A homecoming . . .

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Best-selling novelist returns to hit series in his new novel, ‘Gone Again’

By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

New York Times best-selling novelist James Grippando says his latest novel “Gone Again” (HarperCollins $26.99) is a homecoming for criminal defense attorney Jack Swyteck, his hero of 12 novels.
“‘Gone Again’ has the potential to not only be a satisfying read, but also to invite people to go back to that first book (1994’s ‘The Pardon,’ Grippando’s debut novel). Jack is back at the Freedom Institute, which hasn’t been featured in the previous Swyteck novels since ‘The Pardon’ – that’s the first one where Jack started his legal career at (age) 27. Now he’s in his 40s and he’s evolved – it was fun for me to write,” explained Grippando, 58. “I think it’ll be enjoyable for readers to compare the Jack Swyteck in ‘Gone Again’ who’s become a really good lawyer and a good husband and about to become a good father to that angry, inexperienced Jack Swyteck who’s in his mid-late 20s and started out at the Freedom Institute in ‘The Pardon.’”

An alumnus of the University of Florida – where he earned both his undergraduate degree in political science and his juris doctor in law – Grippando lives in Coral Gables, Fla. with Tiffany, his wife of 22 years, and their three children. In addition to writing novels, Grippando is an attorney in the Ft. Lauderdale office of the law firm Boies Schiller & Flexner, LLP.

“I actually do practice (law) a fair amount now. I’m dividing my time half and half at this point. (At one point), I started writing two books a year. I found that was taking a lot of the fun out of it, to be honest,” he said.

Between 2014 to now, Grippando penned four novels: “Black Horizon,” “Cane & Abe,” “Cash Landing,” and the aforementioned “Gone Again.” His novella “The Penny Jumper” is slated for release in June. In early 2017, the 13th untitled Swyteck novel – which is also his 25th novel overall – is slated for release.

“I’m pretty spent, that much I can tell you,” he said, laughing. “So I’m going back to one novel a year. Going back 22 years when I decided to write a novel, my No. 1 rule was to keep it fun. I looked up one day and realized I’m breaking my own rule. This pace is not fun. It’s a nice mix now. The firm is very flexible with my hours. So I’m back to doing one novel a year and practicing law a few months of the year… Your body of work is a very long road. It doesn’t need to be done two books in a year. ‘Gone Again’ is my 24th novel. The next one is a big milestone – novel No. 25. Even if I do a book a year – hopefully until the day I die – that’ll put me at an even 50 or so. That’s pretty good.”

In “Gone Again,” which occurs in Miami, Swyteck and his wife FBI agent Andie Henning are expecting their first child. He also takes on his first death-row client since saving Theo Knight in “The Pardon,” who has since become his best friend and investigator.

Dylan Reeves is on death-row for the murder of teenager Sashi Burgette, the adopted daughter of Gavin and Debra Burgette. Sashi disappeared three years ago on her way to school. The night after she vanished, Reeves was stopped for DUI and police found Sashi’s panties in his vehicle. He was sentenced to death for her murder, even though her body was never found.

Days away from Reeves’ execution, Debra visits Swyteck and tells him that Sashi has called her several times – something the police dismiss as malicious pranks. However, as Swyteck investigates, he learns that Sashi was a problem child who was prone to acts of defiance and had a tendency to run away from home, something she did several times.

“I’ve known several friends who have adopted infants from overseas. All of them have had wonderful experiences, but I know of one couple who did not because the child they had adopted has what is called reactive attachment disorder. It’s a horrible condition that many infants who really aren’t cared for properly in the first two years of their existence cannot have any emotional attachment whatsoever to their parents or to anyone who loves them. I thought that would be an interesting premise for a book. When I started researching it, it became more interesting because I discovered a large number of families who adopted children with RAD had these terrible feelings of guilt because they’re not connecting with their child,” said Grippando.

Unable to handle Sashi any longer, the Burgettes looked into “re-homing” her, which is where they turn her over to new parents in an underground adoption network for unwanted children operating via online groups. Unless Swyteck can locate Sashi, an innocent man will be executed as the governor already signed Reeves’ death warrant.

“There was an investigative report done by Reuters that took the extreme bad case scenario where families were at their wit’s end and didn’t know what to do were engaging in this practice of re-homing,” said Grippando. “This is an underground network on the Internet of families who’ve adopted a child, discovered it’s way more than they can handle, and don’t know what else to do. They go on the Internet and they re-home their child with a family who’s willing to take on a child with such severe emotional disability. Of course, that often goes horribly wrong because parents who are desperate to rid themselves of a problem have put these children in harm’s way by placing them with people – including pedophiles – who have no business re-homing a child.”

University of Michigan alumnus Brad Meltzer, another attorney who’s become a best-selling author, praised Grippando’s rich knowledge of Miami, which is where the majority of his novels occur, particularly the Swyteck novels.

“James is one of the nicest guys around. Period,” said Meltzer, who lives in Florida. “Plus, he knows Miami is crazy, which proves his own sanity.”

Grippando didn’t plan on making Henning – the protagonist of his 2000 standalone novel “Under Cover of Darkness” – Swyteck’s wife. In fact, he didn’t plan on using her again period. But she showed up in 2006’s “Got the Look,” the fifth Swyteck book. Henning even starred in last year’s “Cash Landing,” which the author called more of a prequel to her life before Swyteck.

 “Gone Again” also marks Grippando’s return to Swyteck in more than two years since his last two novels were standalones. He stated the break from Swyteck did him some good.

“That’s one of the things that you worry about as a series continues: How do I keep it fresh? So I took some time off to think about that and thought about what direction I wanted him to go. When we meet him again in ‘Gone Again,’ he’s married… In the next one, I now have renewed enthusiasm because it’s a brand new chapter in Jack’s life. Previously, it was a buddy story… The first 8-10 books were about Jack and Theo, then Andie came into his life. Now Jack is married and starting a family – that’s writing a new whole series, to be honest. I hope fans embrace the next end of the series as they embrace the front end of the series.”

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