Why do I love this blog? Because it’s damn good, that’s why! I’m interested in the law, I’m interested in why people commit crimes, I’m interested in the people who work as part of the judicial system – and this blog gives some inside insight into these things and more . Mark writes about his experiences in a variety of ways – sometimes funny, often thought-provoking, always interesting. It’s the kind of blog you end up clicking on and staying for a couple of hours. So be warned!
I had a chat with Mark Pryor – the man behind D.A. Confidential. Read on.
Q) So, tell us a little about yourself. You’re British, right? How on earth did you end up as an attorney in Texas?
English, yes, I grew up on a farm in a tiny village just north of London. How I got here is a long story, but here’s the brief version: in 1992 I was working as a newspaper reporter, a crime reporter, in England. Because my mother was born and raised in Chapel Hill, NC, and I have tons of family there, I decided to go visit them. I liked it so much, I ended up staying, going to college for my bachelors in journalism (at UNC) and then on to law school at Duke, nearby. I met my wife at Duke, and when we graduated we decided to go to Dallas to be near her father and sister, who lived there at the time. I practiced civil law (yawn) for several years then joined the DA’s office here in Austin.
Cool. I used to live in Chapel Hill. Lovely place. But your family let you go do Duke? And didn’t disown you? Hard to believe, but let’s move on.
Q) What’s the toughest case you’ve ever worked on?
That would be the murder trial I just finished. Tough because a young man was killed and another will spend 35 years in prison. Tougher because the two families packed the courtroom and there wasn’t much love lost, as you might imagine. On top of all that, after he’d finished testifying, my chief witness attacked the defendant in open court, literally launched himself across counsel table at him. As you can imagine, it was quite a melee and after that we had massive security in the courtroom at all times.
Q) Why did you decide to start blogging about your work?
Every time I go to a party or meet someone new they are fascinated with my job. And I always have dozens of crazy stories to tell. I suppose, as a writer, I love telling stories, so starting a blog to tell people about the job and share some of the wild things that happen, well, it seemed natural. I also believe very strongly that we, as prosecuting attorneys, represent the public and so it’s important for them to know what we do and how we do. The whole transparency thing.
Q) Have you ever gotten into trouble over a blog post?
Not yet… I’m incredibly careful, with one eye on the ethical considerations and the other on my rear end. I love my job and don’t want to lose it because of some thoughtless or inappropriate post. I blogged about this recently, actually, and pointed out that I avoid controversial topics (like the death penalty and drug policy) and also don’t talk about ongoing cases. Those, I think, would be the most likely to get me in trouble. So far, so good…
And good luck keeping that way. I’d hate to see you have to prosecute yourself. Though that would be an interesting experience, huh?
Q) What do you love about your job? What do you hate?
I love the variety of cases, and the subject matter. I’ve always had an interest in things criminal and I get to indulge that interest every single day. Also, I feel like I’m doing something that matters. I’ve had jobs (civil law) where I felt like I was doing nothing in the slightest to benefit anyone, doing nothing that truly mattered. Now I do. I can protect the community from some very bad people but I can also help direct people into treatment programs, help them turn their lives around. I get a lot of satisfaction from that.
What do I hate? I have a heavy case load and sometimes I feel like I’m walking upstream towards a place I’ll never reach! I’d like an office with a view other than of the jail (actually, I don’t really care that much). A decent parking spot would be nice, though. I can honestly say that this is the only job that doesn’t give me that sinking feeling one gets on a Sunday afternoon, the one that sits inside your gut when you realize that the weekend is almost over. In fact, I like Mondays, I really do.
Q) You’ve written a book and are represented by an agent. What’s the book about? How is the submission process going?
I guess you’d call it an international crime novel, and it’s called The Bookseller. It’s about an American in Paris called Hugo Marston, who works for the US Embassy as its head of security. He buys an old book from a bouquiniste called Max (who is one of those book sellers who ply their trade from stalls beside the River Seine). Max is kidnapped in front of Hugo, who then has to try and find him. Then other bouquinistes turn up dead and Hugo finds himself in the middle of a much larger mystery.
As far as the process, it’s on submission to publishers right now. One has shown some interest by requesting (or suggesting) a few edits. I’m just about to complete those and get the manuscript back to my agent. She’s one of those who is very involved in reading, editing and making suggestions, and I thank heavens for that!
It sounds great! Good luck with selling it for oodles of money.
Q) When and why did you start writing fiction?
More years ago than I can remember. None of it any good, of course, it’s only recently (the last three or four years) that I’ve recognized writing as the learnable craft it is. Sure, talent is necessary but there’s an awful lot that can be learned, too. An awful lot that should be learned. And as a former journalist I’ve split my attentions with non-fiction writing. I had a project with an agent (not the one I have now) that fell through, and when that happened a couple of years ago, I concentrated hard on fiction.
Q) Who would you pick to play you in a movie and why?
I can’t imagine why I’d ever be written into a move, but I think an English (you knew I was English, right?) George Clooney. The why is simple: he’s suave, charming, handsome, and can be a man of action when needed. Just like me. Ahem.
Q) Which writers do you think have influenced you the most?
I think Alan Furst would top the list. When I started writing fiction I was paranoid about sticking to the “rules,” things live POV, not using the passive voice. But if your read Furst you’ll see him monkey with those rules, bend them just enough so that what you see is not a violation of the craft but a wonderful piece of description. He also manages to convey the essence of a person or setting with a minimum of words, which is always the goal, right? I also love the mood-setting of some of the older crime writers, Eric Ambler springs to mind.
I love Furst. Reading one of his books is like being drenched in another, entirely different, era.
Q) You’re a very busy man. What’s your idea of a perfect vacation?
I am, and I just had it. Three days of sitting by an ocean-side swimming pool in Cancun with my wife, reading a book a day and waiting for the martini hour. Alternatively, the same vacation with my kids, and at least two nannies, added.
Q) If you could sit down to dinner with anyone from history, who would that person be and why?
Easy: Jesus. I’m not religious but I’d like to get the real scoop.
Thanks, Mark, for telling us about yourself.
I’d like to share five typically wonderful posts from his blog and urge everyone to pop over and take a look. Happy reading!