Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Mark M. Bello, author of Betrayal of Faith (A Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Book 1).
FQ: Because you are a Michigan native and, of course, a lawyer – can you tell readers a bit about how Blake came into being? Is he based on you and your career in some ways?
BELLO: Betrayal of Faith is loosely based upon an actual case I handled earlier in my career. The novel fulfills a 'bucket-list' item for me.
While the book and The Coalition are fiction, both depict how it felt to handle a case where a revered religious institution behaved badly, lied under oath, engaged in a cover-up and did everything it could do to deny justice to its young parishioner-victim. I have been married to my terrific wife, Tobye, for almost 45 years. I do not abuse alcohol in any way, shape, or form. Blake's failures are his, not mine, but his case is based on my real case.
Despite his failures and flaws, Blake is more talented, and gutsy than I ever was. After he regains his moxy, he becomes the kind of lawyer I always aspired to be and he is based on a compilation of me and other lawyers I have know well over the years. His legal strategies are mine; his approach to the case and willingness to go anywhere to find witnesses and answers are based on my crusade for justice back in the day. I really enjoyed creating him and developing his character over the six novels. I also enjoy comparing his career to mine and often wonder what I would have done with the cases he has handled in those novels. Bottom line: I'm having fun with him.
FQ: In your bio it states that you have worked “extremely high profile legal cases.” Is this particular case written about in Betrayal of Faith based on a real one you fought inside the courtroom, or is this one you wished to focus upon for some particular reason?
BELLO: As I indicated in my previous answer, yes, Betrayal of Faith is based on an actual case I handled in the 1980's. The struggle for justice against a defendant with unlimited funds, a high capacity for deceit and cover-up, and the disappointment I felt at how they treated one of their own (a child, no less) are present in the novel. "The Coalition" is a fictional organization, but it accurately depicts the experience. It felt like some sinister entity was pulling strings behind the scenes and the lawyers were only following orders. When the case was over, I promised myself that I would, one day, write a book about the experience. Betrayal of Faith is the product of that promise.
FQ: Looking at this sickly “facet” of the world that makes headlines, people who have taken vows to the Church but then hurt children, do you think the tides are turning; or, if one day this is something that will not be heard about again because justice has been served?
BELLO: The Church acknowledges wrong-doing these days; it has issued multiple apologies and paid out millions to victims. It has handled the crisis better than it has in the past. Still, it has done far too little to address the problem and still justifies keeping predators in its midst based, primarily, on a shortage of priests. I don't get the philosophy and why they would pay out millions and billions and cover-up these abhorrent activities. Full disclosure, immediate defrocking of offending priests, abolishing the oath of celibacy and permitting priests to marry would, in my opinion, help enormously.
FQ: What brought you to writing? Did you have a particular “fictional” attorney that you were or still are interested in that inspired you to walk the writer’s path?
BELLO: As I indicated, the case brought me to writing; completion of the novel and recent events in our country caused me to continue. When I see an injustice, I try to tackle it, expose it, and demonstrate how the justice system might handle it. In Betrayal of Justice, it was a bigoted president and a young Muslim woman falsely accused of murdering a white supremacist. In Betrayal in Blue, it was a good cop falsely accused by bad cops. Betrayal in Black tackles the issue of white cops shooting and killing black citizens, an exploration of institutional racism in the criminal and civil justice systems. Betrayal High takes on school shootings and bullying, while Supreme Betrayal handles sexual assault and the me-too movement. All of my novels are based on real-life events; they are realistic, 'ripped from the headlines' fiction, so to speak.
I have been inspired by many novelists, in and out of the legal thriller genre. Harper Lee, John Grisham, Steve Martini, Daniel Silva, Ken Follet, David Baldacci, Pat Conroy, George RR Martin, Dan Brown, Elmore Leonard, and many others come to mind. I certainly like reading novels from my own genre.
FQ: What do you like to do when out of the courtroom and away from the computer? Do you have any specific hobbies or things you like that inspire you?
BELLO: Surprise! I like to read! I love movies and television dramas. Many reviewers compare my books to the Law and Order television series. I like to watch and play sports. I'm almost 68 now, but I still play golf, tennis, pickle ball and softball. My favorite pastime? Seeing and playing with my eight grandchildren. Grandfather (they call me "Popi') is my favorite role in life.
FQ: Readers love to hear the answer to this: If you could have your choice of having coffee with one person (this could be a writer, political entity, historical figure, etc.), who would that be, and why?
BELLO: Ruth Bader Ginsberg—she is the ultimate legal hero and champion for justice in this country. I wish her good health and long life. The country needs her.
FQ: Are there other places readers can find out more about you, or perhaps sites that you write for in regards to the law and/or writing?
BELLO: People can read my blogs at Mark M. Bello|Author/Attorney|Michigan.
I write articles for The Legal Examiner.
I also co-host a podcast on Blog Talk Radio (it might be moving, though) called Journey into Justice where today's newsworthy legal and political topics are discussed in some detail. I have an active social justice page on Facebook. I'm @justicefellow on Twitter. Check them out!
FQ: Looking forward, and I know there are four books at the moment starring Zachary Blake, do you see more stories on the horizon? And if not with Zachary, in particular, is there another character and/or genre you would love to take a crack at?
BELLO: There are two more finished novels awaiting publication, Betrayal High, about a bullying and a school shooting, and Supreme Betrayal, about a sexual assault committed by a now candidate for the United States Supreme Court. I'm not sure what the future holds; publishing and marketing books is an expensive endeavor and I need to develop a loyal following to continue. Can you help a fellow out?