Book Club: Lawyer releases second courtroom thriller
By Hannah Larrew
According to Glenn, he has no plans of stopping when it comes to writing or publishing. He will soon accept manuscripts to publish under the Cooper River Books name, primarily looking for stories in the Southern Fiction genre.
Many of our finest mystery writers are recovering lawyers in possession of memory banks filled with courtroom sagas waiting to be transformed into novels. Mount Pleasant lawyer-turned-author, E. Vernon F. Glenn, is the epitome of this — a storytelling machine with endless tales born from the many cases he’s tried over the course of 40 years and counting.
Glenn’s first novel, a courtroom thriller called “Friday Calls,” was written almost entirely based on true crime events experienced throughout his life and career in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The novel’s protagonist, Eddie Terrell, is strongly based on Glenn himself. Terrell is a trial lawyer who is often humorous, but through the jokes you also get a sense for the author’s legal expertise. His second book, “You Have Your Way,” which just came out on April 13th, shares the next chapter of Terrell’s adventures, or rather, misadventures.
The novel’s protagonist, Eddie Terrell, is strongly based on Glenn himself.
WithKirkus Reviewscalling the book “a diverting misadventure about a legal representative’s illegalities,” Glenn takes us on a ride that explores the darker side of humanity. Eddie Terrell is somewhat of a lost soul, and in “You Have Your Way,” he’s facing an extreme midlife crisis that eventually lands him in the middle of an illegal investment scheme. Through Terrell’s escapades, this story shows the many parts of being human — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
An interesting component to Glenn’s story is that he didn’t write his first book until he was 67. Now, at 71 years old, he’s publishing “You Have Your Way” under his own publishing imprint, Cooper River Books. The name comes from a deep pride for his Lowcountry home base of some 37 years. According to Glenn, he has no plans of stopping when it comes to writing or publishing. He will soon accept manuscripts to publish under the Cooper River Books name, primarily looking for stories in the Southern Fiction genre.
I caught up with Glenn to talk about his recent novel and where we can catch him next.
How long did it take you to write “You Have Your Way”?
VG: As a point of reference, I wrote my first novel, “Friday Calls,” over the sporadic span of about a year and a half, probably more. I was erratic and would pick it up, mess with it and then put it back down again. It had a relatively well-conceived, laid-out plot that made putting it down and picking it up easy to do. I laid the plot out on a poster board which looks like elementary school ‘webbing’ — I still have it in my office upstairs as a reminder.
With this book, circumstances sent me down a different path. I had put a little down here and there but again, my side-car buddy inconsistency was leering at me; better “the devil you know,” right? I had about 5,000 words and they were pretty good, but there was no urgency. Hell, I’d already written a pretty good book, right? No rush. Then I went out to Montana for three weeks with a bad hamstring. Everybody out there walked and hiked and got out in the air and hills. I could limp at best 25 yards. So, I planted myself at the counter in the cabin's kitchen and three weeks later, flew out of Bozeman with 35,000 solid words and never turned back. Back in Charleston, I just kept rolling. Lesson learned? There is more than one way to skin a cat.
How much of it would you say is based on things you’ve seen/experienced in the courtroom?
VG: Almost all of it! I have, of course, taken plenty of license in creating some characters and scenarios, but the great majority of it is the ‘real deal’ (and will continue to be). I am so lucky to have had a long, intense, crazily successful trial and courtroom career, as well as a diverse and intriguing life beyond law. So, I have a couple of lifetimes of good material to work with. But, when I became a baby lawyer, little did I know, I was being trained to be a writer; of course, having a classic liberal arts education certainly helped.
What made you decide to start your own publishing business?
VG: Starting a publishing business that has now grown into Cooper River Books was not the original idea. I just wanted to write a book, and I did. I wrote “Friday Calls” which was well-received. My editor, learning of the book’s initial very positive and broad reception, decreed that I needed a publicist. A press agent? I was mystified. Where does one find such a person? She guided me to my inestimable publicist, who is located right down here in the Lowcountry. And off we have gone. Along the way, she asked me what I thought about beginning to actually to publish books. The more she educated me, the more it just fit. We are putting it together and hunting manuscripts soon.
What kinds of books are you looking to publish?
VG: I would like to focus on Southern Fiction. Call it Algonquin Lite.
What would you say is the overall theme in “You Have Your Way”?
VG: To quote my sainted Mother, “There is so much good in all of us and so much bad in all of us as well that it behooves all of us to say nothing about any of it to anyone.” (Yes, at 96, she still says things like that and a lot more too! You ain’t got enough time, I promise!). We are all inconsistent. No one is immune, and those inconsistencies run the gamut. Show me the perfect person and given a quiet hour, I can find the roadmap to most if not all of their winnings and failings.
It helps that I am, occasionally, a seasoned, cynical, suspicious and examining trial lawyer; good training for such explorations. We all do good things. We all do not-so-good things. We all sometimes do really bad things. I am always amused when they drag out the old, tired Jimmy Carter anecdote about, “I have sinned in my heart,” and thus anoint him as some sort of Ghandi-like saint. News Flash. We all sin in our hearts and our minds and often too, all over our and others’ lives. And that is a constant in the human condition. Nothing is gonna change there.
Is Eddie Terrell based on yourself? What qualities do you share?
VG: In great part, Eddie Terrell sure is a lot of me. Qualities we share? About all of them. I do admit that some of Eddie’s dodgy, edgy schemes are the flights of fancy and invention, but it’s interesting to me that I can think them up in such precise detail, so in one very specific way, they are quite real. A useful exercise, I submit, is to think of the unthinkable and then analyze it, asking yourself, “Could I do this? Can I do this? Can I save a life, commit a crime, kill a man?” And so forth. I promise you it’ll make your brain a little twisty. But so far, and happily so, my WANTED poster isn’t up in the Post Office. For sure, Eddie ain’t boring and neither am I.
What do you most love about Charleston, and why did you decide to name your imprint after the Cooper River Bridge?
VG: I think I am very lucky in that I came to Charleston 37 years ago as a blank sheet of paper. I had traveled extensively all over the place but before then had never made the trip from my hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. That still amazes me. Why hadn’t I gotten here sooner?
The ‘naming’ of Cooper River Books and its ensuing imprint came about comfortably. I was walking the iconic Double Diamonds of The Arthur some time ago and the sun was shining; the river was glimmering and glistening and there it was, a sort of “I should have had a V-8 moment.” My talented team then came up with a few drawings and it just birthed. Thus, a new part of my new career slides into place.
What are you working on next? Can you give us a sneak peek into the next book?
VG: I had the privilege of listening to the remarkable Joyce Carol Oates speak about her writing and processes a few years ago. She noted that writing her books (and indeed she is prolific!) consists of two predominant efforts: 75% thinking about the book, its plot, structure, composition and so forth — this takes time and happens when she is walking, riding her bicycle, teaching her classes at Princeton, brushing her teeth — while 25% comprises the rest; the actual writing. She told us she writes the beginning and the end and then the middle until they connect. This appeals to me. I think about what I am going to write next all the time and will now try to specifically create the engine and the caboose and their connecting train. We’ll see.
I have started it. The title will be “Slim and None.” Sneak Peek? Eddie Terrell matures (some) and much more success and trouble will come his way. He will never be so hard-challenged as he will be here. His good heart will be hurt. How will he fight back? Stay tuned.
According to Glenn, there’s no such thing as a final act. The sky is the limit for him. He's celebrating the launch of “You Have Your Way” with a party at Community Table on Sunday, May 16, from 6-8 p.m. with complimentary drinks and heavy hors d’oeuvres. The event is free to attend, but RSVP is required. To confirm your spot, please email Hannah Larrew here.
“You Have Your Way” is available for purchase through online retailers and your local independent bookstore for $18.95.