WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (February 1, 2013) — Drawing on jaw-dropping experiences from her past as a litigator and judge in Cleveland, author Linda Rocker offers a first-hand peek behind the scenes of our criminal justice system with her first legal thriller, Punishment (Wheatmark, 2012). Rocker began her career as a high school English teacher and principal, and when her daughter entered the school she decided to pursue a degree in law at age 40. She graduated magna cum laude from Cleveland Marshall Law School and launched a successful, 25-year legal career that began in defense litigation. In 1990 Rocker was appointed to the highest trial court in her county where she served as a judge until 2012. She couldn’t wait to put some of the best aspects of the twisted tales and absurd, excessive and outrageous plots she encountered over the course of her legal career down on paper in the form of her first novel. The result is Punishment, the first book in a planned trilogy featuring the fictitious Palm Beach County bailiff and heroine Casey Portman.
Rocker’s father and grandfather were both lawyers, and her father was also a judge, challenging her with legal questions and moral dilemmas early in life. Her long standing commitment to women’s rights is evident in the novel’s strong female characters – notably the bailiff and two judges – and the ethical and philosophical issues they face.
“As a lawyer, I know the intricacies and gamesmanship of the legal system, so when I was elected to the bench in 1989, I wasn’t surprised to learn that much of this carried over into the judge’s chamber,” Rocker says. “The toughest part of my job was the sentencing and challenging myself with the big questions that must be answered by the system and, from where we sit as judges, we are the system.”
“As an author, I wanted to give voice to some of these challenging questions in an entertaining way,” Rocker adds. “What does justice mean? Who should be punished? Should I start the book with the punishment and then go back and tell the tale? I realized I had a lot to say and many creative options to say it. Readers will be fully engaged as the book explores those questions. ”
The book shares the story-telling model of Scott Turow, Janet Evanovich and other fast-paced mysteries, and is courtroom drama at its best. The action begins with a bang, literally, when a bomb goes off in the Palm Beach County courthouse and the page-turning suspense doesn’t stop. The story follows the bailiff, who loves her job and admires the judge she assists, and sparks the beginning of an exciting romance with a dashing sheriff. But as Portman copes with the demands of her career and personal life, she is exposed to a series of legal mishaps and mistakes – and murders that tie the justice system in knots. At the center of it all is the trial of the decade in her judge’s courtroom, a case nicknamed ‘Dogicide’ for the man charged with murder, accused of using his pit bull as a weapon. A number of events disrupt the proceedings, including the mysterious illness of the presiding judge, another bailiff’s murder, bribery and families’ seeking revenge. The jury is determined to do justice and the lawyers are desperate to win. The web is tangled even further with another seemingly unrelated hit-and-run case, drug addiction and a judge’s untrustworthy husband. “Punishment” depends on who does the sentencing and your view of what punishment is all about.
Romance and the struggle of choosing love or a career are central themes of the book, delving into the lives of Portman and two female judges. “Casey is a young woman who reflects my sense of what today’s young women want. They reach at a point in their lives where they can’t decide which path to take – love or career – while searching for who they really are.”
Although the novel features fictional characters, Rocker’s real-life experiences gave her the inner knowledge of the often shadowy criminal justice system, adding texture and authenticity to her descriptions of scenes in the book. Her background was instrumental in the legal research that supports the plot and outcomes. Not surprisingly, many reviews cite the novel’s “legal expertise”, “fascinating characters” and “fast-paced” storytelling, and hail it as “highly recommended, up and coming series similar to that provided by Janet Evanovich.”
Today, Rocker is retired from the bench, but continues to consult with attorneys and speaks on famous or controversial criminal verdicts (such as the O.J. Simpson case). A prolific writer, many of her legal opinions have been published, as well as articles in local association magazines. She has been recognized by Who’s Who in American Women, Cleveland Magazine’s Most Interesting People and The Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame, to name a few. She splits her time between Cleveland, Ohio and Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., where is actively involved in the community and an avid modern art collector with her husband. She is currently working on the second novel in the trilogy, Blame, and a collection of short stories, The Setting Sun which is due out May 2013. For the latest reviews and to learn more, visit www.lindarocker.com
Recent Praise for Punishment
“Great plot! Fascinating characters! Great ending! I highly recommend his book.”
– Burt W. Griffin, Former Assistant U.S. Attorney, Assistant Counsel to the Warren Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy
“A lively story about a number of very dead victims.”
– A “Pick of the Month” by Alan Caruba, Bookviews, Charter Member of the National Book Critics Circle
“Fast-paced, taut, legal thriller filled with a former judge’s unique insights into the criminal justice system.”
– Martin D. Krall, Former Executive VP and Chief Legal Officer, New York Daily News; U.S. News and World Report, Atlantic Monthly
“Linda Rocker uses legal expertise in romp through mayhem… Could this be an upcoming series similar to that provided by us by Janet Evanovich?… Highly recommended.”
– G. A. Bixler, Book Reader’s Heaven
“The story is well paced and exciting, and the characters are unique, with fleshed-out backgrounds that drive the story beyond day-to-day events. A good choice for fans of legal and political thrillers, especially those looking for authentic details.”
– Heather Talty, ForeWard Reviews
“Punishment is a fun read.”
– C. Dettelbach, Author