The Local, a debut legal thriller by screenwriter Joey Hartstone
Author Interview + Book & Author Info
Don’t Miss Any ITW Debut Author Interviews! Click the link here.
The Local by Joey Hartstone
In the town of Marshall sits the federal courthouse for the Eastern District of Texas, the epicenter of patent law in the US because of its reputation for speedy trials and massive punitive payouts. Every big-city legal team needs a friendly voice, a local attorney, to sway the hometown juries. James Euchre is the best there is.
Euchre’s new client is Amir Zawar, a firebrand CEO forced to defend his life’s work against a software patent infringement claim. Late one night, after a heated confrontation in a preliminary hearing, a beloved judge is found murdered in the courthouse parking lot. All signs point to Zawar—he has motive, he has opportunity, and he has no alibi. Moreover, he is an outsider, a wealthy Pakistani-American entrepreneur who stands accused of killing a local hero.
Zawar maintains his innocence and demands that Euchre defend him. It’s the last thing Euchre wants. The victim was his good friend and mentor, but the only way he can get definitive answers is to take the case. With the help of former federal prosecutor Layla Stills and local PI Lisa Morgan, Euchre must navigate the byzantine world of criminal defense law in a town where everyone knows everyone, and bad blood has a long history. The deeper he digs, the more he fears that either an innocent man will be sent to death row or a murderer will be set free.
The Local is a small-town legal thriller as big in scope as Texas. It crackles with courtroom tension and high-stakes gambits on every page to the final, shocking verdict.
To purchase The Local, click on any of the following links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A MillionBookshop.org, Hudson Booksellers, IndieBound, Powell’s, Target & Walmart
The Local Author Joey Hartstone — The Interview
The Local centers on James Euchre—a small-town attorney in Texas—fighting to clear a client who might have killed James’ friend and mentor. You are a screenwriter living in Los Angeles. Tell us how you were able to capture the characters, the place, and the story so well?
Though I’m certainly not a Texan, my hometown is far more similar to Marshall than it is to Los Angeles.
I’m from Flagstaff, Arizona, a place that’s about the same size as Marshall. I did a lot of research, and spent a little time in Marshall. I have also written enough about Texas that I feel I have a decent handle on how to construct an authentic Texan.
But I also relied on Flagstaff to fill in the holes. I’m often reluctant to speculate about that which is unfamiliar to me because I worry that the result will be inauthentic. So, at times, rather than guess about what goes on in Marshall, I simply write what I knew to be true of Flagstaff. My hope was that the reader would be left with a feeling of authenticity.
The client in The Local, Amir Zawar, is a Pakistani-American. What led you to choose that background for this character?
When I visited Marshall, I was struck by the role race plays in every aspect of the town and its legal system.
This town was a key locale for the South in the Civil War, and there is evidence of that to this day. I felt it was important to explore the justice system through the lens of race and racism, and the ramifications that has on a defendant of color. Beyond that, I really got the sense that this was a tight-knit town that doesn’t trust outsiders.
I wanted Amir to embody that in every way imaginable. He’s originally from New York, his parents immigrated from Pakistan, and he’s an incredibly wealthy tech CEO who works in Silicon Valley. All of this background conveys to the townsfolk, the justice system, and the jury that this man is not one of them.
That is a perilous place to be for someone who is on trial for his life.
Tell us about your road to publication:
I first learned about Marshall and the federal court for the Eastern District of Texas in 2016. A good friend of mine named Nathan Speed is an intellectual property lawyer and he regaled me with stories about patent law in this small Texas town.
Four years later, I was up for a job on the new TV series The Lincoln Lawyer, based on the books by Michael Connelly. I was fortunate for a couple of reasons. First, applying for the job provided me the opportunity to fall in love with those novels and Connelly’s writing. Second, failing to get the job provided me ample free time to write my own book, which I did in 2020.
Upon completing my first draft, I did what I do with everything I write—I shared it with my wife, Abby. She gave me incredibly helpful feedback, and then she passed it to a friend of hers named Rachael Dillon Fried, who just happens to be a literary agent at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. Thankfully, Rachael loved the book and agreed to represent me.
She got it into the hands of Rob Bloom at Doubleday, who also loved what he read, and that is how the manuscript became a book.
“The best and worst part of writing a novel is doing it alone.”
You have authored two films, LBJ and Shock and Awe, and now work as a writer for Your Honor after writing for The Good Fight. What was it like to shift from screenplays to novels?
I love the structure of screenwriting and the collaborative nature of working on a television show. The best and worst part of writing a novel is doing it alone.
On the one hand, I missed toiling with and relying on actors, producers, directors, and my fellow writers. On the other hand, it was incredibly challenging and ultimately rewarding to tell my story from an individual perspective.
I had several very generous people lend their talents to this book, to be sure. But in many ways The Local feels like the most personal piece of storytelling I’ve ever done.
What’s something about you that readers might not expect?
I have a deeply romantic sentimentality. What I mean by romantic is that I love stories about the world as it could be rather than how it is. I often try to mask this or even eschew it completely for a more jaded point of view, but my favorite movies, shows, and books are ones that make me feel hopeful about life.
What are you working on now?
I am currently showrunning the second season of Your Honor for Showtime.
Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers:
Just write. There is so much that is out of your control, that is unfair, that is frustrating and defeating. The one thing you can control, the one thing you can do that will never hurt you and can potentially help is to write.
Great advice! Thank you for hanging out with us and best of luck with your launch.
Joey Hartstone is a film and television writer.
He has written two feature films, LBJ (2016) and Shock and Awe (2017), which were both directed by Rob Reiner. He wrote on the first two seasons of the legal drama The Good Fight. He is currently a writer on the Showtime series Your Honor.
He is also the author of The Local, to be published by Doubleday on June 14, 2022. Joey lives in Los Angeles with his family.
To learn more about Joey, click on his name, photo, or either of the following links: Twitter & Instagram
Elena Taylor/Elena Hartwell
All We Buried, available now in print, e-book, and audio.
Silver Falchion Award Finalist, Best Investigator 2020
Foreword INDIE Award Finalist, Best Mystery 2020
The Foundation of Plot, a Wait, Wait, Don’t Query (Yet!) guidebook. Out July 19.
Header photo by Tama66 on Pixabay.