Rogue Divorce Lawyer by Dale E. Manolakas will appeal to readers on three levels. Published in January 2018, this novel adds another element to discussions about sexual crimes against females. Who do victims go to for redress? Lawyers. But don’t go to this lawyer or any of the colleagues he met on a regular basis to discuss (brag about?) clients. Second, this is a novel based on true events. In the preface, an appellate court case number is cited in support of factual elements. The fictional element comes in when Manolakas details what may have been the thoughts and rationalizations of lawyer Gary Stockton. They follow logically from his actions but who can know what goes on in the mind of people? There may have been thoughts much darker than those portrayed in this work. Third, the title will appeal to any readers who have had unfortunate experiences with lawyers. Depending on the length of time spent on the planet, that is a large number of people.
The writing in this novel was so interesting I wanted to know more about the author. Her biography on her Amazon author page is outstanding. Getting past all the degrees and her legal experience, a senior appellate attorney at the California Court of Appeals and an Administrative Law Judge, she wrote with the encouragement of Ray Bradbury. Not to take away from her skills as a writer; I am sure he must have contributed something that resulted in such a captivating writing style. She has written four other novels which I will read. I find her to be the most interesting legal thriller since John Grisham. No one should be surprised that I give this novel five Amazon stars and highly recommend it for fans of legal thrillers.
As good as it is, readers may have questions after the novel’s conclusion. Gary Stockton sexually abused clients, falsified billings to the point that the actions were obviously crimes, not mistakes, and killed a few people along the way. Manolakas does not completely cover the last point. How was it determined that he killed people? One of the killings, an execution performed as a result of his knowledgeable inaction, is clear and documented but proof of others is missing. That does not take away from the novel; it is just a question I have.
A description of Gary Stockton includes all the worst stereotypes used to depict lawyers. Sleaze, ambulance chaser, and bottom feeder are popular labels that all fit Stockton. Manolakas describes how some lawyers, specifically Stockton, target vulnerable clients; targets already under emotional distress compounded by their economic situation, an inability to pay. It did not matter how much money the clients had, Stockton would drain the escrow accounts in which retainers were deposited. For me, a retainer of 25 000 USD is a large amount. Eliana Thurston is a central figure in this story and that is the amount she advanced to lawyer Stockton. (I presume names were changed in some cases). Manolakas focuses on Eliana’s account and describes other cases with similar backgrounds.
Eliana only had one thing going for her. Her sister, Angela, had a lawyer live-in boyfriend, Kurt Cobain Townsend. (Really? Maybe this is one of the changed names). Kurt was a lawyer in a highly prestigious firm that did not take cases such as Eliana’s. But surely Kurt could help, could give Eliana advice. Kurt was unwilling to do this, fearing the distraction would take away from his billable hours at his firm. Doesn’t it feel like Kurt, with a job at a high-flying prestigious firm, did similar things that Stockton did as far as creative billing is concerned? Stockton just carried it further to include murder. Eliana’s constant, almost nagging appeals to Angela produced constant, almost nagging appeals to Kurt and the story becomes a complex story of relationships forced and voluntary.
Eliana’s appeal to a respectable lawyer did not slow Gary down. He seems almost ignorant of threats to his central focus, one that is common to a sexual predator. Stockton kept trophies in his office of sexual encounters in the office and elsewhere. Clients had filled out questionnaires about their sexual history, information supposedly needed in support of abuse for a divorce proceeding. Stockton had a “stable” of unwilling sexual partners, women who acceded to his advances faced with the threat of his dropping their case. But Eliana was constant in her refusal to play. Her story of struggles to obtain justice or at least decent treatment as a human being is inspiring.
This is more than good. I highly recommend it. Most Manolakas novels, not the bundled novels, are available for a free read through Kindle Unlimited. The sale price is typically (not all) USD 4.99 for single novels.