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Davis-based author returns with legal thriller

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From page A1 | May 14, 2013 |

New York Times bestselling author John Lescroart of Davis has a new legal thriller out, "The Ophelia Cut." Local residents can hear him speak and buy signed copies of his book at The Avid Reader on Tuesday, May 21. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

Meet the author

Who: John Lescroart, discussing and signing copies of his newest novel, “The Ophelia Cut”

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 21

Where: The Avid Reader, 617 Second St.

Approach the small downtown Davis abode in which local author John Lescroart writes with care, lest you discover what’s inside.

It’s the scene of a murder, in which there are no obvious clues as to who the killer may be.

Or at least that’s the picture you’d likely get if you were to reach to his shelves and pry open one of the more than 20 books Lescroart has written over the years. His novels have primarily been of the crime-drama sort, each brimming with thrills and mystery.

In Lescroart’s most recent novel, “The Ophelia Cut,” the portrait would be of a courtroom, wherein a man stands charged of murdering his daughter’s alleged rapist.

“The Ophelia Cut” continues the long-running narrative of protagonist Dismas Hardy, an ex-cop and lawyer. The fictional defense attorney must defend his brother-in-law and old friend Moses McGuire in the aforementioned case.

Lescroart found inspiration to continue his saga in the way he usually does: by buckling down to write, which he does from early in the morning until around 5 p.m. each weekday in his Davis home-office.

Though he admits to sometimes being struck with the curse that is writer’s block, the contemporary issues and themes that he decided to focus on in “The Ophelia Cut” acted as a creative spark enough to keep him going.

“It became an absolute killer story,” he said, no pun intended. “It’s kind of magic when that happens. You plan a little bit, get an outline and a basis for what to write about. Then, if all the planets align, other stuff comes up.

“That’s what happened with ‘The Ophelia Cut,’ it became this serendipitous well-spring of inspiration. … I just had this incredibly compelling group of issues that fell in my lap.”

It’s the first story of Lescroart’s to follow a trial since “A Plague of Secrets,” which was released in 2009. Most of his stories in between have fit more within the confines of a traditional action-thriller.

Despite how serious elements of “The Ophelia Cut’s” courtroom portions are, Lescroart makes it a point to insert some humor for a bit of comic relief.

“I have some courtroom scenes that when I was writing, I was laughing out loud,” he said. “It’s real things that could happen. My basic job is to entertain, and I think that this book does that.”

Though Lescroart is no stranger to writing of legal proceedings, his background is in no way similar to that of his fictional defense attorney.

Instead, authoring these “legal thrillers” was the niche he fell into, a key to turn his part-time writing hobby into a full-time job. He wrote his first novel upon moving to Davis in 1992.

He helps others turn their passion into a profession at the UC Davis creative writing graduate program, which he supported with a $50,000 donation in 2005. He endows prizes for winners of a long-form fiction writing contest, nearly all of which have gone on to be published.

Speaking of it hearkens back to the “life-changing” award he received, which put him on course to become an author. Just after he turned 30, his off-hand submission earned him $2,000 out of a pool of more than 200 other entrants.

Since then, Lescroart has been more than able to make a living off of writing. His past 15 novels, all of the San Francisco-based Dismas Hardy series, have hit New York Times bestseller list.

“My life is pretty good,” he said. “Well, I guess ‘pretty good’ is hardly the word; it’s ridiculous.”

And it only improves when his literary works strike the right chord with audiences, as he hopes is the case with “The Ophelia Cut.”

“Anecdotally, I’ve heard from a lot of people that I’ve sent advance copies to that it’s their favorite book of mine,” Lescroart said.

There’s plenty more opportunity for him to hear feedback, praise or otherwise, from locals at an upcoming book-signing at The Avid Reader, 617 Second St. He’ll be there at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, for those who dare to meet the man with the veneer of mystery.

— Reach Brett Johnson at bjohnson@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett

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