The Street Law Ripoff

A few years ago, when I decided to write The Street Law Handbook, I thought I could use a consultant, someone who was still practicing law and could do some research for me. I put an ad in the legal job section of craigslist, got about twenty responses, weeded it down to about five. The guy I chose was a criminal defense lawyer with lots of enthusiasm for the project--someone who definitely wanted to be co-author more than consultant. Or...well, just author, actually. Unfortunately CoAuthor couldn't string words into decent sentences to save his life. And he didn't like to be edited or anyone "interfering." In fact, he didn't want me to do anything, and when I complained, he sent a long letter to our agent to take his side. That's when I blew my now trademark cool and, well, we had words. Nasty words, mostly on email, all of which I still have archived, by the way.

Once equilibrium--as I saw it, anyway--was restored, we went back to work. Then suddenly, he disappeared. The whole partnership lasted about two months. I wrote The Street Law proposal from scratch, sold it, researched it, wrote it, edited it, published it. About a year after the end of our partnership, CoAuthor turned up, friendly and complimentary, wanting to sign the Termination Agreement I had sent him--or, actually, his own version, which had no non-compete clause. You see, CoAuthor and I, both being lawyers, had signed a partnership agreement that stating that he could not publish anything to directly compete with Street Law, should he leave the project.

Ah, lawyers. Once again, we had words--mostly his this time, again, most of them nasty. I agreed to limit the non-compete clause to six months, mostly to get him and his negative energy out of my life.

Well, his competing project is out. You knew there was one, right? So did I. I wasn't surprised that it got published (dey vil publish aaaaanything, baby) but I was surprised to see how thoroughly and how unashamedly, he had ripped off my idea. It has the original title I had proposed before "The Street Law Handbook" and is a survival guide to the drug law. Like The Street Law Handbook, it has stories of celebrity busts, silly crooks, tips to the legal system and dealing with the police and going to trial. In short, it looks really, really familiar. CoAuthor will modestly note on his website how he came up with the idea on his own. I see that the phrase "answered a craigslist ad" is not in the explanation.

I will say this. His writing has gotten better. The early drafts I have of his writing were shit. (Are shit. I still have them, of course). Anyway, some editor has earned his money on this one.

Some friends have suggested legal action. I'm not sure it's worth it the aggravation, or the surge of negative energy, or the distraction from Wicked Woman and Unnamed Book Three. My agent says it happens all the time in publishing and it's really hard to prove these things. And I believe in karma, and that cream always rises to the top. I think venting here was enough.

Besides, it's all over for him anyway. Without me around, where's he going to get his second book idea?