Lake City Reporter - July 19, 2007
LOCAL AUTHOR RELEASES HIS LATEST NOVEL
When Pierce Kelley wrote “A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Tennis: in the early 90’s he had little idea that more than fifteen years later he would be the author of more than seven books, including his latest novel, “Bocas del Toro.”
Kelley, an attorney, said he never set out to be a writer, but a series of events led to his self-hel tennis book, a textbook on litigation and, later, a series of novels.
Kelley, who was once a professional tennis player, wrote “A Parent’s Guide to Tennis” during his years of raising his own children. Suprising to him, it was featured in Tennis magazine and won rave reviews from the United States Tennis Association. His textbook, “Civil Litigation: A Case Study,” was written when he was teaching a college class on litigation to paralegal students and didn’t like the required text for the class.
After penning several short stories, Kelley found that in addition to his love for the law, he had a love for writing. For his novels, Kelley pulls from past experiences through his lengthy 30 year legal experiences, and from stories told to him by others. In the case of “Bocas del Toro,” named after an archipelago of islands in the Caribbean, the main character must infiltrate a gang of drug smugglers to avoid jail time, but wants to flee to the island chain to avoid either prison or certain death at the hands of the smugglers, if discovered.
Kelley draws from his law background for his books, as all involve law-related topics. One of his first novels, “A Very Fine Line,” details the dangers of drinking and driving and follows the lead character from the incident to the end of a court trial.
While he never intended to go into fiction writing, Kelley said it is something he enjoys because he is able to intertwine his knowledge of the law with fictionalized events to entertain and educate readers. “You write what you know and law is what I know best,” he said.
Since writing his first novel last year, Kelley has become infused with a passion for fiction. He said he averages about two books a year and is currently working on two more books he plans to release in the near future.
Cedar Key Beacon, November 8, 2007
IT COULD BE YOU! LEGAL PAGE-TURNERS SHOW REAL DEAL
by Jenna Mckenna
Who can imagine that the decisions they make at age 18, or younger, can haunt them the rest of their lives? More and more, however, that's true, especially when the decision leads to a crime, even one committed unintentionally.
Pierce Kelley, a former Cedar Key resident and long-time criminal defense and civil trial attorney, recently published his latest novel, Bocas del Toro. In it, a young man just out of high school gets what he thinks is a great under-the-table job driving rental cars back to their cities of origin. Too late, he discovers the vehicles have drugs on board, and he and his friends have been used as unwitting mules. With no way to prove his innocence, the young man goes to federal prison rather than risking death by testifying against the mobsters who hired him, and begins a life on the shadowy margin of society, never again a free man or a full citizen, even after his release.
Kelley says that this book, like all of his legal drama novels, sprang out of his experience as an attorney. Billy Starkey, the protagonist in Bocas, was partially modeled on a man he represented several years ago in Fort Myers, Florida.
"He had already prepared most of the legal documents himself, and I complimented him on having done a really good job," Kelley recalls. "He told me he had learned a lot about the law while doing time in federal prison. Then he told me the story of getting caught in a drug sting when he was 18 years old and how he had been sent to prison because he refused to cooperate with law enforcement officials after two of his friends were executed by the mobsters when they agreed to cooperate. The novel appeared into my mind right then."
Kelley has a lot of experiences like that. Since his admission to the Florida Bar in 1974 he has worked almost exclusively in criminal defense and civil litigation on behalf of the economically marginalized. He started out in the public defender's office in Clearwater, and has also served as an Assistant Public Defender for the Southern District of Florida in Miami. More recently, he worked as a staff attorney for the Three Rivers Legal Services, a non-profit legal service that serves 17 counties in North Florida.
In many cases, Kelley says, whether in civil matters or criminal defense, most of the clients he served had no idea their actions, often taken without forethought, would have such lasting implications. "What I try to get through to people, my own children included, is that choices you make when you are young, whether it be about education, sexual activity, or anything else, can affect you for the rest of your life."
In Starkey's case, he seems to make a lot of good decisions, only to fumble at exactly the wrong time, losing all the ground he's gained. While in prison, he takes all the classes and vocational training available, so that when he is released he can get a good job and rejoin society, but because he's marked as a felon, though, he's unable to find a job without the help of the mobsters who caused him to go to prison in the first place, and though his job driving a truck is legitimate, he knows that eventually he'll be called upon to break the law again to re-pay the mobsters for what they've done for him. Furthermore, the same DEA agent that wanted to make him an informant before he went to prison is still after him.
Kelley says this predicament accurately mirrors the experience of many people who have made similar mistakes and were forced to make a decision about testifying against others to avoid going to prison, or not doing so, as Starkey did.
Between difficulty in finding steady, good-paying work and the pressure to participate in dangerous sting operations, Billy's life is endlessly complicated by his careless conduct during his youthful days. Kelley said that the problems Starkey faces in Bocas del Toro differs only in degree from the problems he helps clients with every day.
"I represent poor people who have some really difficult legal problems," he said. "We, as lawyers, are like band-aids in many ways - we help people by putting a band-aid on one problem but they're still bleeding from the ten other problems areas they must confront, and we can't help them with everything, just one problem at a time."
Because anybody can get in trouble, not necessarily troubles with drugs, the DEA and organized crime, but DUIs, bad checks, petit larcenies...anything...Kelley writes books to give his readers a better understanding of the legal issues and possible consequences of a variety of things that could happen to anybody. He labors to make protagonists both believable and sympathetic. As much as the lawyer in him wants to reach out to people in their fearful time, the author just wants to touch the casual reader to show how close the story comes to their lives. "I want people to realize as they read my books, and in this case Bocas del Toro, that they could be Billy, or Billy could be their son, brother or nephew." Part warning, part legal tutorial, part call to compassion, Kelley says all his books are meant to entertain first and foremost, and then educate, as well.
"When you read a good book, he said, "you're really drawn into that world and you don't want to put it down. The point I'm trying to get across with Billy or with any of the protagonists in my other books is that what happens to Billy or the others could happen to anybody. It could be you."