Tea Tonic and Toxin: Mystery and Thriller Podcast and Book Club

God Knows No Heroes: Norman Shabel

Norman Shabel - God Knows No Heroes
Norman Shabel - God Knows No Heroes
Tea, Tonic, and Toxin
God Knows No Heroes: Norman Shabel
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God Knows No Heroes by Norman Shabel

Legal thriller novelist Norman Shabel joins Sarah and Carolyn to discuss his latest book God Knows No Heroes and his other novels.

Learn More: Read more about Norman Shabel.

Get Excited: Check out the 2024 book list.

Be Heard: Tell us what you’re thinking here.

TRANSCRIPT: The Father She Went to Find by Carter Wilson

Sarah Harrison
Welcome to Tea Tonic & Toxin, a book club and podcast for anyone who wants to explore the best mysteries and thrillers ever written. I’m your host, Sarah Harrison.

Carolyn Daughters
And I’m your host Carolyn Daughters. Pour yourself a cup of tea, a gin and tonic, …

Sarah Harrison
… but not a toxin …

Carolyn Daughters
And join us on a journey through 19th and 20th century mysteries and thrillers, every one of them a game changer. We have a great episode today.

Sarah Harrison  01:01
Before we jump in to our exciting episode, we have an even more exciting sponsor. It’s Carolyn daughters. Carolyn runs game changing corporate brand therapy workshops, teaches Online Marketing Bootcamp courses and leads persuasive writing workshops. Carolyn empowers startups, small businesses, enterprise organizations and government agencies to win hearts minds, deals and dollars. You can learn more at carolyndaughters.com.

Carolyn Daughters  01:37
Sarah, we have a special guest today.

Sarah Harrison  01:38
I know I’m very excited to talk to Norman.

Carolyn Daughters  01:43
Norman Shabel is our guest today. He is a prolific author and playwright. Norman had a difficult childhood he grew up in a poor Jewish and Italian neighborhood called Brownsville in Brooklyn, New York. At the time, many immigrants as well as Jewish children like himself and people of color, face daily and justices. For example, he and his friends were beaten regularly by antisemitic gangs while walking up the stairs to enter junior high school. These early experiences led him to become a class action and Personal Injury plaintiff’s attorney as well as a criminal prosecutor, whose eight crime novels are based on his 55 years as a practicing attorney in detail how such injustices play out in a courtroom. His books offer a behind the scenes look at how lawyers navigate the prejudices and unconscious biases of judges and juries to get the best outcome for their clients. Reviewers have commented that only an attorney could have written some of the multifaceted courtroom scenes featured in his books. Four of his books, we may touch on a couple of them here today. Our God knows no heroes for women, the corporation and the Badger game. Norman, we’re very excited to have you here.

Sarah Harrison  03:01
Welcome, Norman.

Norman Shabel  03:02
As a as a trial lawyer, in the 55 years I’ve been practicing. I found that every trial I ever had, each of the elements are different, your client is different. Your opponent is different. Your opponent’s client is different. The judge you have their most of it, most of the judges you have are different. And so what every world that you enter as a trial lawyer, they’re all have different aspects that you have. And that’s why my books are so energetic because they deal with different people, different places, different stories, all of them. You never get bored by him. Because every story that I depict, is different than the story previously. It deals with new opponents, lawyers, judges, issues, all these things occur in every trial that I’ve ever had, which incorporated into the books.

Sarah Harrison  04:26
You know, I noticed that I’m in the part of there ain’t no justice that I read. You describe the judge as being not a good judge, I would say to try out a rape case because of bitterness against his own ex-wife. Were these kinds of things that you ran into a lot Can you tell us about some of the different predispositions of judges that you worked with?

Norman Shabel  04:57
Every one was different. They were different in their sex life. There were different. And in their politics, there are different and backgrounds. They’re also different in their thinking, and how smart were they are not smart. And the question was always harnessed, how did the lawyers get away with certain things from certain lawyers, certain judges, most really good judges don’t allow lawyers to get away with anything. But there are many judges who are not that smart. There are not a judge a lot of judges who have their own thinking about what’s good, and what’s bad. So, if you have a judge, they give you an example, today, where we have a judge. And in the Trump situation, his thinking is, I’d like to get this, this, this, Trump this Trump and, and, and kill, and understand, and not, and hopefully, nobody thinks I’m doing it, but I’m gonna do it. I understand that. So the point is that every element, and my books, and my trials are all different elements. And the judges are different. The lawyers have different people or the clients are different. These, these, the people you’re sewing are different. The elements are different. And all of that I have depicted in, in my in my books, and they’re all different, but they can’t they cover all the elements I’m just depicting to you.

Sarah Harrison  07:14
I noticed, you mentioned that when this particular judge kind of became tenured in in this book, that he kind of threw out his knowledge of the law and began making much more decisions based on his preferences. Do you feel like that a lot of judges, a few judges? Is that really pervasive or more isolated thing?

Norman Shabel  07:41
No, I think it’s pervasive with judges. A judge has his own world in his mind. And he operates by utilizing what’s in this this head of his take taking is these move these moves in his head, and the law itself. It changes, what certain views certain laws will be considered by one judge to another judge. And it’s all because of how that judge is life has been his experiences and utilizes those experiences and detecting the law that he looks at.

Sarah Harrison  08:40
Yeah, I noticed also in this in the same book, this the process of selecting the jury felt very cynical. The jury was a kind of, I felt like there wasn’t a lot of faith in juries, and that the way the lawyers would tend to kind of play the jury members or choose who to keep or who to get rid of was very interesting. Could you tell us about the jury selection aspect or how you feel about juries?

Norman Shabel  09:15
Well, every jury I’ve encountered in my career, each one of those jurors are different than the next one or the one before every juror who becomes a juror has lived a life of certainty. He or she has been injured, or has been as has been depicted, it has been touch by certain ways in the way they carry their life. And, and that’s the way a juror is. So the t lawyer, who’s a trial lawyer has to know who that who that jurors going to act and to certain facts that he’s trying to prevent or prevent or to show, he has to know that if you had a juror that hates blacks, so and you had your client was black, so you have to make a determination, will you keep that juror on there, it’s the taking insurance that he will go against your client. Because for every, if, for every jury that the lawyer picks, he has a certain amount that he can use. It’s 1214 people he can select. So he has to make these decisions, as he goes along, taking into account what those individuals who are sitting in front of him a jury box, what they will do on the facts of your client.

Sarah Harrison  11:16
And that was one of the interesting things you pointed out was that you couldn’t necessarily tell who might have racial prejudice. So they would make these decisions based on the jurors race, or their gender or their job, or how they looked. So for example, my background is engineering. And you had a lot to say about what engineering jurors, what happened to them. Can you talk about that?

Norman Shabel  11:43
Well, for an engineering juror, and as a, as a lawyer, I would have to take into account what’s that engineering possible. juror will do and the facts I have to show that juror understand, because if I have an engineer like yourself, you have a very detailed mind. That’s the way I view you, you can get facts. And you can look at it one way, and I can get another party who is frivolous, etc. And they look at it differently. So it’s the job of the trial lawyer to determine the jurors that they have, he has tools to work with. Well, he did the judge juror, be kind to the facts that his client will present to them. You understand all that. So that’s, that’s a major, the major problem for every trial, and you’ll find it in my books is that the lawyer, the trial lawyer has to determine who to put on that bench who to put on a jury bench, because you have a certain amount of bed of you usually have about 15 choices that were six of the 15 that select and then you you’re finished with it. So you have to make a determination, taking into account the selection of those people sitting there. How will they react to your client and the facts that you’re going to present the jury? That’s the problem.

Sarah Harrison  13:47
It’s a little bit like blackjack or something, you get so many choices? What kind of betting on what they’re gonna do, what’s going to turn out is.

Norman Shabel  13:59
That it’s very difficult. Sure, for any trial lawyer to determine who to put on their jury, as you can see, in then, in your in his in the history that we’re passing with. Hunter Biden, you’re familiar with, behind Biden, yes. They just Biden. Well, if I was, if Biden was my client, I would have to be extremely careful that the juror I select doesn’t like a person like Hunter Biden, who’s free what is what is thinking when we stray? What is what is it His work winning, etc., you have to be very extremely careful to make sure that the Euro you select is going to follow the facts in the law that you’re going to present to your client in front of them. Right?

Carolyn Daughters  15:18
Is there a case or two that you have had that really stand out is just exceptional cases that are or were maybe even shocking to you at the time? Wow, you’ve seen it. You’ve seen everything and you’ve heard everything.

Norman Shabel  15:47
After 55 years practicing law, I nothing. Nothing turns me off on. I mean, I can go into confession, people in front of all of us to Biden, to Trump, and then I can just shy how they’re thinking, how, what’s that what they’re gonna do on certain instances? I can do it all the time. And usually, I’m right about it. Because if you have, if you have a selection, let’s say you’re bringing an attractive woman on a juror on it attractive, white woman on a juror are always very pretty and everything hasn’t. And her and she she’s she has a job, which is, which is very open. And you would have to decide how was she going to react to the facts you’re going to present to her. And that’s a problem. Every juror that you submit, you have to win, you have to take into account how that jury is going to react to the facts that you’re gonna present to that jury.

Sarah Harrison  17:15
I noticed that in your book you one of the jurors, that was kicked off and kind of an interesting manner was a woman that both lawyers considered attractive. And I was just really struck with the cynicism kind of both lawyers conversing. Actually, I guess I was surprised they were even talking about it. I didn’t think the defense and the prosecution chit chatted so much. And it was sort of so cynical. Do you feel like that’s really representative? Or is there a lot of cynicism in the profession?

Norman Shabel  17:49
Oh, yeah. Look, lawyer is we deal with each other on different cases. I know, my counter lawyer, trial lawyer, I know the way he thinks I know the way he goes. He knows the way I think the way I go on it. And we have to utilize what we think that opponent is going to utilize on it. Because that’s the way it that’s the way it works. You may have a trial lawyer against you. Who doesn’t like winning? Who doesn’t like who’s a female lawyer who doesn’t like men. And you say to yourself, well, oh, no, these are intelligent people. But even intelligent people have had their own way of thinking, what I like and what I don’t like, and you have to as a good trial lawyer, you have to determine each party, each party that’s involved in your trial, from the judge, to the opponent, counsel, to the defendant, to your client, all these things you have to put together and say, this is the way we’re going to go.

Sarah Harrison  19:14
Yeah, I remember one of your characters said something like when it stops being a game. This was one of the lawyers then it’s time to get out. Did you think of working a case or prosecuting a case as a game or do you agree with that what that lawyer is saying?

Norman Shabel  19:41
Well, won’t fire lawyer Oh, Trial Lawyers who’ve been doing it a while. No, it’s a game. It’s a game like playing basketball. I’m a basketball player when I was younger, and you haven’t said The US somebody’s taking you down to court. So you have to understand how to get around him or her. What to do with the ball, that same thing in trial law, everybody involved in it, you have to understand how he or she is going to react to the facts presented to them. That’s, that’s, that’s why that’s what’s made good lawyers.

Carolyn Daughters  20:30
Can you talk a little bit about God Knows No Heroes?

Norman Shabel  20:38
Well, God Knows No Heroes is a very interesting book. Because when I wrote that book, The rabbi, who was the main character was my rabbi. And he went to Israel, and he worked for the Israelis, etc. But the interesting thing about it, I knew about his is his love affairs with the consent of his clients, etc. Before he went, he went to Israel for a visit. But when he came back in my book, the lawyer defends him and get some more of a reality. The rabbi is, I am, I didn’t take the rabbi who was saved by somebody else. And he was convicted of murdering his wife.

Sarah Harrison  21:40
So you change the outcome a little bit there.

Norman Shabel  21:46
I changed it a lot. Because I wrote the book before he was convicted.

Sarah Harrison  21:52
Oh, interesting. So you were writing during the trial?

Norman Shabel  21:56
Now I was before the trial. Yeah, I, he was he was trying after I bought the book.

Sarah Harrison  22:06
Yeah. How did you feel? How did you feel personally, this being your rabbi?

Norman Shabel  22:15
Well, I felt he was a brilliant man. I mean, he was one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met. And he was a great rabbi. But unfortunately, he got stuck. He got in with another woman, which happens all the time. And during that time, he decided that is this is President wife want wouldn’t give him a divorce. So in turn, hire two of his the two of these people to kids to kill. They got off in 10 years, and he’s still serving time now. Well, in the last 25 years.

Carolyn Daughters  23:13
Are there any challenges? Like have you experienced any in publishing, where so many of your books are based on real life events? For example, your rabbi so we started this conversation where I was asking, have you considered nonfiction but even with fiction? Is it challenging from a legal standpoint to use these people you’ve either known or represented as characters in your books?

Norman Shabel  23:42
Well, no, I mean, that’s, that’s the beauty, about writing in the world in the manner I grow, because these people have shown me how people live and how people act. I mean, I’ve written a book eight books, and they’re all involved with, with objects and with things that occurred during my lifetime. That’s the way it is, because I, I took the real life of those people that I, I knew and worked with, and I put them into my book. Not that they’re all the same. But some of the some of the things that occurred in my book are real things.

Sarah Harrison  24:46
When did you write your first book, Norman?

Norman Shabel  24:53
I wrote my first book. I think I’ve been practicing about 10 years or so I don’t recall, which was the first book. But I think that’s when I started writing my first book. And so I wrote that book, because I also hold plays. So I’ve written seven plays and eight books. And there is a space between the two of them. During the 55 years I was practicing well.

Carolyn Daughters  25:24
Are you writing a new book?

Norman Shabel  25:28
No, no, I’m finishing, are trying to get my own, buy my books and my plays out there. I’m Mike over. I’m always, you know, my 25th year of living. Right now, I just want to get my books and my plays out there. Because I think I’ve done enough in presenting them to the public.

Carolyn Daughters  25:54
What’s it like to see one of your plays, produced like to be in in the audience watching your play? What does that feel like?

Norman Shabel  26:04
Well, it feels like I was part of it. I feel, I will. When I wrote it, I felt that I knew what was going to happen on it. And I knew what the ending was going to be like. And the only thing I didn’t know was the reaction from the audience. They all have different reactions, as to the plays. And as to the books.

Sarah Harrison  26:33
I imagine. One of the things I wanted to ask you about, that kind of relates to our show, in our book club, and one of the things that first intrigued me about you was the fact that you’re a lawyer, which we’ve discussed a lot. And one of the earlier books we read was A Perry Mason book. Are you familiar with Perry Mason? Tell me your thoughts on him, like, what do you know about him is, what do you think about his moral philosophy? Is it too idealistic?

Norman Shabel  27:13
I don’t recall specifically a Perry Mason book. But I, I’ve read Perry Mason books. And he, those books are depicted, in a way which I’ve depicted in a lot of my clients. Also in the book. The writer was was a lawyer, I presume, I think, in Perry Mason, and some of his books, his books, and his plays are, are excellent.

Sarah Harrison  27:43
One of the things that struck us about Perry Mason is his unique ethical code. It’s very different from a lot of the other characters, and that his primary ethical code seems to be loyalty to his client, above all else, and fulfilling that. Do you feel like you or other lawyers still practice that? Or has like, kind of the game aspect? changed that in any way?

Norman Shabel  28:11
No, I think a good lawyer who takes on a case and takes on somebody who is who is occasionally give 100% of his time and effort to get that get the outcome for that client as best he can, or sometimes the case, I’ve always felt that way. I felt whatever case I want notwithstanding, it’s the money’s involved as well. But if I felt that I did not think that I can help that individual get the best way out. I wouldn’t take the case.

Sarah Harrison  29:04
And that kind of reminds me of the concept of your book for women, which we did not get to read excerpts. But the prospect is very interesting. It focuses on women specifically who are being pushed out of their homes by builders. Why primarily women, is that usually the dynamic and tell us a little bit about is that super frequent?

Norman Shabel  29:34
Well, it depends on the time of course it did happen. So women men are etc. I was confronted with that situation, even when I was first in law in Florida. I had an aunt who was part of the book I’m worried about, and it was a reality is she there will Living all four women were living in one place. And in Miami, and I also was involved with a couple criminal per kilo. And back in, in the in Germany. So I merged all that the German and the kid the people, the German got off and he became the landlord, Ogata was wanting to get the women off, and the lawyer would force him and to the benefit of the of the of his clients see the four women. So always it was actually, the facts weren’t all the same. But part of the facts were there. So I put them all together. And so what I call off what happened with the four women. And so where the reader would understand that the end of it that these four women came out happy for women.

Sarah Harrison  31:16
Yeah, another question that came up for me in reading just kind of about your book, the corporation, that sort of, I felt like played into some current events. In the book, there’s a very important corporate merger happening. And you fictionalized a murder that happened along with it. What I’ve been hearing a lot about recently was corporate events. And I don’t know if you read about this Carolyn, the Boeing whistleblower?

Carolyn Daughters  31:48
I didn’t. But I saw your note here. And I was super intrigued.

Sarah Harrison  31:52
So recently, in a case against Boeing, a whistleblower had turned up dead. And it’s widely believed that he was murdered. Have you heard about that? Do you have a take on that?

Norman Shabel  32:08
I haven’t heard particularly about that particular the, but I’ve heard situations like that occurring, where a a party who is has as thinking or has a way of trying to get something out and being bumped off wash or shot, etc. It’s not unusual that occurs. In my book, The cooperation is Charles of honoring a corporation that, does this thing, getting rid of a lot of their employees who are going to take over, etc. But that’s, that’s the reason I put them all together. Interesting.

Sarah Harrison  32:58
Yeah, that is interesting. I wasn’t sure if murder was, in fact, common, or if that’s a more sensational aspect of corporate politics.

Norman Shabel  33:10
More Murder. Murder isn’t what you call common, but it happens, that murder is always in there. And when you’re dealing with large amounts of money against one party or another party, there’s always a chance that the one is money is being taken, will hire somebody to kill the one taking the money extract for it happens. Often, I merged it into one into the corporation, where the multiple employees who had actually changed it to to destroy the cooperation if they if they were allowed to do it by the corporate people. And in that book, the employees get bumped off.

Carolyn Daughters  34:06
With enough incentive you know, when the financial stakes are high, there’s sort of a possibility in some cases of murder happening because so much money is at play.

Norman Shabel  34:21
There’s no doubt about it. I mean, when you’re talking about millions and millions of dollars like Operation who is what what’s happened and that type of money being involved in it, and it happens often where the company that’s losing all that money will hire people to either take away whenever they see People have died they or actually you hire somebody to kill these people. Because, you know, when you look at it and billions and billions of dollars killing the people, we’re going to destroy you is not out of play. That happens all the time.

Sarah Harrison  35:21
I know we’re getting close to time, but I just wanted to touch on one more aspect that came up in your books a lot. In addition to kind of some harsh criticism, I would say, of judges and juries, you had some pretty harsh criticism for your fellow lawyers. I mean, at least the character said, I won’t, I won’t attribute that to you specifically. But I kind of want to hear about it. One of your characters say when you’re on top lawyers love you, but when you’re the least bit vulnerable, they’ll eat you alive, is that your take on the profession or just the characters?

Norman Shabel  35:57
Well, it’s not the profession, it’s the carrier, okay? Anytime you’re dealing with money, it occurs. The legal profession is a very difficult profession for success. The participants have to know what they’re doing at all times, or else they’re out. Either they’re the ethically speaking, a lawyer can be taken away by a court, except for or, and the, the case that he has, and he loses it, and its clients, then sue the lawyer for, for, for, for losing on him. All these things occur at all times. And under the Senate, the lawyer is now withstanding that the lawyer has a client at that time, they’re in the same boat. But if he, the lawyer loses the vote, that individual can go against his lawyer, and many interesting.

Sarah Harrison  37:08
Think about that.

Norman Shabel  37:11
Why? That’s why lawyers always they, when you’re a lawyer, your client is one away over here. And yes, he’s in your side. But a lawyer will always know that, if he loses, that’s so cool, friendly lawyer becomes an enemy. It’s like playing basketball, you’re gonna lose a game. And you know, but you got another game to play. But when you lose a case, that’s a big case, a multimillion dollar case, you can be assured that the losing client is going to look after his client is lawyer who lost the case.

Sarah Harrison  38:16
That kind of leads into one more comment you made. You said, the court understood alcoholism among lawyers. They forgave drunken lawyers to a point is that sensationalized? Or would you say there’s definitely a realistic, realistic aspect in alcoholism?

Norman Shabel  38:39
Well, I think many lawyers are alcoholics also, particularly trial lawyers, for the simple reason that their job is such a very difficult job, that they need alcohol on one side, to think to keep them alive. But I’ve merely said my saying that ACO trial lawyers, alcohol is far from it. There’s many trial lawyers who are not alcoholics. And there are several trial lawyers who I know are alcoholics. Because being a trial lawyer is something that most people don’t understand. You have so many people, so many things against you. If you lose, it’s your client becomes your enemy. Understand, that’s what happens. So that’s why a trial lawyer has to be very careful about how he tries a case and how he handles his client, etc. Because he always knows that his clients will not stop against him. If he loses the case. Not only Is when it happens.

Carolyn Daughters  40:01
I had never thought about that before. I mean, it’s a very dangerous situation you want to win the case, of course. But if you don’t win it, I hadn’t thought about your client becoming your enemy.

Norman Shabel  40:16
Well, not always nice. It depends how big the cases and you know what it is. But many, many Trial Lawyers I know are very careful about how they handle their clients. Because they know full well, that that nice little boy or man who’s your who you’re drinking with, if you lose his case, he doesn’t be a drinking partner anymore. So they have to be very careful about how they handle all clients.

Carolyn Daughters  40:57
Interesting.

Sarah Harrison  40:59
Norman, this is a really fascinating insight into the legal system. A lot of stuff that you know, and thought about wasn’t aware of. It has been a pleasure talking to you where we’re at time. But if folks want to find you or your books, how should they do that?

Norman Shabel  41:22
Well, the books are being sold by Amazon, I believe, and they’re being sold by lawyer. I forget what’s the name of the company, also the selling the books. But I hope to sell all the books, because I think the most people particularly people want our lawyers that they’ll come into another world. When I read one of my books. That’s it’s, it’s interesting. It’s reality. And it’s something that I think when you read the book, you say to yourself, jeez, I wonder if this really happened.

Sarah Harrison  42:09
How I felt there was a lot that I was like, Well, this is really different. This is really unexpected. It was very much a different world.

Norman Shabel  42:17
Yeah, but thank you very much. And I’m hoping that all your people who you go to, we’ll look at the book and read it in and tell me how they feel.

Sarah Harrison  42:32
Thanks so much, Norman. We appreciate it.

Norman Shabel  42:36
My pleasure. Thank you very much. Thank you.

Carolyn Daughters
You can learn more about all our 2024 book selections at teatonicandtoxin.com. You can also comment, weigh in, and follow along with what we’re reading and discussing @teatonicandtoxin on Instagram and Facebook. And you can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Sarah Harrison
Until next time, listeners, stay mysterious.

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