What is the Lincoln Lawyer?
The Lincoln Lawyer is a 2005 novel, the sixteenth by American crime writer Michael Connelly. It introduces Los Angeles attorney Mickey Haller, half-brother of Connelly’s mainstay detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch.
The plot of the novel was based on a moderately successful criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller operates around Los Angeles County out of a Lincoln Town Car (hence the title) driven by a former client working off his legal fees. While most clients are drug dealers and gangsters, the story focuses on an unusually important case of wealthy Los Angeles realtor Louis Roulet accused of assault and attempted murder. At first, he appears to be innocent and set up by the female “victim.”
Roulet’s lies and many surprising revelations change Mickey’s original case theory, making him reconsider the situation of Jesus Menendez, a former client serving time in San Quentin State Prison after pleading guilty to a similar and mysteriously related crime.
Haller outmaneuvers Roulet (revealed to be a rapist and murderer) without violating ethical obligations, frees the innocent Menendez, and continues in legal practice, though not without much self-examination and emotional baggage.
The novel received a lot of attention from the mystery community. It won the 2006 Shamus Award and Macavity Award for “Best Novel”. It was also nominated in the 2006 Anthony Awards for the same honour. Additionally, in 2010 it was nominated in the “Best Mystery Novel of the Decade” category of the Barry Awards, although lost to Stieg Larsson with his The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
The Lincoln Lawyer Film
The Lincoln Lawyer Film is a 2011 American neo noir legal thriller film adapted from the 2005 novel of the same name by Michael Connelly. The film is directed by Brad Furman, with a screenplay written by John Romano, and stars Matthew McConaughey as the titular lawyer, Mickey Haller. The film co-stars Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei, and Josh Lucas, and features William H. Macy and Bryan Cranston in supporting roles.
The story is adapted from the first of several novels featuring the character of Mickey Haller, who works out of a chauffeur-driven Lincoln Town Car rather than an office. Haller is hired to defend the son of a wealthy Los Angeles businesswoman in an assault case. Details of the crime bring up uncomfortable parallels with a former case, and Haller discovers the two cases are intertwined.
Criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller (Matthew McConaughey) operates around Los Angeles County, mostly from the back seat of his black Lincoln Town Car, chauffeured by Earl (Laurence Mason). Most of Haller’s career has been defending garden-variety criminals, including a local biker club led by Eddie Vogel (Trace Adkins).
A high-profile case comes his way and Haller is hired to represent wealthy Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), a Beverly Hills playboy and son of real estate mogul Mary Windsor (Frances Fisher). Roulet is accused of brutally beating prostitute Regina Campo (Margarita Levieva). Roulet insists he is the innocent victim of a setup. Haller and his investigator, Frank Levin (William H. Macy) analyze photos and evidence and find it similar to one of Haller’s past cases that resulted in a life sentence for his client, Jesus Martinez (Michael Peña), for murdering a woman, despite his repeatedly proclaiming his innocence.
Haller’s ex-wife, prosecutor Maggie McPherson (Marisa Tomei), has never appreciated Haller representing guilty clients, though they remain close. Haller wonders if he should have done more for Martinez rather than persuading him to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty. Haller visits the prison, where Martinez becomes agitated when Haller shows him Roulet’s photo. Haller now believes Roulet is the killer in the Martinez case, but, bound by attorney–client confidentiality rules, is unable to reveal what he knows.
Roulet breaks into Haller’s house and nonchalantly admits to committing the murder for which Martinez was convicted. He makes veiled threats toward Haller’s ex-wife and their daughter. Levin is found shot to death after leaving Haller a voicemail message claiming that he found Martinez’s “ticket out of jail.” Levin was shot with a .22 caliber pistol, and Haller discovers that his late father’s .22 Colt Woodsman is missing from its box.
Detective Lankford (Bryan Cranston), who dislikes Haller, discovers the gun’s registration and suspects Haller’s involvement in Levin’s murder. Haller is certain that Roulet stole the weapon when he broke into Haller’s home.
Obliged to do his best for his client, guilty or not, Haller ruthlessly cross-examines Campo and discredits her in the jury’s eyes. Haller then sets up a known prison informant with information on the previous murder. When the informant testifies, Haller discredits him, and the state’s attorney (Josh Lucas) can only move to dismiss all charges. Roulet is set free, to his mother’s delight, but the police arrest him immediately for the previous murder, based upon testimony Haller coaxed from the informant.
Haller acquires a pistol from his driver, Earl, for protection. Roulet is released due to lack of evidence and intends to kill Haller’s ex-wife and daughter. Haller is waiting at Maggie’s house when Roulet arrives. He mockingly tells Haller that he cannot guard his family all the time. The bikers whom Haller previously represented suddenly arrive and brutally beat Roulet.
Maggie discovers that Levin had found a parking ticket that was issued to Roulet near the previous murder victim’s house. It is strong evidence against Roulet in his pending murder trial and will support Martinez’s innocence. Upon arriving home, Haller discovers Roulet’s mother, Mary Windsor, waiting inside. She shoots him with the Colt Woodsman, confessing that she murdered Levin to protect her son. A wounded Haller shoots her.
When Haller is released from the hospital, he learns that Martinez has been released, and that the District Attorney will seek the death penalty against Roulet. As Haller rides off to his next case, he is pulled over by Vogel and the biker gang, whose next case he takes pro bono due to their previous help.
How was the Lincoln Lawyer Story Created?
Michael Connelly was a cops reporter for about a dozen years, most notably with the Los Angeles Times. He has sold 43 million of his 23 crime-based novels around the world since hanging up his press card nearly 20 years ago. Still, he has found some journalistic habits hard to break, such as researching the background of his thrillers.
With “The Lincoln Lawyer,” (Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy) the second of his books to make it onto celluloid, speeding into theaters Friday, it turns out his crime fiction still draws heavily from fact.
“I hate revealing this stuff,” he says good-naturedly during a lunch conversation at the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown recently while in town to promote the film. “I want people to think I’m a creative genius.”
There’s plenty of creativity in the process, of course; it’s a trick of seeing things in the real world and “knowing what works, and where it works” in fiction.
He has figured out what works pretty well by now.
He’s 54, about 6 feet tall, with close-cropped hair, a full Vandyke beard and round, wire-frame glasses. He’s big-shouldered but soft-spoken. He lives with his wife, Linda, and a teenage daughter, McCaleb, near Tampa. He has basketball season tickets for his alma mater, the University of Florida. He also has a 23-foot Boston whaler, which he likes to take out in the bay, where he fishes and thinks out plot development.
Connelly’s also got the one talent any reporter and writer has to have: an ear for a great story.
Writing “The Lincoln Lawyer” began a decade ago, on opening day at Dodger Stadium in 2001. A mutual friend brought along David Ogden, a criminal defense attorney. Connelly politely asked Ogden in which courthouse he most often worked. Ogden said, “Well, I pretty much work out of my car.” Connelly, the storyteller, knew then to be really interested.
“I drove a Lincoln Town Car or a Crown Vic,” Ogden, now retired and living in Montana, said in a phone interview. “It was a great thing. Some of it was show. It allowed me to make three or four [court] appearances every morning. And it made an impression on clients walking out of the courthouse, when this car would pull up and I’d get in.”
Connelly loved this story, about how the Lincoln trunks were big and boxy enough to house filing cabinets. He loved that his driver was a former client, Lonnie Henderson, who’d spent a lot of time in prison before going straight.
“I can’t spend my life just writing puzzles and entertainments,” he says.
His cops gig at the L.A. Times was a great job, he tells them. But a few years after he’d left the paper, he was watching television coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial when he saw the reporter who’d taken his place outside the courthouse. He said he realized then, sitting at home on his couch, “I’d much rather be here than there.”
He still gets up at 5 a.m. most days, writes until 7 when he takes his daughter to school, comes back home and plows ahead into the early afternoon. Later, at night, he might write some more. He doesn’t use a desk these days, just sits on the couch and writes on a laptop.
It’s proficient: He has a new Mickey Haller booking coming out in April, “The Fifth Witness,” and a Harry Bosch book slated for the fall, “The Drop.”
“Mike does just does everything well,” says Otto Penzler, owner of the independent Mysterious Bookshop in New York. “The dialogue is so pure, and the plots are terrific. … I’ve seen an awful lot of writers thrilled to get that first book published, then they get a lot of success, and then they’re not that nice anymore. Mike’s just as nice today as he was on Day One.”
Connelly wraps up the chat with the students. He’s heading back out on tour, then home for a few days and then out to L.A. for the premiere — a mere decade after hearing the story about an L.A. lawyer who worked out of his Lincoln.