Our guest today is Harper Dimmerman, Esquire, a leading trial lawyer who is also a frequent lecturer to other attorneys, long-standing columnist with a seminal legal publication on the East Coast and an adjunct professor at Temple University. After obtaining his degree in English literature from Vassar, he went on to found his own law firm. Following his passion for fiction and drawing upon his own experiences from the courtroom, Harper writes legal thrillers devoted to the precarious exploits of the Chicago transplant, the dashing and cerebral Hunter Gray.
Hello Harper, thank you for visiting. Your debut novel JUSTICE HUNTER was released mid-April of 2012 to great fanfare, with Hunter’s plight disproving the pithy pearls of wisdom bandied about by Clarence Darrow, “There is no such thing as justice—in or out of court.” Would you be so kind to give readers a one-sentence synopsis of JUSTICE HUNTER?
JUSTICE HUNTER is a legal thriller set in my hometown of Philadelphia. A successful big-firm lawyer is on the verge of making partner but his plans are derailed by an explosive first amendment case.
Set in the City of Brotherly Love, this series is devoted to the precarious exploits of the dashing and cerebral attorney Hunter Gray, with whom you spend every available millisecond. How real is your character Hunter?
Hunter Gray is friend I never had, a big-hearted lawyer who sort of fell into the practice of law. He represents the large-firm world I never knew firsthand either, so I suppose he’s largely a product of my imagination.
One of the best criminal lawyers in Pennsylvania has heralded you, comparing your no-holds-barred style to that of the late fiction icon Mickey Spillane and the novel as “an electrifying, chilling page-turner.” As its author, please share your favourite part in this book.
I really like Dillon Wright these days. He’s naughty and I suppose that’s where I am in my life right now.
You have completed three novels and is currently wrapping up your fourth, the third installment in Justice Hunter series. What are the titles? Would you be so kind to give readers a one-sentence synopsis of each?
I wrote a spy thriller first, a manuscript I shelved very early on. That title, TOKYO GHOST, brought me back to my days living in Tokyo, where it was set. I quickly realized that finding your voice as a writer is an exercise, probably one not worth sharing with the free world.
The next in the series is DIE BEFORE WE WAKE, basically a serial-killer thriller starring Hunter as well. It’s about a very bad guy killing kids, some sick pedophile type with a bunch of nasty psychological conditions. It’s ugly yet suspenseful, hopefully.
The third is STRIPPERS INFERNO, which I guess is sort of self-explanatory. Hunter takes the lead there too and comes face to face with a sociopath lawyer who gets off chopping up dancers of the sexual variety. It’s very dark and disturbing.
I started the fourth in the series too but haven’t made much headway yet, lost in a dark comedy I started around the New Year. This one, at least I hope, will be read by every reader out there. It’s about a loser dying of cancer whose sexual fantasies become reality. Naturally, considering he’s terminal, the notion of fantasy has changed pretty dramatically in this dude’s mind.
Why are they a must-read series?
Did I say that? Shit that’s bold! I guess, if I try to justify that one, and I’m not so sure those were actually my words, some momentum would be good. It might help my agent score a couple big sales. All kidding aside though, I think they’re pretty entertaining. They’re true to Philly and the legal scene. I guess there’s some value in a lawyer writing about law. I suppose that’s worth something (I would hope).
No, Harper, not your words—you must be a good lawyer! That was me, being a punishing interviewer 🙂
So, how long did it take you to write each of them? What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing? Please share some interesting moments.
This is another tough one. The first one was a real bitch. It took a couple years, I think. I sort of last track. It was right around the time I got married I think. My life was a big blur unfortunately. A very lonely time. You’ll have to take my word for it. After that, I started writing two solid pages a day. I tried to take weekends off at first because I was still so busy with building my law practice, something I still do every day with the help of a couple other people though. Lately, I’ve realized that I cannot not write, unless I’m with my kids because I don’t see them very often these days.
It’s a drug and compulsion I suppose. I’m always thinking about it and have never been more intrigued with the way everything looks. Every detail on every face on every street. So two good pages, with constant re-writing, is how I do it. Sometimes I get lost and I never outline.
I have a sense of the characters as I go and certainly they develop. If they don’t mix or work, I frequently nix them altogether and start again. What they say and how they see things is important. Mannerisms, quirks, stuff like that. I tend to gravitate to blonds (joking).
Some days feel unproductive and there are certainly intervals where I wonder whether I’m going to make the words match with the ideas that are important to me at the time. I try to make things as timeless as I can and that can be a real bitch.
Overall, it’s who I am and if I died today I’d be happy as hell, knowing that I did what I loved every day for a while.
Now, the series was inspired by your own experience as counsel to the city of Philadelphia, where you played a key role in one of the most racially and politically charged cases in the city’s history, a case which gripped the nation for its first amendment implications. Would you like to elaborate on this?
Not really. Intolerance persists the way it does. It’s dressed up and better concealed. But the concepts at the root of the case in that book are still everywhere.
After obtaining your degree in English literature from Vassar, you went on to found your own law firm. When did you first know you just had to write?
I think I’ve always known but I was in denial a while, like most things in life I guess. Aside from my folks and a handful of friends, I had no real encouragement. It’s a long story but I was trying to fit in to a new world and sort of felt behind academically. My self-confidence took a toll. Vassar was a boost and I had this one teacher who really helped me. Mr. Amodio. I’ll never forget the lessons he taught me, especially the import of the words matching what you want to say. Never just assuming words that seem to do the trick, the recycled ones, actually do. Say it your way and make sure the reader’s impression is what you intend. It’s not easy but it’s an idea worth holding on to.
Great tip, thank you! Now, one top mystery editor has said that your work is “easily on par with John Grisham and Scott Turow.” Who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What is it that really strikes you about their work?
That was actually an editor I worked with so that was a big deal. Hands down, I would say Martin Amis. He’s a genius, a badass, an innovator and he’s got balls as writer. Love him or hate him, he does it his way and for that he will always be remembered. I like artists, writers, musicians, strippers (not strippers) who take chances.
Who gives you the most encouragement?
I guess all the writers out there who are doing it every day and grinding it out, working through the blue periods. But having said that, Martin Amis is an inspiration. I think about him and know that I’m on to something to. I have my own voice. You’ll have to trust me on that.
Here’s the email I wrote to his people when I published my first book (seriously):
“From: “Harper J. Dimmerman, Esq.” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Inspiration/Martin Amis
Date: February 28, 2012 11:00:40 AM EST
To: mailto:email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
As cheesy, in every American sense of the word with all its commercial and crude connotations, as this note may seem, I must extend my debt of gratitude to Mr. Amis. He’s been inspiring me for years. And although the subject of my inevitable death may seem a bit morbid, before I kick the bucket, I must get something off my relatively hairless 30-something chest. I am more and more of an ass every day and have never felt so comfortable expressing this in my hack writing because of him. He’s given me the power to be a prick and for that I will always be grateful.
All bullocks aside, or whatever hackneyed British saying is being spread these days amongst the masses, he is the greatest. I am a law professor and have my own law firm. Within a matter of days, my second novel, a legal thriller, is set to be published, assuredly to be followed by a lukewarm reception, my closest friends and family uniting to celebrate my masochism and pretending to give a rat’s ass hair about the words drizzled off my fingertips.
The third, a completely fucked up serial killer recount, starring my protagonist, the only character my mind is capable of cultivating beyond the size of his cock or regimen of SSR’s, is under first edit. The fourth is even more deranged and is under works, going swimmingly. Strippers are mutilated. How obvious and delightful. Finally, in case you give a shit, my first was shelved, perhaps the best decision I’ve ever made, especially in light of the onslaught of self-publishing, the great equalizer promising to make even bigger hacks out of the existing hacks, massaging their denial like a prostitute going to town on an enlarged prostrate, fixing to steal an organ once the medicine kicks in.
Anyway, assuming this email is not disregarded by a hater and somehow manages to pass discretionary or non-discretionary muster as the case may be, please take the liberty of sharing this compliment with him. He is one of the only writers, still alive, whom I would care to meet. I do not expect a reply naturally and have no desire to publish with you. I also generally despite lit agents, something I can say with utter confidence considering I nearly made the unfortunate mistake of becoming in Hollyweird. This is not a disguised attempt to get anything.
Just wanted to get this off my chest. The time felt right. You only get published a first time once I suppose.
/s/ Harper J. Dimmerman, Esq. ___
“How’s that for inspiration? He didn’t reply but I suppose I wasn’t really expecting one. I just had to do it.
Yes, I can hear your voice loud and clear 🙂
Any writing tips?
Write what you know, love and keep writing. It’s not a race. Do a little everyday, however shitty you think it is. Also, don’t be delusional. Don’t let the pressure of commercialism trick you into thinking every word you write is saleable. It ain’t that easy.
JUSTICE HUNTER will be published in mass-market paperback later this month, after breaking onto the Amazon Kindle Hot New Release List on April 27th. Congratulations! And when are you going to release the installments? Tell us your latest news.
I got this great agent last summer so I am sort of laying low. I’m about to have a third manuscript completed and ready to be purchased. I am deferring to them. They believe in me and I’m confident they will get the Hunter Gray series into the mainstream before I’m dead. As for this dark comedy I’m finishing, I think this one may actually get my name out there for real. It’s unique and angry and honest. People might not love me but they’ll know me. This one is the closest one to the way I want something to be. Maybe I’m just getting old…
Good luck with that. How much do you have in common with your protags, Harper?
By definition I guess they’re all part of me in a way. But hopefully not too much. I try to pick people I want to learn about, learning something from. I try to make it a party in my head because I think I’m a much lonelier person than I want others to believe. And of course writing this here probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do as far as keeping that a secret. But what the f—
What are your hobbies apart from writing?
Reading and other adult recreational activities. Soccer sort of. Not exercising my body really. And painting. One of them is actually hanging in someone else’s living room, which could mean a few things I guess. Its owner is too kind not to or maybe she takes it down when I’m not around and puts it back up before I come over. It’s actually not bad really. Bloody and full of angst, a lot of angles and force, but not bad.
Ohh your novels must be funny 🙂 Tell us a bit about what matters to you.
Honesty and personal growth. These are major for me. I have these amazing little girls and a super beautiful girlfriend too but they are a given. If you’re not learning, might as well be pushing up daisies somewhere in a graveyard of stupidity.
What one thing is important for your readers to know about you? Why?
That I’d rather be dead failure than a living fake success.
I think I’ve covered it. Or at least as much as any reader can stomach about one writer, especially me. I’ve gotta be making someone sick somewhere. Someone is spitting I’m sure. I see a lot of that.
Thanks for the interesting chat, Harper! My best wishes for your books!
And readers, I hope you have enjoyed meeting our celebrity guest Harper Dimmerman. You can click on the book cover above for JUSTICE HUNTER purchase link. Come follow the latest news from his Twitter, and watch out for this upcoming book:
Praise for JUSTICE HUNTER:
Whether you’re looking for yet another legal/crime thriller or want to try it out, JUSTICE HUNTER is a fantastic representation of the subgenre that will keep you interested and engaged.
– Reviews by Annie
“Harper Dimmerman has penned a truly captivating story, that you’ll want to go back and read over and over, leaving you anxious for his next release.”
– Dewain Johnson