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 hard-nosed lawyer. The fictional character has appeared in ten novels with an eleventh scheduled for publication in 2015, twenty-five years after the first, To Speak for the Dead. Lassiter 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 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: Justice on the Bayou" – was produced by Stephen J. Cannell and appeared as an NBC movie-of-the-week 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 dialog 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. But the book’s best quality is the way Levine invests his characters with believable humanity. A compulsively readable yet character-driven thriller."
Levine also wrote "9 Scorpions," a thriller set at the Supreme Court of the United States. (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, i.e., too many older viewers, too few younger viewers. Turning that around, the author noted 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 a popular blog, covering fiction, film, the justice system, and occasionally college football. He has named Rabbit, Run by John Updike as his favorite novel and Anatomy of a Murder by John D. Voelker (writing as Robert Traver) as his favorite legal thriller.
Levine's writing style has been likened to that of John D. MacDonald, Carl Hiaasen, and Elmore Leonard. "It’s not a coincidence that after Elmore Leonard received the first John D. MacDonald Fiction Award, the second year’s prize went to Levine."
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 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 Payne novel: Levine’s 2009 novel, Illegal, is more hardboiled 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 into the world of human trafficking and sexual slavery. A departure from his earlier work, Illegal has elements of advocacy journalism as well as the author's characteristic humor.
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 of Mystery Readers International and the Thurber Prize for American Humor. The Deep Blue Alibi was nominated for an Edgar Award. Kill All the Lawyers was a finalist for the International Thriller Writers Awards. State vs. Lassiter was nominated for the Shamus Award.
At the University of Miami School of Law, he served on the championship team at the National Moot Court Competition and was an editor of the Law Review. He graduated with a degree in journalism from Pennsylvania State University where he was editor-in-chief of The Daily Collegian. 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.
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.
- To Speak for the Dead (1990)
- Night Vision (1991)
- False Dawn (1993)
- Mortal Sin (1994)
- Slashback (1995) (re-titled Riptide)
- Fool Me Twice (1996)
- Flesh & Bones (1997)
- 9 Scorpions (1998) (re-titled Impact)
- Solomon vs. Lord (2005)
- The Deep Blue Alibi (2006)
- Kill All the Lawyers (2006)
- Trial & Error (2007) (re-titled Habeas Porpoise)
- Illegal (2009)
- The Road to Hell (2010) (short story anthology)
- Ballistic (2011)
- Lassiter (2011)
- Paydirt (2012)
- Last Chance Lassiter (2012)
- State vs. Lassiter (2013)
- Bum Rap (2015)
- "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.
- "Solomon vs. Lord," Book Review by Joe Hartlaub, September 30, 2005
- Review, Solomon vs. Lord, by David J. Montgomery, Chicago Sun-Times, October 17, 2005.
- Booklist, Review by Thomas Gaughan, March 2009.
- Panel Discussion, Miami International Book Fair, November 2003.
- "The Good, the Bad, and the Nutty: Mystery Writer Tackles Hollywood," The Third Degree, Mystery Writers of America, September 2005.
- "State vs. Lassiter:Following the Elmore Leonard Playbook," by Joe Meyers, Connecticut Post, October 23, 2013.
- Review, Solomon vs. Lord Publishers Weekly, August 1, 2005, p. 50.
- "South Florida Schemes," by Jean Heller, St. Petersburg Times, March 6, 1994, p. 5D.
- "An Old Case Vexes Miami Lawyer," by Oline Cogdill, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, September 4, 2011.
- "Illegal has such a strong page-turning narrative that Levine’s detailed reporting on immigration never gets in the way of the suspense and the black comedy.” Book Review by Joe Meyers, Connecticut Post, April 6, 2009.