Lawyer Up: James Grippando Wins Harper Lee Legal Fiction Award

In News by Dennis Abrams

The attorney and author James Grippando, with more than a dozen Jack Swyteck novels published, is the seventh winner of the ‘ABA Journal’ and University of Alabama School of Law’s prize.

Image – iStockphoto: Jacob Studio

By Dennis Abrams | @DennisAbrams2

‘My Dual Career’
The University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal have announced the James Grippando, the author of Gone Again (HarperCollins), will receive the 2017 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.

As Publishing Perspectives reported in May, the three-book shortlist also included:

  • Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult; and
  • The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore.

Grippando is the seventh winner of the prize, which is given annually and was authorized by Lee to honor a “book-length work of fiction that best illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.”

James Grippando

In a prepared statement from award organizers, Grippando is quoted, saying, “I don’t know who’s happier, James Grippando the writer or James Grippando the lawyer.” He calls the win “easily the proudest moment of my dual career.”

Seven years ago, to celebrate and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill A Mockingbird–as well as to honor the former University of Alabama law student and author Harper Lee–the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal partnered to create The Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.

Gone Again was selected by a panel of writers, including:

  • Deborah Johnson, winner of the 2015 award and author of The Secret of Magic;
  • Cassandra King, author of The Same Sweet Girls’ Guide to Life;
  • Don Noble, host of Alabama Public Radio’s book review series and host of Bookmark, which airs on Alabama Public Television;’ and
  • Han Nolan, author of Dancing on the Edge.

In press materials, Nolan is quoted talking about details of Grippando’s book, saying, “Jack Swyteck is a lawyer’s lawyer. He works within the system, relentlessly searching for the truth as he races against time to defend a death row inmate.

“If I’m ever in legal trouble, there’s no lawyer I would rather have than Grippando’s Jack Swyteck. The man is dedicated to social justice, resourceful and tireless.”

And Molly McDonough, editor and publisher of the ABA Journal, is also quoted, saying, ““Grippando’s book does a masterful job entertaining the importance of the death penalty and actual innocence.

“In Gone Again, attorney Jack Swyteck focuses on finding the truth while navigating the complexities of habeas petitions for a despicable client.”

Grippando is to be honored with a signed special edition of To Kill a Mockingbird and an article in the ABA Journal.

Past winners of the prize have included John Grisham, Michael Connelly, Paul Goldstein, and Attica Locke.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.