Sunday, September 10, 2023

Q&A with T.C. Morrison






T.C. Morrison is the author of the new novel Send in the Tort Lawyer$. It's the third in a series that also includes Tort$ 'R' Us and Please Pass the Tort$. He spent many years working as an attorney in New York City.


Q: What inspired the plot of Send in the Tort Lawyer$?


A: This book is the third in a series of farcical novels about class action lawyers. The first, Tort$ ‘R’ Us, introduced the twin brothers Patrick A. Peters (“Pap”) and Prescott U. Peters (“Pup”), successful lawyers with prominent New York City law firms, who decide to leave their respective firms and start up a small firm devoted to representing plaintiffs in class action cases.


Pap and Pup then embarked on a series of riotous cases representing a collection of wacky clients in bizarre class action lawsuits tried in front of perplexed, but frequently amused, judges. 


The first book was followed by Please Pass the Tort$, which continued the brothers’ madcap escapades with a new group of zany clients and one holdover client from the first book, the lovely Lydia Lowlace, who rises from a lap dancer to a Playboy centerfold, all the while providing new opportunities for lawsuits by her lawyers, Peters and Peters.


The new book, Send in the Tort Lawyer$, continues the saga with yet another series of zany clients and bizarre cases, including yet another lawsuit on behalf  of Lydia, whose Playboy image has now been used, without her permission, on a set of nonfungible tokens (“NFTs”) celebrating a year’s worth of Playboy centerfolds. 


Reading about the inexplicable popularity of NFTs, particularly former President Trump’s issuance of NFTs celebrating himself, provided a timely idea for this part of the book. Similarly, reading the massive news coverage of the rise and fall of the cryptocurrency firm FTX provided another timely topic for one of the class action cases in this book. 


Q: Do you usually know how your novels will end before you start writing them, or do you make many changes along the way?


A: None of these three books present a typical linear story, where you need to get to the end to find out “who done it” or how everything gets resolved.  Rather, each book presents a story about the ongoing escapades of the Peters and Peters law firm, with each book presenting a series of four or five new cases that the brothers concoct and bring to resolution in court. 


Once I identify the four or five cases that will form the backbone of the book, I pretty much know how each case will turn out. As Pap and Pup and their wacky clients are the “heroes” of the books, almost all the cases turn out successfully.  The fun is working through the way each case is conceived and then brought to success.  


Q: How would you describe the dynamic between your characters Pap and Pup?

A: Their characters and the dynamic between them was developed at length in the first book in the series, Tort$ ‘R’ Us, which actually takes the reader back to their childhood and their early days in separate New York City law firms where they were both successful. 


The main dynamic is that Pap is the alpha male, street smart, aggressive, full of ideas for new cases, and always the lead speaker in the courtroom. Pup is more cautious and intellectual and is always trying to talk Pap out of the latest case Pap has dreamed up. 


Pup frequently complains that he should never have let Pap talk him into leaving his prior blue chip law firm to start up a hare-brained class action firm. But Pup’s legal brilliance comes in handy in all of their cases.


Q: Do you see your novels as satirical and, if so, what are you satirizing?


A: I see the novels as not only satirical but downright farcical. The goings-on in the Peters’ law firm are farcical, particularly the sexual escapades of the firm’s handsome associate Chip, a former college quarterback who beds every woman he meets. 


Also farcical are the firm’s many zany clients, from lap-dancer-turned-Playboy-centerfold Lydia; to Mona Lott, Pap’s eccentric neighbor who exasperates judges, opposing lawyers and her own lawyers; to the psychologist Dr. Hazel Nutt and the sleep doctor Dr. Irene Goodnight, both of whom are lead plaintiffs in class action cases. 


Opposing counsel are frequently bizarre as well, including Jeckel and Hyde, a New Jersey firm that manages to show up in two of the books, and Holly Woods, a fancy Hollywood lawyer who represents the celebrity defendants in the cryptocurrency case in the new book.


I loved being a lawyer, especially being a litigator, and lawyers do lots of serious work. But there is also lots of humor in the law, including in several of the cases I tried over the years, and which furnish the inspiration for several chapters in the first book. 


Also, I have always felt that many lawyers take themselves much too seriously. So my intent was to turn modern American litigation – particularly the much-abused class action litigation tool - into a farce. 


My model was Joseph Heller, who in Catch-22 succeeded in writing a wonderful farce about the Army Air Corps in World War II.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am beginning to think about the next book in the series. The computer consultant who has worked with me on all three books is urging me to incorporate AI matters in the next book.


As there are already numerous lawsuits involving AI, and numerous amusing stories about AI -  including an AI attorney making the list of America’s Top 100 lawyers – there is no shortage of material to work with.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Wow, that’s what we lawyers call an “open-ended” question which should never be asked in court as the witness can say anything and it will be deemed “responsive” to the question. 


I would just say that if you are in the mood for some good laughs, this is the book for you. Many readers have said they frequently “laughed out loud” while reading the books.  One said he had not laughed so hard since reading Portnoy’s Complaint. 


And, by the way, you do not have to be a lawyer to enjoy the books; while almost all the lawyers I have heard from loved the books, numerous non-lawyers have expressed the same response. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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