11/13/2012 11:07 am ET Updated Jan 13, 2013

Series on Series: Book Three and the Curse of the Green Covers

Deadly Justice...aka, "The Curse of the Green Cover." You've heard about that, haven't you? Publishers believe that readers are not drawn to green, so the color is greatly disfavored in cover art. You don't believe me? Turn around right now and look at your bookshelf. How many green covers do you see? My point exactly...

But we had to do something. By the time the third Ben Kincaid novel was released, "legal thrillers" were everywhere. John Grisham's novel The Firm had gone stratospheric in sales, and Scott Turow's fascinating Presumed Innocent also sent readers back to the bookstore looking for more lawyers. I had plenty of imitators as well, judging from the host of paperback originals hitting the airport stalls with "Justice" in the title. The smoky marbleized cover of my previous book Primary Justice, usually reproduced with either a gavel or the scales of justice, had been widely imitated. So we had to so something different. But green?

I was determined not to imitate myself, so I said right from the start that this book wouldn't center on a big murder trial. Many thought the secret of The Firm was the "insider's view" of a big law firm (Grisham has proved that to be wrong), but I had already done that in Primary Justice, so I decided in this novel to take Ben into the realm of corporate law. By this time, I'd worked for enough corporate clients to have a fairly good idea how inside-counsel for big corporations operated, even though I'd never been one.

You can see the series evolving in this book (some might say, growing up). The subject matter, involving horribly young prostitutes and those who pursue and abuse them, was edgy and controversial. You can see the five series regulars -- Ben, Christina, Mike, Jones, Loving -- all working together like a team for the first time. And you can see an early use of computers in fiction, though by today's standards the computers of 1993 seem preposterously primitive.

Sales were slightly down from Blind Justice but still strong, and the dip was attributed to the glut in legal fiction (not the cover). I was proud of some of the character work in this book, but when it was over, I realized that Ben functioned best when he worked in his own office for clients who were at least somewhat sympathetic. I never let Ben become static or predictable, but I never again shuttered his law office.

And I never again consented to a green cover...