The Client (novel)
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The novel begins when eleven-year-old Mark Sway and his younger brother, Ricky, are in the woods near the mobile home park they live in with their mother, Dianne. A man driving a Cadillac arrives by where they are smoking cigarettes. W. Jerome "Romey" Clifford, a 44-year-old lawyer from New Orleans, Louisiana, gets out. It quickly becomes apparent that the noticeably drunk Clifford is intending to commit suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning when he inserts a garden hose into the car's exhaust pipe and runs it to the car window. Mark sneaks up and keeps pulling the hose from the tailpipe causing Clifford to get out of the car several times and reinsert it. Clifford eventually sees Mark and grabs him, pushing him into the car. Clifford tells Mark he wants to kill himself because he believes Barry "The Blade" Muldanno, will murder him, and he prefers dying on his own terms. Clifford is defending Muldanno, the nephew of a mob boss, for murdering U.S. Senator Boyd Boyette. Unfortunately, the prosecutors, led by "Reverend" Roy Foltrigg do not have the body. Muldanno previously told Clifford that he buried Boyette in concrete in Clifford's detached garage.
When Clifford passes out, Mark escapes. Clifford comes to shortly after and shoots himself, sending Ricky into severe shock from witnessing it. Mark calls the police and is later found at the scene. Police and the FBI discover that Mark was in the car and suspect he spoke with Clifford. Because Clifford knew where the body was buried, the FBI want to question Mark. Ricky, who has been hospitalized, is unresponsive and unable to provided information. Mark hires Regina "Reggie" Love, a lawyer and recovering alcoholic, to help. Meanwhile, Barry the Blade's cohorts burn the Sway's trailer and threaten Mark, leaving him reluctant to reveal anything to the FBI.
Mark is placed in juvenile lock-up (partly for protection, and partly to get him to talk) but he escapes. He and Reggie go to New Orleans to verify that the body is buried on Clifford's property, but Mafia henchmen are already there to move it. Mark creates a diversion and a neighbor emerges with a shotgun, scaring the men off. Mark and Reggie find Boyette's body. Reggie makes a deal with Foltrig enabling Mark and his family to enter the United States Federal Witness Protection Program in exchange for revealing to the FBI where the body is located. Before the Sway family flies to Phoenix, Mark and Reggie bid each other farewell.
Reggie Love: A lawyer who has been practicing for five years. Her original name is Regina Cardoni. She divorced her husband and spent time recovering from a nervous breakdown before becoming an attorney. She is a recovering alcoholic. She is an older woman in the novel, but the movie incarnation played by Susan Sarandon is slightly younger.
Barry Muldanno: Mafia member who is accused of killing a senator. A cold-blooded man, he plans on killing eleven-year old Mark.
Roy Foltrigg: U.S. government lawyer with political aspirations. His job is to prove that Barry Muldanno murdered the senator. He tries everything to make Mark talk and eventually proposes taking Mark to court in New Orleans where he thinks Mark can be persuaded to cooperate. He is the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Louisiana.
Slick Moeller: A crime reporter who works for the Memphis Press. His real name is actually Alfred but nobody in the book knows this. He never reveals the names of anyone who entrusted him with information. He knows everything about every crime committed, even before the police.
Paul Gronke: A close associate of Barry Muldanno. He is a tough thug, but not a killer like Muldanno.
Mac Bono: A close associate of the Sulari family. He is a convicted murderer and participates in the search for Mark Sway.
Gary Pirini: A close associate of the Sulari family. He helps search for Mark Sway.
Jack Nance and Calvin "Cal" Sisson: So-called "security specialists", they are actually thugs for hire. They are employed by Paul Gronke to help find Mark Sway.
Thomas Fink: An assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Louisiana. He argued a case before the Tennessee juvenile court to have Mark placed in the juvenile detention center.
George Ord: U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee. He helped Thomas Fink argue the case to have Mark placed in the juvenile detention center.
Dr. Greenway: The doctor that treats Ricky Sway.
Clint Van Hooser: Secretary to Reggie Love and a former drug abuser.
Harry Roosevelt: A judge of the Tennessee Juvenile Court. He tries to protect children because he was a neglected child.
Johnny Sulari: Boss of the Sulari family. An aging gangster, he nonetheless rules with an iron fist. Uncle of Barry Muldanno.
Jerome Clifford: An influential lawyer who represented Barry Muldano. Clifford commits suicide, which is witnessed by Mark and Ricky.
Chester Tanfill: President of Ark-Lon Fixtures, where Dianne Sway works.