Blood Money (Swyteck No. 10)
"A solid, well-crafted thriller by a talented author [with] twists and turns to keep you flipping the pages. Mr. Grippando has the skill to deliver a pristine thriller."
- New York Journal of Books
It is the most sensational murder trial since O. J. Simpson. The nation is obsessed with Sydney Bennett, a sexy nightclub waitress and good-time girl accused of murdering her two-year-old daughter for cramping her party life. Agreeing to defend Sydney, Jack Swyteck knew he was taking on the toughest and most controversial case of his career.
Millions of “TV Jurors” have convicted Sydney in the courtroom of public opinion. When the shocking verdict—not guilty—is announced, citizens across the country are outraged and Jack is bombarded by the fallout: angry, profanity-laced phone calls and even outright threats. Media-fed rumors of “blood money”—purported seven-figure book and movie deals—ratchet up the hysteria, putting put his client and everyone around her at risk.
On the night of Sydney’s release, an angry mob outside the jail has gathered to serve its own justice. In the frenzy, an innocent young woman bearing a striking resemblance to the reviled Sydney Bennett ends up in a coma. While the media blame Jack and his defense team, the victim’s parents reach out to him, requesting his help. They don't believe the attack was the tragic result of random mob violence.
Searching for the truth about what happened that night, Jack makes a frightening discovery. Larger and much more powerful forces are working in the shadows . . . and what happened outside the jail is a symptom of an evil that infected the show-stopping trial and media-spun phenomenon of Sydney Bennett.
Critical praise for Blood Money…
“A timely and very well executed story…. full of twists and turns and, not incidentally, some well-aimed criticisms of the way high-profile trials are covered by the news media.”
“The courtroom verdict is only the beginning of the fireworks in Jack Swyteck’s 10th appearance before the Miami bar. … Grippando turns the screws on Jack so comprehensively that exhausted readers [will be] turning the last page long after midnight.”
- Kirkus Reviews
"Exciting [and] meticulously plotted. Blood Money offers an intriguing look at the media, vengeance seeking crusaders and our pereception of criminal defendants and their attorneys."
- Miami Herald
"James Grippando continues to deliver great legal suspense in his latest thriller, Blood Money." - Associated Press
"Great ... Grippando's examination of corporate media and power of the court of public opinion elevate Blood Money." - Huffington Post
BEHIND THE BOOK ...
The first time I heard the name Casey Anthony was from my wife’s Aunt Gayle. I was in Atlanta planning my sister’s funeral. Tiffany hates to drive on expressways, so Aunt Gayle drove her and our three children up to Atlanta to join me. I was told that much of their ten-hour car ride was spent listening to live coverage of “the trial of the century” on satellite radio. I had no idea that tens of thousands of women like Aunt Gayle were glued to the Casey Anthony case. Given my sad personal circumstances, I didn’t much care.
For several years I had considered writing a work of nonfiction. Jeffrey Toobin’s much acclaimed book about the O.J. Simpson trial had, in my mind, set the standard for the flood of books about the most watched trial in the history of American television. Public interest in Casey Anthony rivaled that of Simpson, and I wondered if there was a place on the bookshelves for a Toobin-like work on the Anthony trial.
It didn’t long for me to change my mind. Reports that lawyers and others involved in the trial were seeking book deals went viral over the Internet. The backlash was overwhelming. Bloggers posted the contact information that considered any kind of book about the trial, urging readers to clog phone lines and e-mail boxes with a simple message: “NO WAY JOSE.” Simon & Schuster's Facebook page was hacked based purely on rumors that the publisher was to sign a book deal with Anthony. Some people even called for readers to boycott writers like Jennifer Weiner, who had nothing to do with Casey Anthony, simply because her books were published by Simon & Schuster. In Oklahoma—twelve hundred miles from the Orlando courthouse—twenty-six year old Sammay Blackwell was run off the road and almost killed by a woman who thought Ms. Blackwell was Casey Anthony.
I quickly realized that the book I wanted to write wasn’t a nonfiction account of a trial that was already overexposed. The story was in the phenomenon that turns certain law-abiding citizens into vigilantes who will accept nothing but their own sense of “justice.” This is not an indictment of the simple act of protest—even passionate protest. My focus was on ordinary people who suddenly transform into “the fringe element,” grab a disproportionate share of the media attention, and take the public crusade one step (or more) too far.
Before my agent and I pulled the plug on the project, I had already roughed out a first chapter of a work of nonfiction based on my research of the Anthony trial. Much of it found its way into the opening scene of Blood Money. Some things I changed for the sake of the novel. Other things I didn’t dare change because, let’s face it: There are some things a writer just can’t make up.
More than six-hundred press passes were issued for media coverage of the Casey Anthony trial, and every major broadcast network had at least one reporter at the courthouse. Time magazine dubbed it “the social media trial of the century.” CNN and NBC built two-story air-conditioned structures across from the courthouse to house reporters and crews. People had writers in court every day, splashing the case on its cover in the midst of trial. HLN and truTV covered from early morning through prime time, increasing their viewership by 150% or more with dedicated Casey Anthony coverage. Major “news magazine” shows jumped in with specials like “Inside the Trial of Casey Anthony” on Dateline NBC and “Only Casey Knows” on “48 Hours Mystery” at CBS. Just a month before trial, “Law & Order: SVU” aired its own “Casey Anthony” knock-off episode starring Hillary Duff. From Memorial Day through the Fourth of July, Courtroom 23 became a macabre Orlando tourist destination, like Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter, with spectators coming from as far away as Japan to vie for the fifty seats available to the public. Verbal altercations were common, with at least one having escalated to an all-out fistfight that required police intervention. The pretrial publicity was so pervasive that the jury pool had to be drawn from Pinellas County, a hundred miles from Orlando, and the judge was forced to take the extraordinary measure of sequestering the twelve jurors and eight alternates (two is the normal number) at an added cost to taxpayers of $361,000. Oddly enough—again, not even a novelist can make this up—the judge in the Casey Anthony trial was a former prosecutor who had secured the conviction of the first woman in Florida’s history to die in the electric chair.
As overblown as the hype and hoopla were, my interest kept drifting back to the young Oklahoma mother who bore an unfortunate resemblance to Casey Anthony and whose pickup truck rolled over two-and-half times after she was run off the road by someone who decided that Ms. Anthony must die. Sammay Blackwell was able to save herself by pretending to be dead when her attacker got out of her car and came to Sammay’s overturned truck—not to help Sammay, but to finish her off.
That blind fixation—a nationwide fascination that, for some, escalates to the point of dangerous or even deadly obsession—is the inspiration for my twentieth novel, Blood Money.
(c) Copyright 2011 James Grippando. All rights reserved.