Joey Hartstone drew on his experience writing for the big and small screens (LBJ, Shock and Awe, The Good Fight, and Your Honor), his lifelong fascination with the law, and his Southwestern small-town upbringing for his debut legal thriller, THE LOCAL (Doubleday June 2022).
Hartstone had always threatened to go to law school but found his calling writing gripping stories for legal shows. During his research, he learned of Marshall, TX, and its unique position in the legal world at large. There’s no business in this little, seemingly unremarkable town in East Texas, yet it’s home to more patent lawsuits than anywhere else in the country, and global corporations from Apple to Boeing and Xerox to Zappos win and lose billions of dollars there. Armies of attorneys from major law firms in coastal cities pour into town to defend their clients against claims of intellectual property theft by alleged innovators. In one year, the Courts heard 2500 patent cases (2015) and were known for awarding large sums to plaintiffs.
The big companies’ fate is decided by juries of ordinary citizens in the federal courthouse of the Eastern District of Texas—men and women with modest means and very limited resources who briefly hold a phenomenal amount of power and wield it with great force. And for this reason, every legal team needs someone who can bridge the divide between the big-city clients and the rural jurors. That person is called a local counsel—a character Hartstone knew would make for a great story.
Although he had never been to Marshall, Texas before beginning his novel, he has nailed the atmosphere of this real-life place. The novel remarkably includes philosophy, humor, and lessons on how our legal system works. He is actually from Arizona.
In our conversation, Joey talks about what authors influenced him, how he got his first break in writing, and what he does when he gets stuck in developing a story. He also credits his wife, Abby, whom he obviously adores, with being his collaborator.
“Hartstone, who has written screenplays for film (Shock and Awe) and TV (The Good Fight), displays a sure hand with the pointed adversarial dialogue that fuels legal thrillers… A generally impressive first outing from a talented writer.” —Kirkus Reviews
“The surprising twists are rendered plausible by Hartstone’s mastery of conveying detailed trial strategies. Scott Turow readers should take a look. —Publishers Weekly
“What follows is a courtroom thriller with a dazzling cinematic quality, which is not surprising as Hartstone is an accomplished film and television writer. Euchre is a well-defined character, a man of depth, but it’s the supporting cast that truly pops off the pages. This is an extremely promising debut, and readers will want more of Hartstone’s razor’s-edge style. A natural for fans of Grisham and Turow.” —Booklist
Editor’s Note: In 2017 the US Supreme Court changed the laws now requiring patent cases to be filed in the district where a company does business.