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Thread: Interview with Richard Beasley, author/barrister

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    Interview with Richard Beasley, author/barrister

    PART 1

    Mr Beasley, could you please tell our readers a little about yourself.


    I am a barrister at the New South Wales Bar. I have been for nearly 8 years. Before that I was a solicitor from between 1988 to 1997, so I have been a lawyer for 17 years. I’ve worked in a variety of firms. I grew up in Adelaide, went to Adelaide University to do undergraduate. I did postgraduate at Sydney University. I worked mainly as a solicitor in Sydney. And then I went to the Bar here in Sydney at Wentworth Chambers.

    Since going to the Bar, I’ve had two novels published. The first is Hell has Harbour Views which came out in 2001. The Ambulance Chaser came out last year in 2004. The books are about corrupt law firms and corrupt insurance companies respectively. I’m working on a sequel to the second book at the moment, when I’m not working as a barrister.

    I’m married with a couple of kids.

    So who are your favourite authors and which are your favourite books?

    My favourite authors in terms of being an influence would be people like Carl Hiaasen, who writes black comedies set in Florida, that have got a fairly strong left-wing bent, particularly about protecting the environment. Most of the characters in his books are corrupt judges and politicians. He’s a fantastic writer, though not particularly well known in Australia. Elmore Leonard is another favourite of mine – he writes grittier crime novels in the States. They’d be the principal influences outside Australia that I like.

    Inside Australia, I’m a fan of Shane Maloney, about a political adviser and then a politician set in Melbourne. A couple of his books were made for television last year, one was called The Brush Off and the other was called Stiff.

    They’re the sort of people I like to read and have an influence on my writing. Also, though I won’t claim that I write anywhere as good as them, other detective writers like Raymond Chandler.

    So what inspired you from working as a lawyer for so long to writing novels?

    I think it’s something that happened even before I was a lawyer. I think even when I was at school, certainly from the age of 15 onwards, I was starting to really like books and got it in my head even back then that I might have a go one day at writing a novel or being some sort of creative writer.

    But you finish school and you enter university, you start studying there, different things happen and you start working as a lawyer. If you’re going to tackle something as demanding as a novel, you’ve got to be ready for it and you’ve got to be determined to do it and that combination of things didn’t happen to me until I was about 32, just before I went to the Bar. 32 isn’t particularly old to be a writer, but I was getting to that stage where I thought if I didn’t give it a go now I never will.

    Wanting to do it was from teenage years, but getting around to do it took a bit longer.

    You wrote that your first manuscript was 10,000 pages?

    That was a bit of exaggeration. The first draft was probably a slightly more over 800 pages. I hadn’t done any writing courses. I hadn’t had a career as a journalist or written any short stories, so it was all new to me. I took the approach that you should put in everything first and cut out the garbage later and I think that was the right approach. Through myself, a literary agent and editors at the publisher certainly a lot did get cut out, which makes the book a lot better.

    So what were the main problems that you faced during the writing process?

    Time. Time is the greatest enemy if you’re otherwise working any job. It means you’ve got to set aside time to write. But as a lawyer, it’s a pretty demanding job. It’s sort of like a 100%-type job. So it’s finding the time. Even if you’ve got the time, then you’ve got to find the energy to write, because it’s a big commitment. So time and energy, outside of commitments in the law, are the greatest obstacles. You’ve really got to be determined to do it.

    And that’s why it took three years?

    That’s part of why it took three years. As I said writing a novel is a bit effort. From point A to point Z in a first draft is a long journey. And then there’s the old saying, ‘books aren’t written, they’re rewritten’. Both of these novels have had more than a dozen drafts. You go over the book time and time again, in great detail, cutting out long passages, putting in new passages. At the end you’ve also got to edit typos and whatnot. So it’s a long process.

    Did the second novel, The Ambulance Chaser, take less time than the first one?

    Yes it did. I’m not quite sure the reasons. First book, I think, I was a little bit less confident because I didn’t have a writing contract and I thought there was a great possibility that you were wasting my time. You might be too embarrassed to ever show it to anyone. If you do, they might think it’s garbage – the chances of it getting published is pretty remote, so they are times when you sort of give up. Also I was halfway through the first when I went to the Bar. With the second book, I was much more confident. I had a publisher, they wanted me to keep writing, the first book had done well. I also took a little time off being a barrister to write more full-time so that increased the speed of getting through the second book.

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    PART 2

    If we know move on to talk about your first book, Hell Has Harbour Views, that John Birmingham [another author] said, your book is “the funniest most unutterably savage lawyer joke ever”. So was the aim of your book to satirise the ethical and personal dilemmas of a corporate life?


    It was in the end. When I sat down to write it I thought I was going to write a John Grisham-type thriller. But no matter how hard I tried to do that, as soon as I started writing about lawyers, I couldn’t help taking the piss out of them. So I figured there was no point resisting that urge. The nature and tone of the book changed. As you say, it’s got a serious side to it, the dilemmas facing any young white-collar worker, who’s in a job they don’t particularly like and what do they do about it. It just so happens for obvious reasons it’s about a lawyer. But obviously also there’s meant to be a lot of humour in the book as well. So that’s all intentional.

    Once I started writing I realised it was going to be comic and satirical and hopefully funny, but still had a theme of someone stuck in a job that was contrary to their conscience and they’re struggling with at that level, and how that drama in their life plays out.

    With the plot, did you have it figured out from beginning to end? I felt that the ending was abrupt. The use of the affidavit as a plot device was very dramatic.

    I had a plot outline, one, the beginning, to thirty-five, this is what happened in the end. But I didn’t let that become a straitjacket. As I progressed, things changed, the order of events changed, new things happened.

    The bit you’ve just raised about the affidavit was my thinking how do I resolve this? How’s he going to get out of it? How are the bad guys going to get brought down? And that idea of the affidavit only came to me when I was about two-thirds of the way through the book. I thought, geez that could be a really good idea, I could make that really funny and so I was really happy with that part of the book, because it did resolve the issues of the book and wrap it up well.

    I also noted that earlier this year, around February, ABC screened the telemovie version of the book – were you happy with that?

    I was delighted with the film. A guy called Peter Duncan wrote the script and directed it, I think he did a terrific job. The people who produced it did a great job. I thought the cast was great. I thought it looked great and was very very happy. The only disappointing thing was that the ABC put it on the night of the tennis final, which took some of the audience away to say the least but they’re putting it on again I think in August, which is good.

    Is it your opinion that there should be more Hugh Walkers or Chris Blakes in the world?

    *chuckles* Well it’ll be a funny old world if there were. Certainly Chris, and Hugh are damn braver than I, but Chris is really out there. But yeah, of course. Ultimately, these are sympathetic characters, they’re people that I like, people with far more good qualities than bad qualities. And they want to do, and ultimately do do what I consider the right thing. Yes, of course. They’re heroes.

    So, in Hugh’s position, you would have done what he did?

    No of course not. No way in the world. *chuckles*

    Would you say what you wrote in the book portrays corporate legal life?

    I think it does portray an aspect of it. Some people would say it’s totally far fetched in terms of plot. But I know the reaction from a lot of people, because I’ve got a couple of folders of email, letters and cards from young lawyers all around Australia that wrote to me in the months after the book was released, saying geez you’ve written my life, say they’re Hugh Walker. I even had two letters from women saying they were Hugh Walker. So I know a lot of people, a lot of young lawyers identify with that character and recognised aspects of their firm in the firm that’s in the book.

    So what advice have you got for law students, and indeed law graduates, who having read your book, are a bit hesitant about entering a corporate law career?

    Generally I wouldn’t presume to give advice because I’m not sure I’m the best person to give it. But, firstly the book is a work of fiction, so it is pretty far-fetched, it’s not meant to be taken literally. Secondly there are plenty of people at law firms that do fantastic work, work they’re very happy with, with people that they like, who are honest and good lawyers. And there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious and work at a prestigious law firm.

    But if I was giving advice, I’d say if you’re doing a lawyer degree you really need to think: if you want to be a lawyer, and I think deciding these things is ridiculous at such an early age. You start law school when you’re 18, 19, just so young to think about what you really want to do with life. But anyway, that’s what we’re made to do.

    And if you do want to be a lawyer, to think carefully about what sort of lawyer you want to be. Because if acting for powerful interests and powerful companies is going to cause you some angst, then it’s possible, just possible, a huge law firm may not be what you’re after. There are other options. So, think carefully about where you want your career to head; apart from having a law degree, whether you want to be a lawyer.

    Hell is not meant to be taken literally, although parts of the book do have the ring of truth. But it’s not to be taken literally. It is a novel.

    You said that you’ve got a sequel to The Ambulance Chaser in the pipeline, so how about Hugh Walker No. 2?

    From the perspective of a writer, I think we’ve seen the last of Hugh. I think that going back to going back to him would be doing the same thing again. The reason I’m doing a sequel to The Ambulance Chaser is that I think that: firstly there is two lead characters to that book, Chris and Gabrielle. They’re both now lawyers at a community legal centre. I think the device of having pro-bono lawyers at a community legal centre is a great device to use for writing about the things I like to write about, but also a great launching pad for plotlines where injustices are being undone and wrongs are being righted.

    So the next book, can you give us a little bit of a hint?

    *Hesitant* It involves the sudden demise of a very very wealthy Australian tycoon and possibly the wrongful charging with his murder of an ex-client of Chris’. Chris and Gabby are on the trail of investigating of exactly what’s happened, why this powerful person’s been killed. So a bit of a thriller, but certainly still in the tone of comedy. The intention will be that it will be funny. It’s meant to be comedy-crime-thriller. But I’m in the pretty early stages of it, in terms of how much is written, but pretty far advanced in terms of where I think it’s going to end up and what it’s about.

    Thank you very much for your time Mr Beasley. Thank you.

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    Rambling Spirit santaslayer's Avatar
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    Hmmm..one of my lecturers actually recommended that book to us. Bought it but never opened it. Maybe next holidays.


    When was the pic taken?
    The office looks extremely old for some reason.
    B Commerce/ B Laws
    Class of `03

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    Quote Originally Posted by santaslayer
    Hmmm..one of my lecturers actually recommended that book to us. Bought it but never opened it. Maybe next holidays.


    When was the pic taken?
    The office looks extremely old for some reason.
    read it mate it's gooood.

    picture was taken yesterday (when i was doing the interview). he autographed my books (yay - now they're going to be worth a lot on eBay). it must be the yellowish-hue incandenscent light of the office... it's one of those classic-looking chambers wall-to-wall of law reports and folders.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Asquithian
    I've read that interveiw before.
    no you haven't... how could you have!?! I did the interview yesterday.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frigid
    no you haven't... how could you have!?! I did the interview yesterday.
    obviously he has discovered the terrible secret of space and consequently time travel.

    is this guy any relation to kim?

    hhhv's sounds interesting, i had never heard of it before, ill be sure to read it, the interview was interesting too.

    why is the font in your posts so small? it makes it very hard to read, especially when im on a unix system.
    i have signatures turned off

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    Rambling Spirit santaslayer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frigid
    read it mate it's gooood.

    picture was taken yesterday (when i was doing the interview). he autographed my books (yay - now they're going to be worth a lot on eBay). it must be the yellowish-hue incandenscent light of the office... it's one of those classic-looking chambers wall-to-wall of law reports and folders.
    Certainly will.

    How did you get to interview the author? For a law article at uni?

    EDIT: You should of taken a pic with him.
    B Commerce/ B Laws
    Class of `03

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    Quote Originally Posted by Asquithian
    really...ive seen a similar one somewhere
    but squishy, i put a lot of effort into it
    Quote Originally Posted by santaslayer
    You should of taken a pic with him.
    now that would be very pretentious

    apologies made for my size=1 font.

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    he should have stood in front of his books.
    the windows, computers etc remind me of lowfunded country gov't highschools
    come undone

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    Isn't against Bar regulations to promote yourself?

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    Rambling Spirit santaslayer's Avatar
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    But he is doing it in terms of an author, not as a barrister.
    B Commerce/ B Laws
    Class of `03

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    King of Threads PwarYuex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by santaslayer
    But he is doing it in terms of an author, not as a barrister.
    Yes but he's definately promoting his practice.

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