Q&A With The Burden Of Lies Author – Richard Beasley
I got the opportunity to ask barrister turned author Richard Beasley a few questions about his recent book The Burden of Lies.
I can imagine Tanner as a character on the ABC, did you create him with TV in mind?
I see Tanner as more HBO or AMC than ABC, mainly because I visualize him as looking like Don Draper from Mad Men (although with less old school hair product). I’ve had the fortunate experience of having a book adapted for ABC Television, but I wouldn’t say I created Tanner with TV or film in mind. I think the legal procedural/thriller genre lends itself well to the big and small screen – which is why for example there have been so many legal based TV series. Litigation of all kinds – criminal or civil – is conflict.
What was most important for me with Tanner though was to show – in a credible way – that he’s an extremely good defence counsel, rather than being a ‘made for TV’ character. I’ve tried not to bog readers down with unnecessary procedural details, but I was aiming for authenticity in all the court scenes and from Tanner as a lawyer-protagonist. I want him to be funny and quick with wise cracks, and someone who pushes the envelope as far as professional ethics go, but he’s a serious lawyer. He’s never flippant or superficial when it comes to his legal work.
The construction industry is full of corruption and kick-backs and there have been several exposes and news reports in recent times. Did you worry about any correlations to real scandals being made, and did this worry you at all?
I’m stunned to hear anyone thinks that the construction industry is full of corruption. That’s news to me. Next thing you’ll tell me so is banking and politics.
If you’re writing fiction about corruption in property development, or big business, or even government, if the plot is going to be believable, then the corruption you’re ‘making up’ in your novel is something that inevitably can happen. So there’s a risk that the very thing you’re writing about might actually happen before your book is published. I don’t think that’s a problem if your story is entertaining, has good pace, and the characters are engaging. What might be a danger is if the real life corruption turns out to be more extreme than your novel. For both Tanner books I’ve kept this thought in mind – don’t underestimate how corrupt things really are.
The Burden of Lies has a very detailed, yet easy to follow plot arc. Did your past experience as barrister help you with note taking and remembering where each character should be and what they were doing?
Good lawyers are logical thinkers. Writing a novel with a complex plot requires (amongst many other things) organized and logical thought. Being a barrister obviously helps with court scenes, but I’m not a criminal lawyer, so I’ve taken advice from experts about some aspects of criminal procedure. While I’ve endeavored to be authentic, I think it’s important to remember you’re writing a novel, not a text book, so a few procedural things can be skipped over or condensed. Any lawyer who buys The Burden of Lies as a criminal procedure manual needs to ensure that their professional indemnity insurance is up to date.
In your experience as a barrister, did journos and legal guys often help each other out to manage the media?
I’m pretty sure criminal investigative bodies and the police share information with the media generally, and in particular with crime reporters. I don’t have personal experience in doing that. Then again, the law and facts of my cases in real life have often caused me difficulty staying awake. At times they’ve cause me difficulty in maintaining the will to live. So they’re not the sort of cases that a journalist is likely to be interested in. They’re welcome to call me though if they get overwhelmingly desperate for copy.
I found Tanner one of the best characters in a legal/suspense thriller for a long time. What’s next for the character?
At the beginning of The Burden of Lies, Tanner is feeling a bit jaded as a defence counsel. I’m wondering if he might consider Prosecuting for the right case or cases? Maybe he’d like to take a global tax cheat down, or find out who was really guilty of a horrendous crime committed many years ago? Of course, the Director of Public Prosecutions or the AG would have to reach agreement with him over his fees, which are above State and Federal Government rates. Still, you get what you pay for in law like everything else.
The Burden Of Lies is out Dec 1! Order now from Booktopia
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for arranging the Q&A!