New Turow novel zeroes in on ‘Identical’ twins

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Bestselling author, high-profile attorney and Chicago native Scott Turow’s new novel, “Identical” again is set in the writer’s Cook County-esque, fictional Kindle County. This new book relates the saga of the Giannis twins — Paul and Cass — two young men sharing bright futures, until the murder of Cass’ girlfriend at her family’s annual summer party change things forever.

The novel begins in 2008, as Paul Giannis is close to being elected mayor of Kindle County, and his brother Cass is about to be released from a 25-year prison sentence for the murder of the girlfriend in 1983 — and then Turow takes us quite a journey of surprises and revelations, which won’t be revealed here.

Scott Turow will be at Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W. Jefferson Ave. in Naperville, for a book-signing event, beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Recently, we chatted about “Identical,” his lifetime interest in twins and being a lawyer so well-known for his bestselling legal thrillers like “Presumed Innocent,” and “The Burden of Proof.”

Q: Is it true that twins are something very close to your heart?

A: My sister was a supposed to be a twin, but the other baby died in childbirth. Looking back at it, it was frightening to me as a child, since my dad was an OB-GYN doctor. I couldn’t figure out why he happily could deliver babies to other moms, but my brother-to-be died in childbirth. So I’ve always been preoccupied by the idea of that twin and the loss of my brother. As a child, I thought his death had something to do with me.

It has always been a topic of interest for me, but eventually, it turned into this happy fantasy of what would it have been like if that baby had survived and been my twin.

Q: DNA plays a big role in this novel. As a lawyer, obviously you’ve seen how DNA has changed the whole world of criminal justice.

A: I remember when my friend [famed lawyer] Barry Scheck and his partner Peter Newfeld were really the pioneers in the forensic use of this. Originally, prosecutors fought it tooth and nail, thinking it was some kind of card trick — and eventually realized this was real science. And because most of the people who are prosecuted are actually guilty, prosecutors came to see DNA was going to increase the accuracy of the criminal justice system. We are in this period now where we’re uncovering a lot of wrongful convictions. Years from now that will not be the case, because the DNA evidence will be a standard from the very beginning.

Over the years, I’ve seen how DNA has returned surprises about paternity. That’s where the idea for this book came from. Initially, I thought, ‘Why would anybody do DNA on identical twins?’ Then I did the research and discovered there are reasons to do that.

Q: Politics also plays a big part in this novel. Knowing Chicago politics as you do, what is fun to work all that in?

A: Politics is a full-contact in this novel – as it is in Chicago. There are plenty of ironies. When I started out, I wanted to write about a politician who also is a good guy. That’s where the idea of Paul Giannis came from — the guy running for mayor. Then, the seeming nutball who is attacking him in the beginning, ends up showing us he has more reason – than one would think to start — to go after Paul.

The book also gave me a chance to meditate on politics a bit. I briefly covered Rahm Emauel’s mayoral campaign for the new York Times magazine and I picked up some nuggets for the book doing that — especially how a mayoral campaign can work. Obviously Emanuel’s campaign was a little more successful!

Q: Does the success of Scott Turow, the bestselling novelist ever get in the way of Scott Turow the lawyer?

A: Yeah at times it can. I always say, I’m going to vomit if I read one more brief from an opposing lawyer who writes, “Mr. Turow, a noted author of fiction, has written more here…”

Sometimes judges are little stiff when the famous guy shows up. Many of them do an extraordinary hardnosed job of not reacting to it. But it’s not an insuperable barrier. Every veteran lawyer comes into a courtroom with some kind of baggage. For example an attorney could be a guy who prosecuted a case against a defense lawyer who’s now on the bench looking down. So, there’s always something. My baggage is a little bit different.

Yet I still practice because I like the law, I left Stanford where I was teaching to go to law school because I thought the law was fascinating — and I still do.

And, unlike most Americans, I enjoy the company of lawyers!

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