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Paul Levine is an American author of crime fiction, particularly legal thrillers. His novels have been translated into 21 languages. He has written two series, known generally by the names of the protagonists: "Jake Lassiter" and "Solomon vs. Lord."
Lassiter, a Penn State linebacker who played for Joe Paterno, was not drafted by an NFL team. Signed as a free agent by the Miami Dolphins, he played mostly on the "suicide squads," but went to night law school at the University of Miami and became a hardnosed lawyer. The fictional character has appeared in ten novels. He has been described by Booklist as “one of the most entertaining series characters in contemporary crime fiction” and by The Miami Herald as having “a lot more charisma than Perry Mason ever did.”
"To Speak for the Dead," the first of the Lassiter series, was honored as one of the ten best mysteries of the year by the Los Angeles Times, which described Lassiter as “Travis McGee with a law degree.” A screen adaptation of the book – re-titled "Jake Lassiter on the Bayou" – became an NBC movie in 1995.
Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord, squabbling Miami lawyers, appeared in four books. The banter between the mismatched law partners has been described by Bookreporter.com as “reminiscent of the very best of David and Maddie in Moonlighting.” The Chicago Sun-Times' review of "Solomon vs. Lord" declared: "Remarkably fresh and original with characters you can't help loving and sparkling dialogue that echoes the Hepburn-Tracy screwball comedies."
Levine’s novel, “Illegal,” featured Jimmy (Royal) Payne, a down-on-his-luck Los Angeles lawyer who is caught up in a human trafficking scheme. Calling the book a “riveting read,” Booklist noted the reality-based nature of the fiction: “The portrait of the dangers and predations that Latinos face crossing the border is chilling and rings with authenticity.”
Levine also wrote "9 Scorpions," a thriller set at the U.S. Supreme Court. (Published in 1998 by Simon & Schuster, the novel is still in print under the title "Impact.") The book was the inspiration for the television series First Monday, which Levine co-created with veteran producer Donald P. Bellisario. The show, starring James Garner, Joe Mantegna, and Charles Durning, appeared on CBS in 2002. The series was canceled due to poor ratings in key demographics, Levine protesting that First Monday was “a hit with the crowd between Medicare and the mortuary.”
Levine also wrote 21 teleplays for the CBS military series JAG, which aired from 1995 to 2005. He has been quoted by The Third Degree as saying that his greatest accomplishment on the series was “landing on an aircraft carrier and steering a nuclear submarine, both without endangering national security.”
Levine has written, with a self-deprecating tone, about beginning his Hollywood career at the advanced age of 51. “Before I traveled west, I thought Hollywood writers rolled into work around 11 a.m., scribbled for a couple hours, drank their lunch at Musso and Frank's, then cracked wise with starlets the rest of the day. Like Rick, who came to Casablanca for the waters, I was misinformed.”
He also writes the Paul Levine Blog, essays about popular culture, fiction, the justice system, and occasionally college football.
Solomon vs. Lord series: Levine’s novels often have a sly, sardonic tone. Publishers Weekly wrote that 'Solomon vs. Lord' had “genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Fans of Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry will enjoy this humorous Florida crime romp.” Though novels of crime fiction, they often revolve around the conflict between Victoria Lord, a by-the-book lawyer and her ethically challenged partner, Steve Solomon, who lives by “Solomon’s Laws:”
“When the law doesn’t work, work the law.”
“Lie to your priest, your spouse, and the IRS, but always tell your lawyer the truth.”
“I will never break the law, breach legal ethics, or risk jail time...unless it’s for someone I love.”
Jake Lassiter series: The St. Petersburg Times compared the hero of Levine’s first series with the protagonists of John D. MacDonald and Robert B. Parker: “For those of us who can’t get enough Spenser and miss Travis McGee terribly, there is Jake Lassiter.” After a 14-year hiatus since "Flesh & Bones" in 1997, "Lassiter" was published in by Random House in 2011. Raven award-winning critic Oline Cogdill wrote: "Levine's energetic storytelling works well in 'Lassiter' as the author manages to make his novel serious, witty and sardonic -- sometimes in the same sentence...'Lassiter' makes us remember how much we enjoyed Jake's company. It's good to have him back."
Jimmy (Royal) Payne series: Levine’s 2009 novel, "Illegal," is more hard boiled than the earlier series. Set in motion when a mother and son are wrenched apart on a midnight border crossing, the book introduces Jimmy (Royal) Payne, a lawyer who uncharacteristically tries to do the right thing and is swept up in the world of human trafficking and sexual slavery.
Levine was the second recipient (after Elmore Leonard) of the John D. MacDonald Award for Excellence in Florida Fiction. He was also the winner of the Inkwell Award presented by the South Florida Writers Association.
"Solomon vs. Lord" was nominated for the Macavity Award and the Thurber Prize for American Humor. "The Deep Blue Alibi" was nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe award. "Kill All the Lawyers" was a finalist for the International Thriller Writers Award.
He is also the recipient of Penn State’s Distinguished Alumnus Award and has served as an Alumni Fellow in the university’s College of Communications. In law school, he served on the national championship moot court team and was an editor of the Law Review.
Levine graduated with a degree in journalism from Penn State University. He graduated cum laude from the University of Miami School of Law, despite claiming to have majored in the swimming pool.
A lawyer before becoming a full-time novelist, Levine was a partner in the Miami office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, a Philadelphia-based law firm. Later, while writing his first two novels, he was “of counsel” to Grossman and Roth, P.A. Prior to attending law school, Levine was a reporter for The Miami Herald. While a practicing lawyer, he served as a legal commentator for WPLG-TV and later, WTVJ-TV in Miami. He wrote and appeared on You & the Law, a television segment syndicated by Newsweek Broadcasting. He also taught communications law as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Miami School of Law.
"An Old Case Vexes Miami Lawyer," by Oline Cogdill, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, September 4, 2011.
"Lassiter's Latest: A Patricide in Sobe," by Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald, January 5, 1997.
"Bloody Sunday," by Charles Champlin, Los Angeles Times, September 9, 1990, Book Review, p. 10.
"The Good, the Bad, and the Nutty: Mystery Writer Tackles Hollywood," The Third Degree, September 2005 (Mystery Writers of America)
Publishers Weekly, August 1, 2005, p. 50.
"South Florida Schemes," by Jean Heller, St. Petersburg Times, March 6, 1994, p. 5D.