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Rediscovering HIGH CRIMES

02/15/2011

Counting down to the paperback reissue of HIGH CRIMES, I’ve been looking at the book again, for the first time in a while. HIGH CRIMES first appeared in 1998, after all, and I’ve written six novels since then (with a seventh now in progress). I’ve seen the movie more recently than I’ve reread my own book; the movie shows up on cable pretty regularly, while the book just sits on my shelf and waits to be taken down again.

You can’t ask an author “Which book is your favorite?” because it’s like asking a parent to name his or her favorite child. Easy enough when you have only one, but I’ve got 10, soon to be 11 (books, not children). I have to do what parents of large families do, and identify specific things about each book that I’m particularly fond of, or proud of.

It takes time to write a book. Revisiting my books feels a bit like time travel, especially as I look over the pages of acknowledgments. HIGH CRIMES, set in the world of national security and military courtrooms, required a lot of research. It would not have been possible without the help of dozens of experts who shared their knowledge about everything from surveillance technologies to courts-martial. Reading my acknowledgments feels like paging through a yearbook, as I remember all of these people, several of whom became lasting friends.

HIGH CRIMES, for those of you unfamiliar with the book or the movie, is the story of Claire Heller Chapman (in the film, Claire Kubik), a Harvard law professor and criminal defense attorney with a beautiful six-year-old daughter and a husband, Tom, who’s almost too good to be true. As Claire, Tom and Annie finish a celebratory dinner in a downtown Boston shopping mall, federal agents show up to arrest Tom for murder, saying he’s been a fugitive from justice and the U.S. military for 13 years. Nothing Claire believes about her life may be true — but she believes in her husband, and will marshal all the resources at her disposal to defend him. That ultimately includes taking on his defense herself.

So which piece of HIGH CRIMES am I most fond and proud of? It has to be the characters of Claire and Annie. Claire’s one of only two female protagonists I’ve created — the other is FBI agent Sarah Cahill, heroine of THE ZERO HOUR — and I still love her, 13 years later. She’s smart, strong, loving and brave, but she’s also a flawed human being. She does things she knows she shouldn’t (including smoking after she’s quit, a habit that seems downright shocking in this decade). She’s obstinate, even when it doesn’t serve her, and at times she’s downright reckless. In the end, though, she draws on her extraordinary resources to do whatever it takes to protect what she loves most. HIGH CRIMES is dedicated to my own wife and daughter, and while Claire and Annie are fictional characters, the women in my life played major roles in creating them.

I’ll be interested to hear from new readers about how the story elements of HIGH CRIMES hold up, 13 years after its original publication. HIGH CRIMES was written seven years after the first Gulf War, three years before the September 11 attacks, and six years before the disclosures of abuses at Abu Ghraib. Are the crimes Tom stands accused of less shocking now than they were 13 years ago? I don’t think so. In fact, I hope not. I hope the characters and story feel as strong to new readers today as they did to me 13 years ago. But I trust readers will let me know.

Giveaways of paperbacks and DVDs of HIGH CRIMES will continue between now and March 1. Subscribe to the newsletter, “like” the Facebook fan page, and follow me on Twitter for chances to win!