American author and lawyer Scott Turow joined The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – Friday morning on the newsmakers line.
During the third hour, Turow discussed what inspired his newest novel “The Last Trial” where he continues to follow the aging life of much-loved attorney Sandy Stern who made his debut in the novel turned Hollywood blockbuster “Presumed Innocent.” He went onto discuss one of his and his fan’s favorite characters in the new book, Pinky Stern, and gave a glimpse into the premise of the story.
Leahy: We are joined now by one of my personal favorite authors. One of the all-time crime legal thriller writers Scott Turow. Welcome, Scott!
Turow: Thank you, Michael. I’m glad to be with you.
Leahy: It’s a real highlight of my radio broadcasting career to have you on here. By the way, you and I were on the Harvard campus at about the same time. You graduated from Harvard Law School in 1978. I was there as an undergrad in 1977. Unfortunately, we never crossed paths. You wrote a fabulous book called “One L” about your experiences then. You are still selling 30,000 of those a year?
Turow: Yes. “One L” continues to sell much to my amazement because its 42 or 43 years later as we both remember. And the book is still pretty popular especially with people going to law school or that are thinking about it or their families.
Leahy: Our listeners may recall the famous movie made out of your book, “Presumed Innocent” with Harrison Ford. A big blockbuster made over two hundred million back then. Your latest book is called “The Last Trial,” and it continues the story of Sandy Stern, who is the defense attorney there and he’s now in his 80s. If you don’t mind, I have to tell you that I read the prologue of this and its the best prologue I’ve ever read. It’s fabulous. It’s just very compelling.
Turow: Thank you. I think my editor who suggested the prologue head of Grand Central Publishing Ben Severe he will take a deep bow for that.
Leahy: Well, he should. It’s very interesting. Can I give a little bit away on the prologue?
Turow: Oh. Go for it.
Leahy: It starts with this: A woman shrieks in a courtroom. Well, that’s interesting. Why? And the protagonist is Sandy Stern, the attorney who defended the Harrison Ford character way back when in “Presumed Innocent.” He’s in his 80s and this is his last trial.
He’s on the floor not breathing and they’re trying to fix him and they are saying he’s not going to make it. Now my favorite character of this, he works with his daughter, and his granddaughter, who is a paralegal named Pinky Stern. She’s got a nail in her nose. When grandpa falls to the floor and there’s a scream she runs out of the building.
And you think well what’s she doing? Then she comes back with blood on her hands from breaking a glass pane, and she’s got . . . wait for it…a defibrillator. And I’m guessing she saves grandpa but I don’t know yet. What a great character.
Turow: People love Pinky.
Leahy: Yes! My favorite character. (Chuckles)
Turow: As does the author. If you ask me where she came from I have no idea. There is nobody in my life like Pinky.
Leahy: I was going to ask you that because your description of her is that she has tattoos with an attitude. She’s got like a nail in her nose. How big is her nail by the way?
Turow: It’s a one-inch nail.
Leahy: A one-inch nail in her nose.
Turow: Yes. So she’s odd and knows she’s odd and has gotten to the stage in her life where she simply embraces it. And she’s outspoken. Often inappropriately. And very very convinced about the correctness of her own opinions which sometimes have a considerable basis as it turns out and sometimes are just completely wrong.
Leahy: Well at the beginning of this she’s the one who took the right steps to save her grandfather.
Turow: Right. Right. Right. That’s a very good guess and certainly, that’s the right thing to do in any event. Everybody else in the courtroom has been rushing to Sandy Stern’s aid and she’s the one who thinks, wait a minute there may be equipment at hand that could save his life.
Leahy: Exactly. Why after you’ve introduced the character Sandy Stern way back in the 1980s was the first time you introduced him in “Presumed Innocent?” He successfully defended the Harrison Ford character there . . .
Turow: Played by Raul Julia by the way in the movie just to orient your listeners.
Leahy: Yes. The late great Raul Julia. He did a great job in that movie.
Turow: Absolutely. Absolutely. Although Raul Julia who was about six foot three and a very handsome man with a full head of hair is nothing like the character I described in the novel who was as he’s described elsewhere in another of my novels he’s basically dumpy.
And you would walk past him on the street without noticing anything. But when he stands up in the courtroom it’s like he has a beacon inside of him. And he’s just one of those people whose magic when you turn him on in court.
Leahy: Why did you decide to continue this character to his last trial? This is a longstanding character. His last gasp? His last trial? What compelled you to do this story?
Turow: Sandy Stern has made an appearance whether in the foreground or the background in every novel that I’ve written. And about ten years ago I published a novel called “Innocent,” which was the sequel to “Presumed Innocent.” And in that trial, Stern has advanced cancer. And looks like he’s on his last legs. So many readers wrote to me and said please please tell us that Sandy Stern is not dying. (Leahy chuckles)
And I said, no no no he’s not dying. But as I continued to write these books and Stern made his background appearances I began asking myself, “Well ok the guy was seriously seriously ill with cancer, what in the world could be saving him for such a prolonged period?” And that’s where I got the idea that he must have had treatment with some new wonder drug.
Leahy: Ah ha!
Turow: Not quite.
Leahy: That’s our friend Crom Carmichael that’s our all-star panelist.
Turow: Well, actually the hydroxychloroquine is one that is sort of at the edges of what goes on in “The Last Trial” because there is a lot of discussion of clinical trials for pharmaceutical products and how they work. And the problem in “The Last Trial” is not that this wonder drug invented by Stern’s long time friend Dr. Kiril Pafko and the winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine.
The problem isn’t that it doesn’t work. It’s a very successful therapy for many cancer patients. The problem is that after you’ve been taking it for about a year there is a small cohort of patients that just drop dead. They have a sudden allergic reaction.
And the issue really a moral and legal issue. But it’s one where the FDA has a pretty firm position which is if patients are going to take a drug like g-Livia or hydroxychloroquine they can only do it if they have fair warning about what all the side effects are and if those risks of those side effects outweigh the benefits of the drug.
So Kiril has not disclosed the fact that people can not only have their lives prolonged but the drug can also kill them. And so he’s now on trial for fraud, for insider trading and even for murder. And he was the guy who got g-Livia this wonder drug to Stern. And so he now comes back to Stern and says I saved your life now you save mine.
Leahy: As you wrote this Scott were you at all watching the unveiling drama of this high profile research company called Theranos out in Silicon Valley with Elizabeth Holmes? She’s on trial now too.
Turow: Yes. Yes. I don’t know how you pronounce the name of the company. You said Theranos. Inside my head I always said Thera-Nos.
Leahy: You could be right.
Turow: I could be wrong too. (Leahy laughs) I did read quite a bit about what when on there. A case I read a lot about was Viox. Sort of like Sandy Stern my interest in Viox was that I’ve got a bad back and I’ve always have taken it. And Merck, the company that made it had put it on the market, even though many of their doctors knew that it caused heart problems. There never was a criminal prosecution as I recall.
There were several celebrated civil trials that cost Merck a fortune because they had not let people know that this drug could exacerbate complicated heart conditions. And a point of fact that Biox is no longer on the market. The FDA and Merck and everybody else decided that the risk of a heart attack as compared to having your back pain just wasn’t worth it.
Turow: I am. You’re right.
Leahy: We might have a bit of a nice surprise for you next time you come back. Scott Turow, thanks for joining us.
Turow: Michael, thank you very much for that.
Listen to the full third hour here:
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