Given the nature of the book it seemed appropriate to provide a question/answer format. So, I herein cross-examine myself:
Questioner: What is this book about?
Author: On what level?
Questioner: Don't be evasive. Answer the question.
Author: Well, it's obviously about law students who come together in the mid-'60s at Berkeley with all that name connotes of the idealism of a generation and how that idealism plays out over 30 years in the law.
Questioner: You were in that law school class. Boalt. Class of 69.
Questioner: So it's autobiographical. About you? (Questioner smiles as if delivering a mortal blow.)
Author: No. Actually, I specifically avoided being a model for one of the law students portrayed. In fact, none of the students or lawyers in the book is modeled upon any of the students in the Boalt Class of 69. What are real, however, are the issues presented by the fictional characters "selling out," retaining the idealism that took us to law school in the first place. The idea of using a legal education to make America live up to her promise.
Questioner: So it's all fiction?
Author: No, it depicts fictional characters and fictional events but in very real historical times and with real historical figures. I don't claim that my historical figures did or said what is in the book in fact, I specifically disclaim this but no one can write about radical politics of this era without including the name of William Kunstler or Charles Garry; no one can talk about apartheid or race in these times without mentioning Mandela, Dellums, Martin and Coretta King; no one can talk about the clash of cultures without mentioning Ronald Reagan and his Attorney General Ed Meese. Historical issues are addressed as they were by the Class of 69 but with fictional characters and fictional conversations. The law, however, its history, and the legal analysis applied to fictional situations is very accurate. As a lawyer, I hate reading a "legal thriller" that any lawyer knows makes no legal sense. I want people to enjoy this novel but also to come away feeling they have learned something about the times and the law portrayed.
Questioner: What do you know about these people and this history that you can put a character in a room with historical figures?
Author: I don't know if all fiction is based on some reality a momentary glance at a face in a passing train or, all reality is fiction. I tend toward the latter. However, I have drawn on some of my own experiences in crafting characters and circumstances. For example, I have been in the East Room of the White House and spoken directly to President Carter, been at a small fundraiser with candidate Bill Clinton, ridden in a car with Ed Meese, met Ronald Reagan, ridden around Oakland with the Black Panthers, and stood before the Justices of the United States Supreme Court, as I was sworn in. I have had many high-profile cases that reached the national media and have been on national television. I think I can say that the fictional events could have happened. So, it is real, again, in the sense that, historically and legally, the fictional characters interact with the real world to create credible fictional events and conversations that, hopefully, carry the story forward.
Questioner: How did you come upon the idea for this novel?
Author: I was asked to be the speaker emcee actually, but I wrote a speech at the 25th Reunion of the Boalt Hall Class of 69. My talk was entitled: "Are We Who We Were; And, Were We Ever?" That question led me to think about my life, and whether I had been true to the dream of that young law student at Berkeley in the '60s. Then, I thought about my generation of law students.
So, I must confess. You have me trapped. Yes, I am the M.C. Jawaharlal Jallianwalla Singh Rai and his speech parallels my speech at the 25th Reunion and was the seed from which this novel grew.
Questioner: What about Rose? Is she based upon a real classmate?
Author: Absolutely not. I emphasize this because a woman was, I believe, number one in our class for all or part of the three years. But Rose Contreras is entirely fictional as are all of her experiences. I have no doubt, however, that what Rose faced in the law was very real at that time and I am not convinced that young women in the law today don't face similar hurdles.
When I tried to "plot" this novel, before starting to write, I found I couldn't see where the lives of the law students would go, or how they would arrive at the Reunion. So I gave up plotting and started writing. At 4:00 a.m. one morning, my pen wrote the words, at the end of a chapter: "Rose was crying." So was I. I then knew who the primary character was and watched as her life unfolded in the two years of writing thereafter. This is how I learned a novel cannot, or perhaps should not, be plotted since, as Stephen King says, life is not plotted.
Questioner: So. Did the Class of 69 change society? The law? Anything? Or were you changed?
Author: (Hesitating) I don't know. The reader will have to be the judge.
Questioner: No further questions. You may step down, Mr. Poswall.