• Character Insight: Darren then vs. now - compare and contrast his character before and after his “fall”
A lot of Darren’s past is explored in the books that follow Motor City Shakedown, so I have to skirt some of those details to avoid potential spoilers. But, yes, Darren was certainly a different lawyer before the tragedy that sent him spiraling down to the depths in which we find him at the beginning of the book.
When I picture that earlier Darren, he’s the sort of lawyer who likes to get in front of juries. He’s a talker and a charmer, someone who can make convincing appeals to both reason and emotion. A trial lawyer.
Firms have these guys, the ones whose time is not spent researching or writing motions and briefs. Other lawyers work that side of the case. When the drop-dead date for trial shows up, most times there is a last minute settlement or plea and the jury is never needed. When that doesn’t happen, and a trial is inevitable, the lawyers who have been working the motions and doing the research and what-not aren’t the lawyers who are presented to the jury. Because this is ‘The Show’, and you need whoever your person is that can best put on a show. Darren was one of those guys.
Now, everything I wrote above is predicated on an unfortunate truth: a defendant only gets that kind of legal representation if they are rich. Not even middle class people can afford a legal team to keep them out of trouble. So while it wasn’t explicitly delved into in the book, Darren was likely associated with a prominent firm or was at least someone that other firms would bring in for the trial phase of a lucrative case.
Beyond his professional life, I think Darren was lonely. Ever since moving to Detroit, he’s lead a solitary existence up in the penthouse apartment of the Fort Sheldon Tower. I don’t think he dated all that much, not just because he was so busy with work, but also because he isn’t particularly frivolous with his heart. He was alone in his luxurious perch and probably his drinking habit first began there, though it took a tragedy to really turn that habit into something self-destructive.
When we find him, it’s in the aftermath. He’s taking court appointed cases, representing the poor. He’s been struggling with that new reality. Court appointed work means you, as the lawyer, handle every single aspect of the case from start to finish. The drudge work and the little legal details are all up to you. It is very rare that you go to trial and even when you do there is no money whatsoever to put on expert witnesses or hire jury consultants or craft good presentation aids. The most extravagant expense is usually running down to the local Salvation Army or Goodwill and finding a second-hand suit for your client to wear in front of the jury instead of his jailhouse jumper.
All of that has certainly been an eye opener for Darren by the time we find him running his law practice out of the back booth of Winkle’s Tavern. He still has a passion to help people, to be useful, but he’s paralyzed with guilt and self-medicating with alcohol. The phone rings, a big case is waved under his nose, and he ambles out into the light of day with the hope that maybe he can start his life over and get back to who he used to be. Then Izzy unwittingly stumbles into his life and it stops being about getting back things he’s lost, and instead becomes more about looking to a future where he doesn’t have to be alone anymore, up there in his tower.
Motor City Shakedown
by Jonathan Watkins
Series: Bright and Fletcher #1
Publisher: Carina Press
Amazon | B&N
Darren Fletcher, once the rising star of Detroit's criminal justice system, has fallen far. All the way to an office in a smoky dive bar on the wrong side of the city. But a single phone call could be the key to climbing out of his downward spiral: a police brutality victim needs his help, and the family's willing to pay. Big-time.
Issabella Bright's daily panic attacks aren't entirely due to her decision to forgo a flashy firm and go out on her own, but that's a large part of it. She never thought she'd resort to ambulance chasing, until the story about a SWAT raid gone wrong proves too intriguing to ignore—it's the perfect chance to prove she made the right decision.
But Issabella's not the only one after the job.
Darren's connections are enough to get past the cops stonewalling them both at the hospital, but only a judge's order makes Issabella even consider teaming up with the disheveled attorney and his weird—and weirdly effective—methods. But as the case deepens and it becomes clear the Detroit PD is concealing a much bigger conspiracy, Darren and his methods may be all that keep her alive.
About Jonathan Watkins:
Jonathan Watkins lives and works in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He earned his Bachelor's Degree in Art and Children's Literature from Eastern Michigan University and his Juris Doctorate from Thomas M. Cooley Law School. A life-long fan of detective fiction, Jonathan is the author of the Bright and Fletcher mystery series. He lives in Ann Arbor with his wife, who is too good for him. They are blessed with two kind-hearted sons.
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