Paul Levine


Paul J. Levine (born January 9, 1948) is an American author of crime fiction, particularly legal thrillers. Levine has written 22 mystery novels which include two series of books known by the names of the protagonists. The Jake Lassiter series follows the former football player turned Miami lawyer in a series of fourteen books published over a thirty-year span beginning in 1990. The four-book Solomon vs. Lord series published in the mid-2000s features Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord, a pair of bickering Miami attorneys who were rivals before they became law partners and lovers. Levine has also written four stand-alone novels and 20 episodes of the television drama series JAG. With JAG executive producer Don Bellisario, he also created and produced First Monday, a 2002 CBS series inspired by one of Levine's novels.

Paul Levine
Paul Levine.jpg
Born (1948-01-09) January 9, 1948 (age 75)
Williamsport, Pennsylvania
GenreTeleplays and legal thriller
Years active1990–present
Notable works
  • Jake Lassiter series
  • Solomon vs. Lord series
  • JAG
Notable awardsJohn D. MacDonald Award for Excellence in Florida Fiction[1]

Born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Levine graduated from Pennsylvania State University and was a reporter for the Miami Herald early in his career. He then graduated from the University of Miami School of Law and was an attorney in Florida for 17 years before becoming an author.

Early life and educationEdit

Paul J. Levine was born on January 9, 1948, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to Sally and Stanley Levine, both retail merchants.[2] Stanley Levine served in World War II as a lieutenant in the United States Army Air Forces. A radar officer on a B-29, he was shot down over Japan during a bombing raid and, as a prisoner of war, was one of the first Americans to see the ruins of Hiroshima.[3][4]

Paul Levine graduated in 1969 with a B.A. in journalism from Pennsylvania State University,[5] where he was editor in chief of the newspaper The Daily Collegian.[6][7] At the University of Miami School of Law, he was on the 1971 championship team at the National Moot Court Competition, contributed to the University of Miami Law Review, and graduated cum laude in 1973.[8]

Journalism and legal careerEdit

Levine began his career working for the Miami Herald in 1969 as a courthouse reporter,[9][10] and writing for Tropic, the newspaper's Sunday magazine.[11] As a law student, he worked part-time for The Miami News and the Los Angeles Times.[5]

After graduating from law school, Levine was admitted to The Florida Bar in 1973. From 1978 to 1987, Levine was an attorney and partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.[10] He also worked, pro bono, for the Florida First Amendment Foundation. As an attorney for the foundation, he represented The Florida Star on appeal before Florida First District Court of Appeal after a rape victim won a $100,000 verdict against the newspaper for publishing her name.[12][13] The Supreme Court of the United States overturned the verdict in 1989, holding that the imposition of damages for truthfully publishing public information violates the First Amendment.[14] In 1987, he became counsel to Spence, Payne, Masington, Grossman and Needle, which later became Grossman and Roth, both Miami law firms.[10][15]

While practicing law, Levine also served as a legal commentator for WPLG-TV and WTVJ-TV in Miami and wrote and appeared on You & the Law, a television program syndicated by Newsweek Broadcasting. He taught communications law as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Miami School of Law.[10] After 17 years as an attorney, Levine stopped practicing law to pursue a career as an author.[16][17]

Writing careerEdit

Early Jake Lassiter seriesEdit

Levine published his first novel, To Speak for the Dead, with Bantam Books in 1990.[18][19] In the first book of the Jake Lassiter series, the ex-linebacker turned attorney defends a surgeon in a malpractice lawsuit in a plot involving "kinky sex and murder for money."[9][20] In January 1995, his debut book was made into a TV Movie produced by Stephen J. Cannell for NBC, Jake Lassiter: Justice on the Bayou, in which Lassiter is portrayed by Gerald McRaney.[21][22] The character has been favorably compared to others in film and mystery writing. Lassiter was described by the Miami Herald as having "a lot more charisma than [Perry Mason] ever did."[23] The Los Angeles Times described Lassiter as "Travis McGee with [a law degree]."[19]

After gaining "some acclaim and modest success" with his first book, Levine's second book, Night Vision, was published in 1991.[24] In this installment, Lassiter serves as special prosecutor on a serial murder case.[10] This was followed by False Dawn (1993),[25] in which Lassiter faces "a beautiful Finnish spy, Japanese art smugglers, CIA double agents, and Cuban exiles."[26] Newgate Callendar in a New York Times review wrote that False Dawn's "plot is fairly complicated, but the story never gets lost, and Mr. Levine tells it in a realistic, gritty manner."[27]

In 1994, Levine released the fourth book in the series, Mortal Sin,[28][29] which Jean Heller in the St. Petersburg Times described as "the best", adding that the "escapade is populated with nicely drawn characters, new and used, and mayhem enough for anyone."[30] In Mortal Sin, Lassiter becomes involved with his former lover whose fiancé he also represents in a murder trial.[26]

Slashback in 1995 continued the series and marks a shift in the author's writing style, from first-person to third-person narration.[21] This was followed, in 1996, by Fool Me Twice which has Lassiter accused of murder while he searches for a client that has gone missing.[16] In Flesh and Bones (1997), Lassiter defends a woman who shot her father, claiming he abused her as a child.[31]

9 Scorpions and JAGEdit

9 Scorpions (1998) was the first book by Levine not to include Lassiter. The protagonist, Lisa Freemont, is a young law clerk working for the newest appointee to the Supreme Court.[32] Oline H. Cogdill wrote in the Sun-Sentinel that "9 Scorpions' plot relies too heavily on a series of coincidences and what-ifs that undermine the novel's realism" but it "is on firmest ground when Levine is showing us the inner workings of the Supreme Court, the collision of the Justices' personalities and beliefs and the law clerks' influence."[33] Originally published by Pocket Books,[34] Levine later re-released the book under a new title, Impact.[35]

In 1999, Levine moved to Los Angeles, California, to become a television writer. He was hired by executive producer Don Bellisario to join the writing staff of JAG, a military legal drama on CBS.[36] Levine wrote 20 episodes of JAG.[37] 9 Scorpions became the inspiration for First Monday, a 2002 CBS series Levine created and produced with Bellisario.[38][39]

Solomon vs. Lord seriesEdit

The 2005 novel Solomon vs. Lord started a new series of books for Levine[38][40] and introduced bickering Miami lawyers Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord.[41] In that first novel, the couple teams up to defend a wealthy widow accused of murdering her husband.[40][42] The Chicago Sun-Times' review described the novel as "[r]emarkably fresh and original with characters you can't help loving and sparkling dialog that echoes the HepburnTracy screwball comedies."[43] Three more of Levine's legal capers featured the seemingly mismatched partners. In The Deep Blue Alibi (2006), they defend a client in a Key West murder trial[38][40] which leads the couple to a nudist resort to investigate.[44] In Kill All the Lawyers (2006), a former client of Solomon believes the lawyer sabotaged his case and comes back for revenge.[45] In Trial and Error (2007), since re-titled Habeas Porpoise, Solomon and Lord find themselves on opposing sides of a case involving kidnapped dolphins when Lord is appointed as a special prosecutor.[46][47][48]

Other novelsEdit

Levine's novel, Illegal (2009), featured Jimmy (Royal) Payne, a down-on-his-luck Los Angeles lawyer who is caught up in a human trafficking scheme.[49][50] Calling the book a "riveting read," Booklist noted: "The portrait of the dangers and predations that Latinos face crossing the border is chilling and rings with authenticity."[51] Levine's 2011 novel Ballistic takes on a new subject for the author where a doomsday religious cult occupies a nuclear missile silo and attempts to launch a missile targeting Jerusalem.[52] In Paydirt (2012), Levine tells the story of a former lawyer who loses his career and decides to use his 12-year-old genius son to fix the outcome of the Super Bowl.[53]

Later Jake Lassiter seriesEdit

After a fourteen-year hiatus, Levine returned to the Jake Lassiter series in his 2011 novel Lassiter in which the main character is accused of being involved in the disappearance of a girl years earlier.[54] The series continued with State vs. Lassiter (2013) in which Lassiter is charged with killing his lover, a banker, to allegedly cover up skimming from trust-fund accounts.[55]

This was followed by three more novels, Bum Rap (2015),[56] Bum Luck (2017),[57] and Bum Deal (2018),[58] that included characters from the Solomon vs. Lord series. In Bum Rap, Lassiter works with Lord to find a way to exonerate Solomon who has been charged with murdering a Russian club owner.[59][60] In Bum Luck, Lassiter bizarrely threatens to kill his own client who has just been acquitted of murder. Solomon and Lord fear that Lassiter has suffered brain damage (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) from his days as a football player.[57] Bum Luck also introduced Dr. Melissa Gold, the neuropathologist treating Lassiter,[61] who later becomes his fiancée.[62] In Bum Deal, Dr. Gold administers experimental brain treatments to Lassiter who has been appointed a special prosecutor to try a high-profile murder case arguing against Solomon and Lord.[58][63]

In Cheater's Game (2020), Lassiter tackles a college admissions scandal, akin to the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal, when he defends his nephew who's been charged with taking students' College Board exams as an imposter. The novel concludes with a federal trial described by Booklist as "one seismic courtroom battle... an occasion for pyrotechnics that really blaze."[64][65]

Awards and honorsEdit

Levine was the recipient of the second John D. MacDonald Award for Excellence in Florida Fiction.[66] Solomon vs. Lord was nominated for the "best novel" category of the Macavity Awards by Mystery Readers International and for the Thurber Prize for American Humor.[45][54] The Deep Blue Alibi was nominated for an International Thriller Writers Award[67] and the 2007 Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America.[68] State vs. Lassiter was nominated for the Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America.[69]

He received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Pennsylvania State University[5] and the Alumni Achievement Award from the University of Miami School of Law.[70]

Personal lifeEdit

Levine is married to Marcia Silvers, a criminal appellate attorney.[56] They live in Santa Barbara, California.[62] Levine has a daughter and a son from previous marriages.[2]



  1. ^ Oline H. Cogdill; David J. Montgomery (February 26, 2006), "Love and law—The Deep Blue Alibi. Paul Levine", Sun-Sentinel, Broward County, Florida
  2. ^ a b Jones, Daniel (1999). Contemporary Authors New Revision. Gale Research International, Limited. p. 334. ISBN 978-0-7876-2009-7.
  3. ^ Levine, Paul (August 9, 2010). "65 Years Later, a POW's Son Reflects on Hiroshima". HuffPost. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  4. ^ Ross, Walter R. (1995). Courage Beyond the Blindfold: The Last P.O.W.s of WWII. Global Press. pp. 103–122. ISBN 978-1-885353-03-0.
  5. ^ a b c "Paul Levine '69" (PDF). The Pennsylvania State University. May 30, 2003. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  6. ^ "Alumni". The Daily Collegian. Retrieved June 16, 2015.
  7. ^ Rushton, Geoff (January 4, 2007). "'Collegian Chronicles' takes new look at Penn State history". Penn State News. Penn State University. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  8. ^ Jones 1999, p. 334–335.
  9. ^ a b Katzenbach, John (July 14, 1990). "Miami lawyer's thriller has flaws, but it's an excellent first effort". The Miami Herald. p. 7C. Retrieved June 19, 2020 – via
  10. ^ a b c d e Jones 1999, p. 335.
  11. ^ Levine, Paul (March 26, 2014). "How I Killed the Miami Herald's Tropic Magazine". Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  12. ^ "Paper, foundation challenge rape law". Tallahassee Democrat. Associated Press. August 12, 1986. p. 2B. Retrieved June 19, 2020 – via
  13. ^ Messerschmidt, Al (December 29, 1986). "Newspaper may close for publishing name". The Miami Herald. pp. 1A, 11A. Retrieved June 19, 2020 – via
  14. ^ Bussian, John A.; Levine, Paul J. (August 2004). "Reporter's Handbook: Invasion of Privacy and the Media: The Right 'To Be Let Alone'". The Florida Bar. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  15. ^ Lucoff, Mort (April 21, 1987). "Changing Teams". The Miami News. p. 15A. Retrieved June 19, 2020 – via
  16. ^ a b McCumber, David (January 21, 1996). "Criminal Pursuits: The Insiders' Stories". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on May 13, 2020. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  17. ^ Caplin, Joan; Moore, Tara (June 29, 2011). "5 career makeover success stories: Once-writer, now E-Do-It-Yourselfer, Paul Levine". CNN Money. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  18. ^ Tomb, Geoffrey (July 14, 1990). "Unlocking mystery of success". The Miami Herald. p. 1B. Retrieved June 19, 2020 – via
  19. ^ a b Champlin, Charles (September 9, 1990). "Bloody Sunday". The Los Angeles Times. p. 10. Retrieved June 19, 2020 – via
  20. ^ Miller, Jill Young (July 25, 1990). "Courting Fame When Miami Lawyer-turned-writer Paul Levine Goes to Court, He Sees More than Justice in Action". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  21. ^ a b Crumpacker, Harry (February 26, 1995). "Lawyer escapes the sharks". Commentary. The Tampa Tribune. p. 4. Retrieved June 19, 2020 – via
  22. ^ Mabe, Chauncey (January 7, 1995). "Murder Zone". Sun-Sentinel. Archived from the original on June 18, 2020. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  23. ^ Ogle, Connie (January 5, 1997). "Lassiter's latest – a patricide in SoBe". The Miami Herald. p. 4E. Retrieved June 19, 2020 – via
  24. ^ Cogdill, Oline H. (November 17, 1991). "Strangers in the Night". Sun Sentinel. p. 10H. Retrieved June 19, 2020 – via
  25. ^ Cogdill, Oline H. (April 25, 1993). "Levine's 'Dawn' is a new beginning". Sun Sentinel. p. 11D. Retrieved June 19, 2020 – via
  26. ^ a b Jones 1999, p. 336.
  27. ^ Callendar, Newgate (May 23, 1993). "Spies & Thrillers". Book Review. The New York Times. p. 21. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  28. ^ Blackburn, Tom (February 13, 1994). "'Mortal Sin' tells crime fiction the South Florida way". The Palm Beach Post. p. 8J. Retrieved June 19, 2020 – via
  29. ^ Stasio, Marilyn (March 20, 1994). "Crime". Book Review. The New York Times. p. 22. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  30. ^ Heller, Jean (March 6, 1994). "Review: Mortal Sin by Paul Levine". Tampa Bay Times. pp. 5D. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  31. ^ "Flesh and Bones". Kirkus Reviews. December 1, 1996. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  32. ^ "9 Scorpions by Paul Levine". Publishers Weekly. August 31, 1998. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  33. ^ Oline H., Cogdill (August 9, 1998). "There's Little Sting in Scorpions". Sun-Sentinel. Archived from the original on May 19, 2020. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  34. ^ Owens, John B.; Baldacci, David; Levine, Paul; Meltzer, Brad (January 2000). "The Simple Truth about 9 Scorpions and The Tenth Justice: Supreme Court Law Clerks in Legal Suspense Novels". California Law Review. 88 (1): 233. doi:10.2307/3481279. JSTOR 3481279.
  35. ^ Levine, Paul (January 14, 2019). Impact. Herald Square Publishing. ISBN 978-1-73450-560-3.
  36. ^ Goodale, Gloria (August 6, 1999). "'JAG' writer pursues passion, breaks Hollywood's age barrier". Christian Science Monitor. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  37. ^ Cogdill, Oline (September 4, 2011). "An old case vexes Miami lawyer's return". Sun-Sentinel. Archived from the original on May 27, 2020. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  38. ^ a b c Forte, Christine (February 28, 2006). "'Writing Illness' Cured: Interview with Paul Levine". PopMatters. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  39. ^ "TV's late-night treats". The Age. March 25, 2004. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  40. ^ a b c Cogdill, Oline H. (February 26, 2006). "A mission family and a dog that came back: Love and law". A/E & TV. Sun Sentinel. p. 23. Retrieved June 19, 2020 – via
  41. ^ Cogdill, Oline H. (November 5, 2006). "Focus on Everglades". Sun-Sentinel. Archived from the original on May 13, 2020. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  42. ^ Hartlaub, Joe (2005). "Review: Solomon Vs. Lord by Paul Levine". Archived from the original on December 14, 2014. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  43. ^ Montgomery, David J. (October 17, 2005). "Review: Solomon vs. Lord". Chicago Sun-Times.
  44. ^ Mahon, Bill (February 20, 2006). "Q & A: Alumnus Levine pens new book in 'Solomon vs. Lord' series". Penn State News. Penn State University. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  45. ^ a b Fleischman, Joan (August 30, 2006). "Contender". The Miami Herald. p. 4A. Retrieved June 19, 2020 – via
  46. ^ "Review: Trial and Error by Paul Levine". Publishers Weekly. April 9, 2007. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  47. ^ Hartlaub, Joe (January 23, 2011). "". Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  48. ^ "Paul Levine: Writing is the Best Therapy" (PDF). Suspense Magazine. July 2012. p. 59. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  49. ^ Hartlaub, Joe (2009). "Review: Illegal by Paul Levine, Bantam". Archived from the original on December 20, 2014. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  50. ^ "Author: Paul Levine, Bio". March 27, 2009. Archived from the original on December 20, 2014. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  51. ^ Gaughan, Thomas (2009). "Illegal by Levine, Paul". Booklist. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  52. ^ Seed, David (April 6, 2019). US Narratives of Nuclear Terrorism Since 9/11: Worst-Case Scenarios. Springer. p. 205. ISBN 978-1-137-54328-8.
  53. ^ "Alumnus hits 'Paydirt' with latest book". Penn State News. Penn State University. February 6, 2012. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  54. ^ a b Sampsell, Steve (September 12, 2011). "Lassiter returns in Levine's latest book". Penn State News. Penn State University. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  55. ^ "Popular character, a Penn State linebacker-turned-lawyer, returns in new book". Penn State News. Penn State University. September 25, 2013. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  56. ^ a b Ogle, Connie (July 10, 2015). "Interview: Paul Levine, author of 'Bum Rap'". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on May 27, 2020. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  57. ^ a b "Linebacker-turned-lawyer Jake Lassiter returns in alumnus' latest book". Penn State News. Penn State University. March 28, 2017. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  58. ^ a b "Levine's 'Bum Deal' marks last appearance for Penn State-inspired character". Penn State University. Penn State News. June 12, 2018. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  59. ^ Cogdill, Oline H. (July 12, 2015). "Miami lawyers tangle it up in lighthearted thriller". South Florida Sun Sentinel. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  60. ^ "Alumnus' latest novel, 'Bum Rap,' features familiar Penn State protagonist". Penn State News. Penn State University. June 1, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  61. ^ Levine, Paul (2017). "Levine Grills Lassiter". Mystery Scene. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  62. ^ a b "Communications alumnus' latest thriller focuses on college admissions scandal". Penn State News. Penn State University. April 24, 2020. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  63. ^ Cogdill, Oline H. (2018). "So Long, Jake Lassiter". Mystery Scene. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  64. ^ Crinklaw, Don (April 2020). "Cheater's Game by Paul Levine". Booklist. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  65. ^ Cogdill, Oline H. (2020). "Paul Levine Plays the Cheater's Game". Mystery Scene. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  66. ^ Meyers, Joe (October 23, 2013). "'State vs. Lassiter': following the Elmore Leonard playbook". Connecticut Post. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  67. ^ Cogdill, Oline H. (April 1, 2007). "Local Book News: Awards". A/E & TV. South Florida Sun Sentinel. p. 16. Retrieved June 19, 2020 – via
  68. ^ "Mystery Writers announce names of Edgar nominees". Weekend. The Star-Democrat. January 26, 2007. Retrieved June 19, 2020 – via
  69. ^ Cogdill, Oline (2014). "Mystery Scene". Mystery Scene. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  70. ^ "Alumnus of Distinction Award (Dinner Gala)" (PDF). University of Miami School of Law. September 19, 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 19, 2014. Retrieved June 19, 2010.

External linksEdit

  • Official website
  • Paul J. Levine at IMDb