred vision, Wynn thought she saw a tree on fire in her yard. The tree’s impending demise would be yet another unexpected loss for her. Just last month, Shirley, her neighbor of thirty years, had stopped visiting after she was moved into a nursing home. And six months ago, despite a legion of dedicated customers and decades of service, the grocer down on the corner had closed his tiny shop. The new economy didn’t have any room for him, he had said.

She stared out the window for the ten thousandth time but didn’t, or couldn’t, easily see that she was looking at the branded expression of hate. She wasn’t made that way. So she stood awhile longer before she recognized the true nature of the spectacle before her.

Oh, my—Lord, help me.

(From Chapter Two, page 16, of No Truth Left To Tell.)

What exciting story are you working on next?
I am working on two new stories. One involves the same protagonist in No Truth Left To Tell, Adrien Rush, battling a sophisticated and brutal group of human traffickers. The second story is about a quiet Czech professor who becomes a war hero while fighting in the free Czech army based in London during WWII. After the war, he must escape again when the communists take all his property in 1948 and try to arrest him as a subversive. The velvet revolution creates the chance for professor to return to his native Bohemia after over forty years in exile. He must battle the old communists––many of whom who are now the new democrats––to recover his property and to discover the life that he might have led.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I write professionally and have for thirty years. Some form of storytelling, or at least advocacy through communication, is a part of what I do and who I am as an attorney. However, I was humbled by the process of writing fiction which I started in 2016. I only recently became comfortable accepting the label “writer” without it being tethered to the legal profession.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your workday like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I balance writing with teaching law school on a part-time basis and also practicing law. I write nearly every day even if for only an hour.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I wake up during the night with an idea or phrase relating to an ongoing writing project. I grab my iPhone on the nightstand, and I type in whatever has just surfaced from the creative recesses in my head. I email the typed version of a scribble to myself (often accompanied by a short grunt or other verbal confirmation of my latest inspiration and the swish of the apple email being both sent and received by me). My wife doesn’t always appreciate this ritual, but the dog at the foot of the bed seems to get it.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An astronaut and a father. At least I accomplished the more important one.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Keep reading stories and sharing them. Sharing stories isn’t just an act of generosity, it’s also an exercise of self-preservation because we all need common experiences (real and imagined) to thrive.


Thanks for stopping by today, Michael.

No comments: