Monday, July 27, 2009

The Justice Game.....And a Free Book

Finally, I get to review The Justice Game. This post has a few different parts. First off, my actual review, then an excerpt from the book itself, and then a Q&A with the author, Randy Singer. Ending the post is the video they made for readers to vote on the outcome of the fictional case: In favor of MD Firearms, or in favor of Blake Crawford, the young widower.

And also, a chance to win a copy of this book, so make sure you comment.

My review of The Justice Game

The young woman lay with the life draining out of her. Her killer is dead, killed by the SWAT team. The gun had been purchased in a straw purchase, where a second party buys a gun for someone who cannot legally buy one.

The husband of the victim is suing. Not the killer - he is dead. Not the gun store, who illegally sold the gun. He is suing the gun manufacturer, MD Firearms, claiming they knew about the store selling guns illegally. The outcome of this case could influence the Second Amendment - our right to bear arms.

The author did something unique for this book. He made a video about this fictional case, and visitors to his website could vote which way the verdict should go. Against the gun manufacturer, or in favor of them.

Mr. Singer did an awesome job of presenting both sides. I liked both lawyers. I felt sympathetic for the young widower, who lost not only his wife, but the baby she was carrying in her womb. Yet, to rule in his favor seemed a strike against the right of Americans to bear arms. To own a gun for protection, to hunt.

The further I got into the book, the tougher the verdict got to call, and it also became tougher to know which verdict I wanted. I voted in favor of the gun manufacturer, but would they win, and did I want them to?

And everything wasn’t going well for either lawyer. The young pretty Kelly Starling had done something she wasn’t proud of a few years ago. The handsome, magnetic Jason Noble, lawyer for the gun manufacturer, had done something he still regretted. They thought their secrets were safe, until the blackmail emails started coming. Emails to affect the outcome of the jurors picked, the witness selection, and the very outcome of the trial.

I have read several of Randy Singer’s books, but this one tops them all. The book had an unexpected and exciting end, and though the message came through in a subtle way, the reader got the message that covering up sin never works. It will come out in the end.

So, who won? Blake Crawford, the young man whose life was torn apart, all because of an illegal gun sale? Or MD Gun Manufacturers, who may have known, or not known, about the store illegally selling guns. Want to know? Read the book. And it may surprise you what verdict that you want as the outcome.
Excerpt from the book:

"Jason moved back in front of the jury box. “Larry Jamison is not here today. He caused all of this heartbreak and chaos and loss. But he is not here. Why? Because the SWAT team took him out before he could kill other innocent victims in his vile rage. They used a standard issue Colt CAR-15 to do it. And you won’t see that gun being introduced into evidence in a lawsuit against its maker. It’s a military assault weapon, every bit as deadly as the MD-11—no doubt about that. But it was used to protect innocent life, not take it.”

Jason walked over to his counsel table and stood behind the chair he had been sitting in. “There’s an empty chair at the defense counsel table. Until now, I’ve been sitting here. But I’ve decided I’m not going to sit here anymore. Why? Because this is the number one chair at the defense counsel table, and the person sitting in this chair ought to be a lawyer for Larry Jamison. He’s the one who pulled the trigger.”

Next, Jason leaned over and asked Case McAllister to move down a seat, freeing up the second chair at the defense table. “This chair,” Jason said, “ought to belong to Jarrod Beeson. Right now, he’s a little busy, spending twelve months behind bars for participating in a gunrunning operation. He bought the gun for Larry Jamison, knowing that Jamison couldn’t purchase it on his own. In fact, Beeson bought more than twenty guns from Peninsula Arms and turned right around and sold many of them to criminals.”

Jason stood there for a moment, his hands on the chair in front of him. “This is Beeson’s seat.”

There was only one chair left at the counsel table, the seat now occupied by Case McAllister.
Behind the table were several other leather chairs for legal assistants and others helping the lawyers. Jason took two of those chairs and moved them parallel to the counsel table but several feet away, on the opposite side of the table from the jury. He asked Case McAllister to move into one of those seats.

For the rest of trial, Jason and Case would be sitting there, with no table to put their notes on. It would be awkward but it would be a lasting visual reminder of his opening statement.

But Kelly Starling was on her feet. “Judge, I object to this . . . whatever it is. It’s certainly not an opening statement; it’s more like musical chairs.”

“It’s unusual,” Jason said, “I admit. But I’m not aware of any rule that says we’ve got to sit at the table instead of next to the table.”

“Let’s get on with it,” Garrison said. “Objection overruled.”

“This last chair,” Jason continued, “the last one actually at the table, is for Peninsula Arms. They engaged in numerous straw sales. They have actually been cited three times by the ATF. And they sold this gun to Jarrod Beeson knowing that he would in turn sell it to somebody else who wasn’t a legal purchaser. Yet you won’t hear from the store’s owner or the clerks; they’re all taking the Fifth Amendment.”

Jason surveyed the table and walked back to the jury. “There are only two reasons the plaintiffs are trying to put my client at that table. The first is because my client has money—”


“Sustained. Watch yourself, Mr. Noble.”

“The second is because my client sold guns to Peninsula Arms even though they allegedly knew the gun dealer had sold some guns illegally. But let me ask you a question. When you buy a car, do you expect the car dealer or car manufacturer to check your driving record and refuse to sell you a car if you’ve got a few speeding tickets? No. You expect the government to suspend your license if you’ve got too many tickets to be driving. But if the government allows you to drive, and you’ve got a valid license, you expect the car dealer to sell you a vehicle. Ford’s job is to sell cars, not police the roads.

“In the same way, it is the responsibility of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms—we commonly refer to them as the ATF—it is the ATF’s job to police the gun stores. It is MD Firearms’s job to manufacture guns—good guns, guns that work as advertised—and then sell those guns to any licensed firearm dealer.”

Jason pointed to the defense table. “I asked you to watch that gun,” he said. “Did you notice that the gun hasn’t moved? It’s not an animate object with a conscience and a sense of good and evil. That gun is simply an object. It can be used for good, like the SWAT team used their guns, or evil, the way Jamison used this particular gun.

“Jamison pulled the trigger. Beeson supplied the black market. Peninsula Arms sold guns illegally. And MD Firearms? All they did was manufacture a lawful product that worked as advertised and then sell it to a licensed firearm dealer operating with the blessing of the federal government.
“Use the left side of your brain, and ask yourself this simple question: Other than the fact that my client has money, why is MD Firearms even sitting in this courtroom?”"

The author of The Justice Games, Randy Singer, is a lawyer, and writes in the style of John Grisham, only with no cursing in his books. Below, a Q&A with the author (not my questions):

Q&A with Randy Singer
1. Randy, you bring a unique perspective to your writing because you are also an attorney
and a pastor. How do you juggle these three things and still have a life?

"It helps that I love doing all three. It also helps that, while they’re all very different, they
draw on common skill sets. For example, principles of powerful story-telling are
important for a pastor, lawyer and (obviously) writer. I’m a little ADHD and like being able
to go from one thing to another. I tell people it’s like crop rotation—keeps things fresh.
And, to be honest, writing is more like relaxation for me than a job. It gives me a break
from the pressures of the other “real life” jobs and lets me go into a world where I get to
control things! (Can we say “God complex” here?)

But none of that really answers your question. Three things help me juggle. One, I try to
stay focused on the big stuff. It’s not that I do the little stuff second, I try not to do the
little stuff at all. Second, I stay focused on what I can do well and let others worry about
the stuff that is out of my control. In other words, I’m a master at delegation (think Tom
Sawyer and the white picket fence). And third, I’ve learned to get comfortable with the
fact that I will always have stuff in each of these areas that does not get done. As long as
the ball is moving forward, I’ve got to be satisfied with that.

As for the part about having a life—I would have to object to that question on the
grounds that it assumes facts not in evidence
But seriously--I thank God that, in His grace, He allows me to do three separate things
that I love doing so much. My prayer is that I might bring glory to Him in three different
ways as I minister in each of these areas. (And yes, being a lawyer is a ministry.)"

2. In all your novels, you often address a particular topic. How did you decide to address
gun control in The Justice Game?

"I like to write about moral issues that have no easy answer. On the issue of gun control,
there are some pretty strong emotions on both sides. And people have typically trenched
in—spouting off rehearsed arguments rather than trying to understand each other. But
when you frame the issue in the context of a story, you can sometimes by-pass the
automatic intellectual defenses and speak straight to the heart. I tried to create
compelling characters on both sides of the story to help readers sort through the types of
honest arguments that people of good faith make and then decide for themselves.

But on a larger scale, the issue of gun control is not really the focus of The Justice
Game. The more important issues raised are these: (1) In America, can you “game” the
criminal justice system? I have proposed a hypothetical system in The Justice Game
that could do just that. (2) Can the main characters in the novel escape their past sins
(and secrets) or will they let themselves remain captive to them? I once heard Rick
Warren say that courage comes when you have nothing left to hide. That’s a concept I
explore in The Justice Game."

3. As an attorney, you served as lead counsel in a school shooting case in Virginia. What
happened and what impact did the case have?

This is from the author’s note at the beginning of the book:
On December 16, 1988, a fifteen-year-old student named Nicholas Elliot took a
Cobray semiautomatic handgun to Atlantic Shores Christian School and opened fire. He
shot and killed a teacher named Karen Farley and wounded an assistant principal, then
burst into a trailer where a Bible class was meeting. When he attempted to open fire on
the students huddled in the back corner of the trailer, the gun jammed. The Bible
teacher, Hutch Matteson, tackled Elliot and prevented the kind of tragedy that hit
Columbine High School in Colorado several years later.

Atlantic Shores was the school where my wife taught. It was the school my kids
attended (though they were not there that day).

And when I learned that Elliot had purchased the gun illegally from a gun store in Isle
of Wight County through a transaction referred to as a “straw purchase transaction,” I
represented the family of Karen Farley in an unprecedented lawsuit against the gun

The verdict shocked everyone.

"In terms of the impact this real case had on my writing—it made the writing of the book
both harder and easier. Harder because we lost a friend in the Atlantic Shores shooting
and it was difficult to relive the emotions of the shooting and subsequent case. Easier
because authors should write what they know best. I didn’t have to imagine what the
feelings of the attorneys would be as they tried this case of national importance on an
issue with such raw emotions. I had walked in those shoes. From that perspective, this
book might be the most realistic book I’ve written."

4. You had your readers determine the verdict in the court case at the center of the book.
Why did you decide to go this route?

"Two reasons. First, I thought it would be fun to create an interactive experience for
readers. We put together a fake newscast with snippets of the closing arguments—just
enough to inform readers about the case and let them vote. Second, I was trying to be
balanced on this issue of gun control. What better way to demonstrate balance than to
let the readers decide the verdict? Oh yeah, and third (if it’s not too late to add a third),
the book ends up being about much more than just the verdict in the gun case. I knew
that the ending would work out fine whichever way the verdict came out."

5. This spring marked ten years since the shooting at Columbine. How do you think that
tragedy impacted today’s gun laws?

"I think Columbine had a greater impact on school security than it did on our nation’s gun
laws. I can’t trace a single national change in gun laws to the tragedy at Columbine.
Even here in Virginia following the shootings at Virginia Tech, there was little that
resulted from that tragedy in terms of additional gun control. In each case, the argument
can be made that no matter what gun laws you have in place, the criminals will still be
able to get their hands on guns. Restrictive laws only make it harder for law abiding

6. This is an issue that people feel very strongly about, one way or the other. Why do you
think it is such an emotional issue for people?

"Guns are powerful symbols of individual freedom and the right to protect oneself. Gun
enthusiasts tend to be distrustful of government (for good reason) and see the right to
bear arms as a bastion (pardon the pun) against governmental intrusions on individual
rights. They also believe that it is ultimately up to them, not the government, to keep
themselves secure in their own home. Take away their guns, and you’ve taken away
their ability to defend themselves. On the other side, many people who believe in gun
control have seen or been a part of needless tragedies where easy access to guns has
proven deadly. Years ago, high school students might get in a fist fight and one or the
other would end up with a bloody nose. Now, gangs use guns to settle scores—resulting
in pointless homicides. Gun control advocates would argue that a gun should be at least
as hard to get as a driver’s license.

Protecting your home, self-defense, the slaughter of young men in the inner city—these
are emotional issues, all centered around the gun control debate."

7. How has the church typically viewed the issue of gun control versus gun rights?

"Which church? White evangelical churches tend to be pro-gun. They typically emphasize
the individual rights of citizens to protect themselves and safeguard themselves from a
tyrannical government. African-American churches, especially those in the inner city, are
typically in favor of more restrictions on firearms. This is because their families feel the
brunt of gun violence."

8. What do you see happening in the national gun debate going forward?

"Not much movement on either side. President Obama has been the best thing for gun
store owners since the invention of the revolver. Fear that Obama might push for greater
restrictions on gun usage has generated record sales in most stores. But the fact of the
matter is that President Obama hasn’t shown much stomach for a fight on this issue. On
the judicial side, the Supreme Court recently recognized that the Second Amendment
guarantees the right to bear arms for individuals, not just militias as some gun control
advocates had previously claimed. (There is some dispute over whether this just applies
to the federal government or also the states). But the Court also said that the right was
subject to reasonable regulation and control. You could hear the “Hallelujahs!” from
attorneys everywhere since this virtually guaranteed a case-by-case fight over what
regulations might be reasonable. So in summary, I think we’ve reached a stalemate on
the gun control debate with the exception of these legal skirmishes over the details of
attempts by cities and states to regulate the right to bear arms.

9. Since we’ve been discussing a heavy topic, we need something lighthearted to close out
this interview. What’s your best lawyer joke?

"It’s not actually my best, but it’s pretty quick.
They’ve started using lawyers instead of rats in laboratory experiments for three
reasons: (1) there are more of them; (2) the scientists would sometimes get attached to
the rats; and (3) there were some things the lab rats just wouldn’t do."

I have to give away, a certificate for a free copy of the book and a signed bookplate. The certificate should be redeemable at any Christian bookstore. If not, it can be redeemed through Tyndale Publishers.

To enter, simply comment on this post/review. Just say you want to enter, the book sounds great - whatever. I will put all the entries in a hat and will pick a winner a week from today, August 3. No entries will be accepted after midnight on August 2. Anyone is eligible. You don't have to know me, like me, or love me. :-)

And lastly, if you would like to watch the video they made to have people view and render a verdict on the fictional case in this book, it is below. Or you can visit the website of Randy Singer and view it, and more information about this excellent author.


love2bake said...

I would vote in favor of MD Firearms. While I understand the grief of the widower, it was not the fault of MD Firearms that his wife was killed. I don't think that the store where the gun was purchased should be held responsible, but, rather, that the person that knowingly sold the gun illegally should be held responsible, as well as the person that bought it and the person that shot it. I think too often we slap the perpetrators on the wrist and go after the one that can give us a "settlement."

Kimmy said...

Do our odds of winning increase if we do know you, like you and love you??

Mark said...

@ KImmy - nope :-)

Kim M. said...

LOL.. Kimmy's remark is funny!

That sounds like a really exciting book that would be good to read with Michael. :-) I'm in! (although I don't know how to vote. I'm all for gun rights! But I'd have to know more about the case.)

Cindy said...

Wow, great review, Mark! Sounds like you really enjoyed this one, and you are without a doubt one of the most prolific readers I have ever met :) Come to think of it, you're pretty good at writing too! Sounds like an interesting and thought provoking read. You may enter me in your contest.

Steve Hight said...

Sounds like a good read and definitely a tough case to judge. My gut reaction votes in favor of MD Firearms. As the saying goes, "Guns don't kill; people do."

Somewhere along the line, though, one wonders where chains of illegal sales can be broken. One thing's for sure: Even though the law can't assign correct "amounts" or "levels" of blame, God can and eventually will.

Randy Singer said...

Mark, thanks for such an awesome review. In fact, I think I'll just have you write my advertising copy for the next book. Nobody does it better. And by the way, I love the quote at the top of your blog. "Safe? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good."

Blessings to you and your readers! And by the way, just my opinion, but you definitely ought to increase odds for commenters that know you, like you and love you:)

Steven said...

Looks like a great book. Are you sending it to me so I can read it? :-) Well, as long as I win the contest this time you won't have to loan me your copy; I'll have my own. :-)

Steve-n-Deb said...

Am I too late? We were out of town and offline for the last two weeks.

Mark said...

Yes, you are too late