|photo: Glen La Ferman
Robert Rotstein grew up in Culver City, Calif., where his elementary school was kitty-corner to an MGM studio back lot. At an early age, he became hooked on legal dramas--not only Perry Mason, but also on the politically charged The Defenders and lesser known shows like Judd for the Defense, The Young Lawyers and The Trials of O'Brien--lawyers solving crimes and doing justice. Perhaps this early combination of life in an entertainment-company town and fascination with the lawyer-as-hero made it inevitable that Rotstein would become an attorney whose practice focused on the entertainment industry and, later, a writer of novels about a lawyer. Over the course of his legal career, he's handled lawsuits on behalf of Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Lionel Ritchie, John Sayles, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds, James Cameron and all the major motion picture studios, among others. Rotstein's Corrupt Practices (Seventh Street Books, June 4, 2013) is about Parker Stern, a Los Angeles attorney who takes on a legal case against a powerful, dangerous religious cult.
On your nightstand now:
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. I'm a sucker for novels about the movie industry, all the more so when they explore, as Walter's book does, how the quest for celebrity and fame affects an individual's life.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Jack London's Call of the Wild. The depiction of domesticated dog that left civilization and turned leader of the pack had a special appeal to a boy growing up in the tumultuous '60s. I also devoured juvenile biographies of major league baseball players, at that time depicted as virtuous, non-smoking, non-drinking role models for the nation's youth--meaning that the baseball biographies were just as fictional as Call of the Wild.
Your top five authors:
Philip Roth, Haruki Murakami and James M. Cain, and as for contemporary authors, Jennifer Egan and Dana Spiotta.
Book you've faked reading:
David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. I've been fake reading it for four years now, and my Kindle app says that I've finished 19% of the book. This is just a hiatus. I will tackle the remaining 81%.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent, which proves that the distinction between "commercial fiction" and "literary fiction" is illusory. A friend of mind to whom I recommended the book aptly compared it to a play by Sophocles.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. By way of explanation, I'd never read Chabon and couldn't decide between that book and Wonder Boys. Kavalier & Clay's yellow and sky-blue cover, comic-book font and image of the Empire State Building was the clincher. (Hey, it's better than flipping a coin, and it ended up being the right choice.)
Book that changed your life:
Melville's Moby Dick, the second time around. I'd read the book in college and didn't appreciate it. I gave it another go in my late 20s, and when I finished, I felt as if I'd read a combination of Shakespeare and The Holy Bible. After that, I was sure I wanted to write someday.
Favorite line from a book:
Favorite line from a mystery/thriller: "When a man's partner is killed he's supposed to do something about it. It doesn't make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you're supposed to do something about it." --Dashiell Hammett, from The Maltese Falcon.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. I've actually read it more than once, and each time feels like the first. I'd still like to know who killed the chauffeur.