Martin Clark Interview

Five questions for this Virginia judge-turned-author.

The Plink Bounce by Martin Clark. Rare Bird Books. pp.356. $28.

Konstantin Rega: What inspired The Plinko Bounce?

Martin Clark: There are rare occasions when the legal system operates exactly as it should—there’s no corruption or shenanigans and everyone involved does quality work—but yet the outcome doesn’t track the objective truth. The most obvious examples: A guilty defendant walks free or an innocent defendant is found guilty. During nearly three decades as a judge, I experienced a tiny number of these unicorn aberrations where the Constitution or a particular statute limited the information a jury received at trial, and we wound up with a flawed verdict. I’ve sat on the bench and watched the commonwealth struggle to convict a guilty defendant whose confession was lawyered out of the evidence on a paperwork technicality. I tried a murder case where, pursuant to the law, the jury wasn’t allowed to consider critical facts supporting a defendant with a bona fide claim of innocence. This kind of failing is very much an exception, but how we address it both inside and outside the courtroom makes for a great fictional tale.  

What do you want readers to take away from your book?

More than anything, I want readers to be entertained. If you pay good money for a book, you deserve a good ride. I hope to give them a quality plot, memorable characters, a realistic, nuts-and-bolts view of the legal system, and a payoff at the end, with any luck, a payoff that’s unexpected and satisfying. As a side note, I hope to persuade Plinko Bounce readers that the vast majority of lawyers—especially public defenders—judges, clerks, and cops are decent, honest people, doing their level best in an occasionally imperfect system.  

How does your career in law guide you with your storytelling?

It’s provided the spark for all of my novels. I’ll never run out of stories, though some courtroom goings-on are so comically bizarre and far-fetched, no reader would ever believe them. Some are so sad and heartbreaking as to seem impossible.

Why did you decide to start writing legal thrillers?

Write what you know, isn’t that the rule? Plus, it cuts down on my research time. I will say, for me at least, there’s always a certain pressure not to screw up a legal issue when I’m writing a novel. Talk about embarrassing.  

Is there anything else in the works?

I have the start for the next one in mind, same as always. That said, and at the risk of sounding like Cher on a farewell tour, I’m not certain how many more are left in the tank. I’d be pushing seventy—hard to believe—when the next one hits, but I still enjoy writing books and will surely miss it when I do stop.

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