Bestselling author Scott Turow is the final speaker this month for the Friends of the Collier County Library’s annual Nick Linn Lecture Series. Turow, a former criminal defense lawyer and federal prosecutor, has written 11 acclaimed legal thrillers—four adapted for film and television—and three nonfiction books. Turow’s latest novel, The Last Trial, orbits around the character Sandy Stern, a defense lawyer who has appeared in all his novels. At 85, Stern is taking on his last case and “still believes, despite the many imperfections, that the law is a noble profession,” Turow explains. Though it’s Turow’s debut appearance at the popular Friends series, he and his wife, Adriane, have become familiar local faces since declaring their Park Shore villa their domicile three years ago. With crisp insights and expansive experiences, Turow is a comfortable conversationalist on an array of topics, including the law and why he chose Naples over his long-time Chicago base as his new home. Here is an abridged version from a recent interview with NI.
NI: Are you first a writer or a lawyer?
Turow: I always wanted to be a novelist. That was a dream that I inherited from my mother who had that dream but didn’t get as far. I went to law school because it’s pretty hard to make a living as a novelist. I had been an English professor, but that wasn’t for me in the long-term. In those days, you could get studio jobs and mill out scripts for a TV producer or go into advertising. That didn’t sound good. I increasingly realized I was interested in the law, which shocked me because I knew nothing about it. Professionally, my dreams have come true.
You write legal thrillers, a genre that necessarily intersects with true crime. True crime is skyrocketing in popularity culturally. Why do you think so?
I’m not sure I understand what you mean by true crime. Like House of Gucci? People are fascinated by stories of transgression. Part of it is that they want to know what happens when you go over the line. I have long said that criminality is a form of great expression of the imagination. Here are the rules: How do I break them? There’s a fascination with the utter imagination that’s involved in a lot of crimes: How in the world did they ever decide to do this and pull it off? That a crime is true—that it really happened—overcomes the distance between the audience and the story that exists in fiction, which is called the willful suspension of disbelief. You do not have to convince the reader to suspend their disbelief, so the level of engagement is different and to some extent greater.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
We are about to announce a fifth film project—an eight-part limited series. Most novelists prefer long-form television series over a film du jour because more of what you wrote is being filmed. A film is only as good as a Reader’s Digest abridgment; it’s only two hours of what could be 14 hours.
What are some of your favorite activities or haunts in Naples?
I play golf at least twice a week. We spend a lot of time on the beach and going to restaurants. Adriane plays tennis—and I do, too—and pickleball, but she’s really good. I took my first serious tennis lesson at the age of 70. At 70-plus, I am glad to still be running hard. And we’ve made a community of friends we really adore.
Scott Turow’s presentation is Monday, March 21, in person at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples ($600) and virtually ($300). Lectures are available online for a month following the live event.