Lescroart hits a home run with 'The Mercy Rule'

September 20, 1998
Elisabeth Sherwin -- gizmo@ dcn.davis.ca.us

John Lescroart has done it again.

His 10th novel, "The Mercy Rule" (Delacorte, $24.95), is his best yet. This novel pulls together many of his interests including baseball, family relationships, the legal world and San Francisco.

"The easiest books are the best books," he said. "This had all those personal bells and the plot tapped into them."

Lescroart, his wife, Lisa Sawyer, and their two children, Jack and Justine, live in El Macero. When they first moved to Davis from Los Angeles, nearly 10 years ago, they lived in South Davis. That's when Lescroart was still struggling. Sure, he was a published writer, but he wasn't making a living.

Then he got serious about his writing career, fired his agent, hired a high-priced attorney to get him out of a contract that amounted to writing bondage, and brought in a new agent, publicist and publisher. The results have lived up to his wildest dream.

"It's pretty nice," he says.

People magazine picked "The Mercy Rule" as its "Beach book of the week" last week. All four of his most recent books are on the Top 30 list of books being ordered by bookstores nationwide.

"I love 'The Mercy Rule,' " he says. "It's the one I'm sure will be the most popular."

The plot is this: A fisherman named Sal Russo lies dead in a dingy San Francisco apartment. He suffered from Alzheimer's at the end of his life. Police find vials of morphine and a syringe at his side. Is it suicide or murder? The number one suspect is his baseball-playing son, Graham, who is brought to trial for helping his father die. Graham hires Dismas Hardy to defend him in what quickly becomes a celebrated, high stakes case.

Naturally, this plot takes many twists and turns and the ending cannot be revealed. Except for one thing: read the last page carefully. That wasn't the ending Lescroart originally gave his publisher. But then the story kept nagging at him so he added the last few paragraphs.

"I never wrote a more satisfying ending," said Lescroart.

Lescroart thought about his own father as he wrote "The Mercy Rule."

"My father always said he lived a life of quiet desperation. He raised seven kids and was living in a trailer park when he died in 1985. He was a great and wonderful guy but at some point he lost his confidence. He never defined himself as a failure, but the money thing and job issues ate him up," said Lescroart.

"The family issues and Sal's dark secret make the book work," he added.

Lescroart said he wrote the book in four months after about six months research and preparation.

Lescroart says he's had plenty of nibbles in terms of movie and TV offers for several of his novels.

"But the thing to do is to forget about it. I had four live bites going in June for different properties but all failed to come to fruition. If it happens, great."

A word about the title. "The Mercy Rule" doesn't refer to a defense for assisted suicide. It's a baseball term. It's invoked when one team gets so badly beaten by another that mercy is declared and the game's ended.

"I've been mercy-ruled," said Lescroart. He's an avid baseball fan who has played softball in Davis for as long as he's been here. At age 50, he's not bouncing back from inevitable injuries as quickly as he used to so he's taking a break.

"But I may go back," he said.

His character Graham Russo plays baseball for big stakes in San Francisco. "Every big city has teams owned by young rich CEOs," said Lescroart. "These are sportsmen who make money betting on their teams. They motivate their players by offering several hundred dollars for a home run, a thousand for a win."

Lescroart found out about this aspect of baseball the hard way, when his little team in L.A. showed up to play a team underwritten by a guy with more money than sense.

"The team had their own bus, their own uniforms, their own cheerleaders," Lescroart recalled. "And they were good. It was like playing a professional team." After a few innings and a painfully lopsided score, the mercy rule was invoked.

But all of his life experiences are stored away and made ready to crop up in a novel down the line.

If you ask Lescroart if living well is the best revenge, he will not hesitate.

"Yes," he said.

To inquire about ordering any of the above mentioned books from an independent bookstore,
Bogey's Books [ Click Here ]

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