The idea behind a trial by a jury of your peers is that the jury is unbiased and unsullied. They have no opinions, no prejudices — nothing at all to do with the case before them.
Nice idea. But what if the actual murderer is on the jury that’s trying somebody else for his crime?
“It just occurred to me,” said author Gary Corbin of Camas: “Wouldn’t it be amazing if you had a guy on the jury who had firsthand knowledge of the crime? And that morphed into, what if that guy was the guy who committed the murder?”
Corbin has been writing all his life — he’s an accomplished playwright whose comedies have played in Portland and won awards — but “Lying in Judgment,” which came out this month, is his first novel, he said. And it came along about as slowly as a jury verdict. Corbin started outlining the plot in 2004; finishing a first draft took him a whole year. A dozen years later, the book is finally done and coming out under Corbin’s own Double Diamond Publishing imprint.
Why did it take so long? Because plotting a thriller is “really complicated,” he said. “One of the really key elements when you’re developing a thriller or mystery is the slow drip of clues and information. You can’t reveal too much at once. You need to unwind things, peel the onion back slowly.”
“Lying in Judgment,” which takes place in Portland, is a legal thriller — but it’s not “typical in the Scott Turow, John Grisham sense,” Corbin said. Those best-selling authors write legal thrillers about important insiders — lawyers, litigants, judges — who stumble upon corruption and crime within the system.
Corbin’s novel, by contrast, stars “an everyday person who is a member of the jury.” An everyday person, that is, except for that one extra factor: he’s the criminal. There’s no doubt about that. Is there?
“Lying in Judgment” is available at Vintage Books in Vancouver, via Corbin’s website, www.garycorbinwriting.com, and at Amazon.com.
Corbin will sign copies of “Lying in Judgment” at 4 p.m. March 19 at Caps N’ Taps, 337 Fourth Ave., Camas.