Lashner, William 1956(?)–
Lashner, William 1956(?)–
PERSONAL: Born c. 1956, in Philadelphia, PA; son of Melvin (an attorney) and Marilyn (Auerbach) Lashner; married Pam Ellen Stern, June 11, 1989; children: Nora, Jack, Michael. Education: Swarthmore College, B.A., 1979; New York University Law School, J.D.; graduate of University of Iowa Writer's Program, 1991.
ADDRESSES: Home—Philadelphia, PA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, William Morrow Publishers, 10 E. 53rd St., New York, NY 10022.
CAREER: Attorney and writer. Law clerk for Honorable James B. Moran, Chicago, IL, 1983–85; U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Washington, DC, trial attorney, 1985–86; Lashner & Lashner, Philadelphia, PA, partner, 1987–95.
MEMBER: Writer's Guild.
Hostile Witness, HarperCollins/Regan Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Veritas, HarperCollins/Regan Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Bitter Truth, HarperTorch (New York, NY), 2003.
Fatal Flaw, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2003.
Past Due, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2004.
Falls the Shadow, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2005.
Lashner's work has been translated into nine languages.
SIDELIGHTS: Philadelphia native William Lashner used his own experiences as a lawyer to write what would become his first published novel. Like attorneys-turned-authors John Grisham and Scott Turow, Lashner chalked up several years' experience in private practice after graduating from New York University Law School. He also worked for the Justice Department in Washington, DC, before returning to Philadelphia to work for his father's firm. He had penned two unpublished novels, and based on the lack of interest aroused by these more literary-minded works, decided to write a crime thriller. The result was 1995's Hostile Witness.
Hostile Witness's protagonist is Victor Carl, a Philadelphia attorney on a permanent losing streak. His resentful attitude is often targeted at the city's monied class, represented by the venerable and prestigious law firms that are his more successful opponents in the courtroom. "We weren't quite as down-and-out as Victor is," Lashner told a Publishers Weekly reviewer about the similarities between his family's firm and Victor's two-man office. "But we were always going up against big firms that had a dozen lawyers assigned cases while I was running around doing everything myself." As Hostile Witness gets underway, one such blueblood firm asks Victor Carl to serve as outside counsel for a defendant, an African-American aide to a scandal-plagued Philadelphia councilman. The two have been charged with extortion, but Carl soon realizes that his 15,000 dollar retainer fee is actually his reward for allowing the aide to get railroaded so that the councilman will walk free. Drug dealers, organized crime, a Hasidic detective, and a love interest all enter the fray. While faulting the book for "a shallow fascination with surfaces and types," Bill Kent in the New York Times Book Review noted that "Lashner's depictions of violence are appropriately nasty and unsettling, and his courtroom scenes achieve an echo of truth." People contributor Joanne Kaufman noted that the debut novel "has a good, gritty feel and a sardonic … protagonist who grows on you." The Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the book "is suspenseful" and "a promising debut." Resounding praise for the book came from Emily Melton, who wrote in Booklist: "Lashner has written a dark, gut-wrenching thriller…. In the tradition of his highly successful colleagues, Grisham and Turow, Lashner has written an absorbing legal thriller. What sets this one apart, though, is the dark, despairing view it takes of human nature. A superb, disturbing read."
Victor Carl appeared again in Lashner's next book, Veritas. In this "appealing noir murder mystery," as a Publishers Weekly writer described it, Carl helps Caroline Shaw, heiress to the Reddman pickle fortune. Caroline's sister Jackie recently died, and though the death appeared to be a suicide, Caroline believes her sister was killed by the Mafia in revenge for their brother's overdue gambling debts. Naturally, she is worried that she might be next. As Victor investigates the case and the Redmann family's history, many layers of nasty business are exposed, and he discovers that their entire fortune may have been built on a dishonest deal. "Energized by crisp and delightfully venal first-person narration, this guided tour through the lifestyles of the rich and nasty teems with clever plot twists and (literally) buried secrets, with greed and revenge running neck and neck as the winning motive of a patient murderer," noted the Publishers Weekly contributor. Booklist contributor Wes Lukowsky compared Lashner to top-notch suspense author Ross Macdonald. Lukowsky wrote that, like Macdonald, "Lashner invents a past that never relinquishes its hold on the present, wreaking havoc in subtle, often deadly fashion." Lukowsky went on to note that, unlike Macdonald's Lew Archer, however, who is an "empathetic hero," Victor Carl is "blind to both present and past in his quest for profound wealth. This unique updating of the Macdonald formula offers extremely entertaining reading."
Lashner has continued to write courtroom thrillers featuring Carl, including Bitter Truth, in which Carl gets mixed up with the mob as he tries to prove that a Philadelphia heiress did not commit suicide but was murdered. In Fatal Flaw, Carl takes on the case of lawyer Guy Forrest, who is accused of murdering his fiancée. The evidence is stacked against Forrest, who is Carl's good friend. Further complicating matters is the fact that Carl also had a relationship with the murdered woman. Nevertheless, Carl is convinced of Forrest's innocence and sets out to find the real killer, which takes him from Las Vegas to West Virginia, where he learns that the dead woman's high school sweetheart was also murdered. "It's the tallest of tall tales … but it's got robust drive," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor. David Pitt, writing in Booklist, commented: "This startling legal thriller is very, very good."
In Past Due, Lashner has Carl listening to a confession by one of his clients about a murder that took place twenty years earlier. When the client turns up shortly afterwards with his throat slashed, Carl is suspicious and sets out to find out who the murder victim was and who was the perpetrator. He soon finds that many of the potential suspects have achieved success in politics and law. "This is an extremely good crime novel, and it vaults Lashner into the upper reaches of the hardboiled universe," wrote Wes Lukowsky in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted, "Lashner's writing … gains depth and richness with every installment."
In Falls the Shadow, Carl finds himself defending Francois Dube, a chef, for the murder of his wife, even though Dube has already been convicted and has spent three years in jail. Although Carl thinks Dube is probably guilty, he takes the case and works with fellow lawyer Beth Derringer as they uncover the chef's unseemly past and try to come to terms with each other and their different views of the law. David Pitt, writing in Booklist, called the book "great fun and a wonderful antidote to the high seriousness of too many legal thrillers." A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that "the well-staged plot twists and Carl's amusingly amoral narration make for good beach reading."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 1995, Emily Melton, review of Hostile Witness, p. 1284; December 15, 1996, Wes Lukowsky, review of Vertitas, p. 692; March 15, 2003, David Pitt, review of Fatal Flaw, p. 1253; January 1, 2004, Wes Lukowsky, review of Past Due, p. 790; March 15, 2005, David Pitt, review of Falls the Shadow, p. 1247.
Entertainment Weekly, April 28, 1995, Mark Harris, review of Hostile Witness, p. 56.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2003, review of Fatal Flaw, p. 420; February 1, 2004, review of Past Due, p. 102; April 1, 2005, review of Falls the Shadow, p. 376.
Library Journal, March 15, 2004, Craig Shufelt, review of Past Due, p. 107.
New York Times Book Review, August 20, 1995, Bill Kent, review of Hostile Witness, p. 20.
People, May 22, 1995, Joanne Kaufman, review of Hostile Witness, pp. 34-35; June 23, 2003, Arion Berger, review of Fatal Flaw, p. 43; May 10, 2004, Edward Karam, review of Past Due, p. 58.
Publishers Weekly, February 20, 1995, review of Hostile Witness, p. 193; December 9, 1996, review of Veritas, p. 59; March 3, 1997, review of Veritas, p. 30; April 21, 2003, review of Fatal Flaw, p. 37; February 2, 2004, review of Past Due, p. 56; April 18, 2005, review of Falls the Shadow, p. 43.
Texas Lawyer, June 6, 2005, Michael P. Maslanka, review of Falls the Shadow.
Bookreporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (January 9, 2004), "William Lashner," interview with author.
William Lashner Home Page, http://www.williamlashner.com (November 7, 2005).