'Advocate's Daughter'

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Attorney, MSU law professor publishes his second mystery novel

By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

In his latest novel, “The Advocate’s Daughter,” author Anthony Franze wrote about what scares him the most.

“After I finished ‘The Last Justice’ (his first novel), I was thinking about starting the next book. I heard an editor say writers should think about writing about the thing that scares them the most. I thought about that. What scares me the most would be something happening to my children, my family. That was seed that started the novel.

“I took it from there and it just happened organically. When I wrote it, I didn’t fully have it mapped out at first. I set it in the Supreme Court community and it just went from there,” said Franze, who turns 46 on April 7.

In “The Advocate’s Daughter” (Minotaur Books $25.99), Sean Serrat is a Supreme Court lawyer with one of the most respected legal careers in the nation. When his daughter Abby is found murdered in the Supreme Court library, Sean’s personal tragedy is soon splashed all over the media. This media blizzard threatens to destroy his family and his career, not to mention reveal some things in his shady past that he’d prefer to remain there.

Once law clerk Malik Montgomery, Abby’s boyfriend, is arrested for her murder, the inevitable media frenzy that Malik’s arrest was racially motivated polarizes the nation. Sean launches his own investigation into Abby’s murder, believing that the police have the wrong man in custody. However, some of the most powerful people in Washington, D.C. will stop at nothing to prevent Sean from exposing the truth.

“The story’s about a family. It’s a legal thriller, but I’d categorize it (as more of) a family/domestic thriller. This family’s working through grief but it’s wrapped around a mystery about a potential Supreme Court nominee whose daughter gets killed,” said Franze.

“The suspect’s quickly arrested, but something doesn’t seem right. As Sean looks into his daughter’s last days, he uncovers things he didn’t know about her and also starts to think it has something to do with his nomination or possibly a dark secret he has from his past. The motivation for Sean is I wanted a father in his 40s – something I can relate to as a father of three kids. It just spun off from there.”

And what exactly is Sean’s dark secret?

“He has a big secret from when he was a teenager, an event that basically was the catalyst for him – this terrible mistake, this terrible event – that he used to motivate himself to become one of the most prominent lawyers in the country,” explained Franze. “It turned his life around. It’s also the same thing that can take away everyone and everything he loves and holds dear. I think that’s the most I want to say.”

Born in Alabama, Franze’s father Charles was a pilot for the U.S. Navy, which resulted in his family moving around a lot when he was a child. Growing up, Franze lived in England, Japan, and Hawaii, among other places. He also attended four different high schools in four years. In 1992, he graduated from the University of Nebraska with his undergraduate degree in criminal justice. From there, he graduated with his juris doctor from Notre Dame Law School in 1995. 

He currently practices appellate law at the prestigious law firm Arnold & Porter, LLC in Washington, D.C. In fact, he has been named to the “D.C. Super Lawyers” list for appellate law. Additionally, he is an adjunct law professor at the Michigan State University College of Law and has published articles in leading law journals, including the Harvard Journal of Law and Policy Review Online, the Notre Dame Law Review, and the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law.

Currently, he lives in Chevy Chase, Md. with Tracy, his wife of 24 years, and their three children: Jake, 17; Emma, 14; and Aidan, 11.

Franze stated that his children were not the inspiration for the Serrat children in “The Advocate’s Daughter.” He reiterated that Emma is nothing like Abby.

“No, I wouldn’t say that. Obviously, my daughter is much younger than Abby. I think I drew from all the characters… stole little things from my own family if you will. I wouldn’t say any of the (Serrat) kids are my kids,” he explained.

 “They might have traits I drew from my family… But they’re not based on any real people. I think all writers, when they create characters, they’re Frankenstein creations of people in their life, people they’ve met, things they might make up. No one character is based on any living person.”

Due to Franze’s hectic law career, as well as being a father and a husband, there were four years between “The Last Justice” and “The Advocate’s Daughter.” Franze stated that he plans to start publishing one novel per year. In fact, his third one – currently untitled – is slated for a 2017 release. Like his previous two novels, it occurs in the realm of the Supreme Court.

“It’s a murder mystery,” he explained. “The theme of the book is being an outsider and what that means.”

According to Franze, he also feels more confident when writing novels. Since he now has two to his name with a third on the way, plenty of the pressure and self-doubt are gone.“There (is) something really fun creating something from nothing,” he said. “You create these characters, this world, this conflict, and it starts off as something in your head. Now I have sitting on my desk a hardcover novel and there’s something really special about that.”

Franze has earned high praise from critics, as well as fellow authors, including Lee Child (author of the Jack Reacher novels) and Farmington Hills native/author-turned-attorney Allison Leotta.

“This is an impossible business to predict, but as a person and a writer Franze seems to have that little bit extra – whatever it is that makes the difference. Certainly ‘The Advocate’s Daughter’ came out a cut above. With a bit of luck, Franze should be around for a long time – which will be good for readers and his fellow writers, too,” said Child.

Added Leotta: “I don’t know how Anthony does it all – partner at one of America’s most powerful law firms by day, writer of some of America’s most powerful legal thrillers by night. I suspect that his beautiful wife, Tracy, is really behind it all.”

The challenge for Franze when writing legal thrillers is being able to put the time needed to put into his writing career, given his full-time law practice and his family responsibilities. He has no plans to quit practicing law to pursue writing full-time like many other lawyers-turned-writers, such as Leotta, Grisham, and Jeffery Deaver.

“I joke that if I did, I’d probably spend all day watching Netflix and end up writing at night like I do now,” he said. “Beyond that, I really enjoy my law practice. I work at what I consider the best law firm in the country. It’s consistently on the ‘Best Places to Work’ lists and not just best law firms, but ‘Best Places to Work’ (lists) in the country for a reason. It’s my colleagues, it’s the high-caliber of work. I really love what I’m doing, and I see no reason to leave. I’m doing both and enjoying both. If I wasn’t (enjoying being an attorney), I might think about it but I don’t see that happening.”

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