Paul Levine was among the first wave of Florida authors to show readers the oddness and beauty of the Sunshine State.
Jake Lassiter, the linebacker-turned-lawyer, first appeared in Paul Levine’s To Speak for the Dead in 1990. Nearly three decades later, Lassiter is still navigating the shark-infested waters of the justice system in Bum Luck. The story opens ominously: “Thirty seconds after the jury announced its verdict, I decided to kill my client.”
Paul: I see you’re in trouble again, Jake.
Jake: Don’t blame me. I only follow orders from you, scribbler.
Paul: That’s a cop-out, tough guy. You’ve got a mind—and a mouth—of your own.
Jake: News flash. Fictional characters don’t have free will.
Paul: Really? Did I tell you to try and kill Thunder Thurston, your own client?
Jake: I don’t remember. My brain’s a little fuzzy.
Paul: No wonder. How many concussions have you had?
Jake: Sure, blame the victim. You’re the one who made me run full speed into a goalpost, splitting my helmet in two.
Paul: But I warned you not to get into the boxing ring with the Sugar Ray Pincher. Another concussion, and next day, you’re standing on a 20th floor balcony, threatening to push Thurston over the railing.
Jake:Thurston killed his wife. He deserved to die.
Paul: The jury said not guilty. After you argued his case.
Jake: I’m ashamed.
Paul: Whatever happened to “Jake Lassiter. Last bastion between freedom and forty years in a steel cage. The guy you call when you’re guilty as hell.”
Jake: Your words, scribbler. Not mine.
Paul: Didn’t you used to say, “They don’t call us sharks for our ability to swim?”
Jake: I’m drowning here. Can’t you see that? Because of me, a murderer went free.
Paul: Snap out of it, Jake! You were just doing your job.
Jake: Your job. You sent me to night law school. You made me take the bar exam four times. You pushed me into criminal law. I could have coached high school football in a pleasant little burg in Vermont, but no, you made me a trial lawyer.
Paul: I’ve never known you to be such a whiner.
Jake: (groans) What have you done to me? Splitting headaches. Memory loss. Confusion. Solomon and Lord think I have brain damage.
Paul: I never told you to use your helmet as a battering ram.
Jake: Once you made me a linebacker, what did you think would happen?
Paul: (apologetically) Truth be told, Jake, I didn’t think about the future. No one knew about chronic traumatic encephalopathy back in the day.
Jake: You gave me another concussion in the game against the Jets where I made the tackle on the kickoff, recovered the fumble, and stumbled to the wrong end zone.
Paul: Sorry about that.
Jake: All these years later, the judges still call me “Wrong Way Lassiter.” Sorry doesn’t cut it, pal.
Paul: (brightens) There’s some good news, Jake. Dr. Melissa Gold, a neuropathologist at UCLA, is making progress with athletes suffering from C.T.E. She’s also very attractive.
Paul: You’re going to meet her about halfway through Bum Luck.
Jake: I knew that. I must have forgotten. Do she and I...you know?
Paul: No spoilers, sport.
Jake: I’m hoping she’s a keeper. It’s about time you gave me a soul mate instead of a cellmate.
Paul: Not my fault you choose women who break up with you by jumping bail and fleeing town.
Jake: C’mon, old buddy. Can’t you tell me if I kill Thunder Thurston? And if I do, whether I get away with it? And if I live or die?
Paul: The answers, old buddy, can be found in Bum Luck. Just shell out a few bucks and you’ll know.
Jake: I oughta break all your fingers so you can never type another word.
Paul: Don’t even think about it. Hey, what are you doing? Ouch! Let go of me. Stop before I—