Tag Archives: small town lawyer

Interview with Scott Lerner, author of ‘Cocaine Zombies’

Author and attorney Scott A. Lerner resides in Champaign, Illinois. He obtained his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and went on to obtain his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. He is currently a sole practitioner in Champaign, Illinois. The majority of his law practice focuses on the fields of Criminal law and Family Law. Mr. Lerner lives with his wife, their two children, and their cat Fern. Lerner collects unusual antiques and enjoys gardening, traveling, reading fiction and going to the movies. Cocaine Zombies is his first published novel. Coming soon, the sequel: Ruler of Demons.

You can find Scott online at scottlerner.camelpress.com.

Q: Thank you for this interview, . Can you tell us what your latest book, Cocaine Zombies, is all about?


A small town lawyer gets involved in a criminal case only to discover there is a whole lot more going on—such as a conspiracy to enslave the world. It combines voodoo, black magic and an evil multi-national corporation. It also involves a new derivative of cocaine that is more addictive and potentially dangerous than any drug that has existed to date.


Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?


Samuel Roberts—Sam—is a small town lawyer who is practical but flawed in many respects. At the same time he has a strong sense of right and wrong. Although far from virtuous he does fight for what he believes, even if it means putting his life on the line.


Sam teams up with his friend Robert Sizemore. Bob is a loyal friend and sticks by Sam in situations where most people would hide under their beds. Bob is part hippie, part technology geek. He also does not trust the government or big business. Bob believes in the right to bear arms. He thinks our forefathers insisted on the second amendment to protect ordinary citizens against the government overstepping their authority.


Sam meets the beautiful femme fatale Chloe because she is the one who is paying him to represent a client—a client whose head ends up in Sam’s fridge early in the story. When she starts visiting his dreams—or rather, nightmares—he suspects that she has supernatural powers. Chloe believes mankind has become evil and indifferent to the suffering of others.


Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?


Mainly on my imagination. Like me, Sam is a lawyer and lives in Champaign County. He also has my sense of humor. Other than those obvious similarities, we are quite different—at least I like to think so. Some of the characters were inspired by real people but everyone is really a hodgepodge of characteristics I have observed in friends and strangers. Aside from not wishing to get sued, I would feel bad if I had to kill off someone who too closely resembled someone I knew in real life.


Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?


I have a pretty good idea of where I want to go when I start writing. Yet as I write I do end up going in unexpected directions. In Cocaine Zombies, as I got to know my characters, they led me along some twists and turns I hadn’t anticipated. From what I’ve read, most novelists seem to experience this phenomenon. The story did end differently than I originally planned. I would say it evolved rather than changed.


Q: Your book is set in ChampaignUrbana (Twin Cities).  Can you tell us why you chose these cities in particular?


I grew up in Champaign, Illinois, so frankly it was easier to have the book take place there. However, I had other reasons for choosing that location. The antagonists needed an educated work force of chemists and researchers, and the University of Illinois could fulfill those needs. They needed to transport their product all around the world, and Champaign has good access to highways, trains and airports. Also, Central Illinois is a good place to avoid drawing attention to an evil plot. People tend to mind their own business in small town Illinois. In this day and age drugs are no longer a big city phenomenon so why not Champaign? Lastly, I thought it was about time someone portrayed Champaign as a place where exciting things can happen.


Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?


It does. Champaign-Urbana is a University town, so in some ways it feels like a bigger city than it is. We have big city problems as well as advantages. However, if you go out into the country at night, you could be in the middle of nowhere. The Midwest is so flat and isolated in parts that a person can feel almost invisible. There are scenes in the book where it plays on this sense of isolation to make the characters—and hopefully the reader—feel alone and hopeless. At the same time the book relies on more crowded locations. Sam spend some time in Chicago. It is just too hard to find a voodoo priest in Champaign.


Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?


I am looking at an Advanced Reading Copy so this may change in the final version.


Sam realizes he is in deep trouble and is wondering when the authorities are going to arrest him. One of his clients has been found decapitated in the middle of nowhere and Sam is a suspect. On top of it all Sam has just learned that an inmate he recently visited at the county jail has been found dead in his cell. Sam arrives home to find Bob sitting at his kitchen table. Sam had planned to go with Bob to look at an empty apartment complex for sale. This building has something to do with a much bigger plan.


Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?


I looked over at Frank. He was pointing at the ceiling of the bedroom. In large bloody letters were written; “Join me Sam.”  No wonder they wanted me here. I was a suspect.

“Can you come down to the station and talk with me?” Frank asked.

“Do I need a lawyer?”

“You tell me.”

“Look you just scared the shit out of me. If I’m not under arrest I’m going home. I need a drink and a good night’s sleep.”

“I know we haven’t always seen eye to eye but I’m just doing my job.” Frank said, trying to seem sympathetic.

“Can I go home?”

“Go ahead; if it means anything, I can’t picture you as the ritual murderer type.”

“Gee, thanks.” I responded.

“By the way, did you find his head?” I asked.

“No, still looking. It’s like trying to find a bowling ball in a compost heap with all that long, dry grass out there.”

When I got home the first thing I did was pull a bottle of Makers Mark out of the liquor cabinet. This can’t be good for business, I thought. A dead client writing my name in blood at the murder scene is not going to attract clients.

Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?


So far that has not been much of a problem. I am lucky and have not been under time pressure to complete a manuscript. If I can’t think of anything to write I just stop and come back to it later.


Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?


I would like to say I would be resting in a hot tub while eating KFC and sushi. If I were single, rich and better looking I might invite a movie star over. In truth I would probably end up wasting my hour by watching television or doing something on the computer.


Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why?


That is tough because my taste in books depends so much on my mood and what I was going through when I read them. The Damnation Game by Clive Barker or anything by Kurt Vonnegut. I have not read those books in years, yet I remember the intense impact they had on me.


Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding getting their books out there?


Cocaine Zombies is my first published novel. So my spouting wisdom is like a nun providing guidance on sexual positions. I guess the best advice I can come up with is, be persistent and believe in your work no matter how much rejection you receive.


Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Scott.  We wish you much success!


Thanks, I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you.


Filed under Author Interviews

Read-A-Chapter: Paranormal Suspense Thriller ‘Cocaine Zombies’ by Scott A. Lerner

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the paranormal suspense thriller, Cocaine Zombies, by Scott A. Lerner. Enjoy!


  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Camel Press (November 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603819037
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603819039

Samuel Roberts, a small-town lawyer in Urbana, Illinois, is contacted by a prospective client accused of selling cocaine. Nothing Sam hasn’t handled before. Or is it? Thomas is accompanied by a mysterious and exotic beauty named Chloe. Who is she, why is she paying for Thomas’s defense, and why is the accused so antsy around her?

Soon after Sam takes on the case he is plagued by terrible nightmares. Only, in these nightmares, when he dreams of death, people die. Realizing that he is out of his depth, Sam enlists the help of his friend, Bob Sizemore. Bob is oddly insightful about the supernatural and deeply suspicious of big business and the government. Sam and Bob soon discover that a major German pharmaceutical company has been using human guinea pigs to test a highly addictive and dangerous derivative of cocaine first developed in Nazi Germany. Combined with ancient herbs provided by a Voodoo priest, the substance has become increasingly addictive and dangerous.

After Thomas’s head shows up in Sam’s refrigerator, suspicion naturally falls on him. Now he has no choice but to face the forces of evil head on. But how do a small-town lawyer and a computer geek defeat an enemy with the power to enslave mankind?


Chapter One

I’ve been a lawyer for about ten years. In that time I have always worked for someone else; first for a small law firm and then for the public defender. For the first time in my career, I had opened my own office. The office itself is nothing special, a ten-by-ten foot room on the top floor of a six-story white mason block building. It has about the same dimensions as the jail cells I try to keep my clients out of. The building was originally designed to house apartments, but the architect did not put in enough closets. So the owner was trying to attract anyone who would bite. The result is that some floors contained offices, and others, apartments.

After I moved in I gave the walls a fresh coat of white paint. Actually, eggshellwas written on the can, but it looked white to me. I bought two file cabinets, three chairs, and a wooden bench at a used office supply store. I arranged the office so that the one comfortable chair sat behind the large desk and the two armchairs faced it. The desk is the only nice piece of office furniture I own. It is mission style and made of smoked oak, built around the turn of the century. My father, who gave it to me, claimed it was made by Stickley, but I doubt it. I have a laptop computer and a printer on my desk and pay enough money to get all the research tools I need online.

I also have a secretary named Susan who comes in a couple hours on the weekends to help with typing and filing.

Looking around, I realized I had everything I needed to practice law—other than clients, of course.

As if in answer to my thoughts, the phone rang. “Law Office,” I responded in a too cheerful voice.

“Is Samuel Roberts there?”

“This is he,” I said, grateful it wasn’t a call for Domino’s Pizza. They had a phone number similar to mine and despite just opening the office I had already received a number of calls for pepperoni and extra cheese.

“I was told you do criminal work.”

“Sure, what can I do for you?” I asked.

“It’s not for me but for my friend. Can we make an appointment?”

“Sure,” I said, pretending to be looking at something other than a completely empty calendar. “How about Friday at nine a.m.?”

“Could we get in today, by any chance?”

“All right, how about four?”


The caller sounded like she had money but it might have been wishful thinking. In the world of criminal law, most potential clients don’t have money. It is always a mistake to allow clients to pay over time in a criminal case. If you lose, your clients will have to pay fines and costs, and your bill isn’t a priority. If your clients go to jail, they’re out of work and have no way of paying. Also, clients who go to jail tend not to care about their lawyers being paid. If you win, clients don’t need you anymore and so won’t feel the need to pay you.

I played Halo on the computer until four p.m., when there was a knock on the door. “Come in,” I said.

In came an African-American man with a shaved head. He was six foot two and couldn’t have weighed less than  three hundred pounds. He had a four-inch scar above his right eye. With him was the woman I must have spoken with over the phone. She was probably five foot six and had long, straight black hair and bright green eyes. She looked tiny compared with her friend, but there was no doubt who was in charge. She was wearing a green dress in a snake-skin pattern. It was so tight I was concerned that it would rip when she sat down. Her perfume filled the room, replacing the smell of my fresh paint with a scent both sweet and hot, like a mix of honey with Tabasco sauce.

The woman wore a gold necklace with a strange pendant strategically placed so as to draw the maximum attention to her large breasts. The pendant was a gold chicken’s foot squeezing a very large, pink, heart-shaped diamond. If the diamond was real, money was not an issue. Her gold men’s tank-style Patek Philippe watch probably dated back to the 1940’s. This woman could more than afford my rates. Her friend, however, was wearing torn blue jeans and a white muscle shirt. She might be able to pay, but my guess was he couldn’t. I sure hoped she liked this guy.

The woman spoke first. I couldn’t place her accent. “My name is Chloe,” she said, extending a hand, which I shook. “My friend is Thomas. Thomas is charged with selling cocaine. He didn’t do it. He needs a lawyer to get him off. Can you do that?”

“I can give him good representation. If you want a fortune-teller, I’m afraid I can’t help you.” I immediately regretted the sarcasm, but she ignored it.

“He is being charged with a Class X felony. With his record he could be in the Department of Corrections for the rest of his life.”

A class X felony subjects a defendant to a term in the penitentiary from six to thirty years. In addition, if convicted, the defendant would serve eighty-five percent of the imprisonment rather than fifty percent for most crimes. There is a possibility of an even lengthier sentence, depending on other factors such as the defendant’s record.

“Why don’t you sit down and tell me what is going on,” I said, looking directly at Thomas. Chloe began to speak. “Chloe,” I interrupted, “what Thomas and I speak about is privileged. The attorney client privilege assures our conversations can’t be used in court against him. If you are present, it would be considered a waiver of that privilege and you could be subpoenaed to testify about our conversation. Would you mind waiting outside?”

What I said was legally correct but I doubted that the State would know to subpoena her. I was really just trying to get rid of her and I think she knew it. She left without another word.

Thomas seemed more at ease the minute she left. I entered his address and phone number in my computer. From his slight accent, I guessed he must have spent time in the Caribbean. He had a tattoo depicting two snakes intertwining around a cross on his left upper arm that reminded me of the symbol doctors use—the caduceus. Although the symbol used in the medical profession has only one snake, not two.

“I have sold crack in the past,” he said, “but just to get money or drugs for my own use. I spent some time in the Illinois Department of Corrections and don’t want to go back.” I nodded. “While in the joint, I found Jesus and accepted him as my Savior.”

Of course, I thought, everyone finds Jesus when they have all day to look. From my experience more people find religion at the Stateville Correctional Facility in Joliet then Jerusalem, Mecca, and Mississippi combined.

He continued, “I have a ten-year-old daughter, and I don’t want to miss being a part of her life. That’s why I wouldn’t risk selling drugs and going to prison. Since I got out I have been completely clean.”

“Are you still on parole?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he responded.

That was odd. I wondered why they would let him out on bond and not issue a parole hold.

“What does the government claim you did?”

“Sold coke, but I swear I didn’t. Why would I?” he whined.

For money or drugs, I thought, why does anyone sell drugs?

“What is your last name and date of birth?”

“Traver, October 30, 1964.”

I did a quick computer search of the circuit clerk’s website to find Mr. Traver had five prior drug convictions, including two class one felonies. He had three prior convictions in the last ten years. Each of those convictions was after the birth of his daughter. The fact that he was out of jail was shocking. It looked as if he had posted a $50,000 bond. That was a lot of money for the man in front of me to come up with—a lot of money for anyone to come up with.

I was good at judging who was trying to deceive me. You learn quickly in the Public Defender’s Office. Despite all this crap about finding religion and his daughter, I believed Mr. Traver. Something about his demeanor made me trust him.

“Why would the police lie about you?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said, “a lot of the cops in this area hate me. They can’t get over my past. Who knows? Maybe I just look like someone else.”

“If you want me to get involved, I will need a retainer of five thousand dollars,” I said.

He looked shocked. I knew it was more than he could pay, but I had an office to run. And if he could pay to bond out, he could certainly pay me.

“Can I talk to Chloe?”


He left the room and Chloe came back in with a wad of cash in her hand. I guessed it was $5,000. She handed me the money and I took it.

As I walked them to the door, I told them that I would file an entry of appearance and a demand for discovery. “When I get the police reports, I’ll let you know,” I said. I waited until they left to count the fifty hundred-dollar bills.

My mind wandered as I speculated where Chloe kept the roll of money in that tight dress. I didn’t remember her carrying a purse. The money reeked of her scent.

Reprinted from Cocaine Zombies by Scott A. Lerner. © 2012 by Camel Press.

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