She is perhaps the most famous prosecutor in the history of the Los Angeles legal system. Marcia Clark, a specialist in criminal law, reknowned for her tenacity, preparation and affinity for scientific evidence, triumphed in 19 homicide investigations before landing the O.J. Simpson murder trial. After Simpson’s acquittal, Clark left her post, co-wrote a bestselling book, Without a Doubt (1997), and subsequently became a popular legal commentator on TV. This year, she brought legal mastery and insider knowledge to her first novel, Guilt by Association. The book introduces Los Angeles District Attorney Rachel Knight, as cunning and witty a prosecutor as her creator.
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What can we expect from Guilt by Association?
It’s a murder mystery set in L.A.’s law and order system with a little something for everyone—murder, rape, blackmail, street gangs, pornography, shady power brokers, and a blossoming love story. The leading characters are strong, no-B.S. women who don’t take themselves too seriously, so the dialogue has lots of wisecracking. It’s the kind of fast paced murder mystery/whodunit I love diving into.
Tell us about District Attorney Rachel Knight.
Rachel Knight’s childhood was marred by a traumatic event that occurred when she was just six years old. The damage to her psyche plays out in both her personal and professional lives. On the professional front, she has a need that verges on obsession to seek justice for others, which makes her a risk-taker who’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done. Though she’s brilliant, she’s impatient, has a smart mouth, and is headstrong to the point of being insubordinate—traits that frequently put her in the crosshairs of the powers that be.
What elements of your own experience work into Guilt by Association?
Being a prosecutor in the Special Trials unit of the DA’s office gave me the unique opportunity to work a case from the moment of filing to the final verdict. That meant I got to collaborate closely with detectives, interview witnesses, scope out crime scenes, and come up with ideas for gathering and analyzing the evidence. It’s a hands-on experience that can’t be duplicated. Then, of course, there’s the personal part–the camaraderie with the detectives and other prosecutors in the unit that made the job endlessly stimulating, fulfilling, and often one hell of a lot of fun.
What made you want to venture into the world of crime fiction?
Actually, crime fiction was my first love. I’ve wanted to write thrillers since I read Nancy Drew as a little kid. Over the years, I’ve read thousands of mysteries and thrillers, and with every single book, I think about what I would’ve done with the story, the characters, the dialogue. So in a way, I’ve been writing crime fiction in my head for many, many years.
As you know, there’s no shortage of material for crime fiction set in Los Angeles. What elements of its legal system interest you as a writer?
It’s the people. Rules, case law, procedure—all are ultimately applied, interpreted, expanded or bent by the people who work in the system. That means all the people: judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, jurors, bailiffs, court reporters, clerks … you name it. By no means is this unique to L.A., but it is what fascinates me, and I think, all crime writers.
Has it been challenging to separate your endeavors from your most famous trial?
I get my share of criticism, no question, and the Simpson trial will always lurk somewhere around no matter what I’m doing. But I find that most people are willing to let it go and focus on what’s current. After all, it’s been 15 years.
You’ve had some opportunities to meet readers and get feedback about Rachel Knight now. What is it about her that appeals to readers?
From what I’ve heard so far, they relate to her as a friend and want to hang out with her. Me too! That’s why I love writing her! Specifically, I’ve heard they like her sense of humor, her passion for the job, her loyalty, and her feisty attitude. They also seem to like the fact that she’s not spending her time picking petals off daisies (“He loves me, he loves me not …”). She’s independent, resourceful and, most of all, fun.
What can we expect in the future from novelist Marcia Clark?
My next book, which I’m working on now, also features Rachel Knight and her buddies, Bailey and Toni. My dream is to continue writing the Rachel Knight series for some time. I might do a few stand-alones along the way. But right now, I can’t see myself wanting to end the Rachel Knight series in the near future.