Alumnus offers proceeds from e-book to help Hershey kids with cancer

July 01, 2010

University Park, Pa. -- To mark the 20th anniversary of its hardcover publication, the popular novel "To Speak for the Dead," written by Penn State alumnus Paul Levine, is being re-issued as an e-book with proceeds going to support cancer treatment and research at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.

Levine, a 1969 Penn State graduate, is a former trial lawyer, screenwriter and now best-selling novelist of legal thrillers. He has pledged the royalties from his e-book sales to the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital. The Four Diamonds Fund also is the focus of Dance Marathon (THON), the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, held annually at Penn State. Since the first THON in 1973 more than $69 million has been raised by students for children with cancer and their families.

"I've had three dear friends lose a child or a spouse to cancer in the last few years," Levine said."This is a cause close to my heart. I am gratified that, now, something intended as entertainment can help children in need."

"To Speak for the Dead," published in 1990, is the first of Levine's novels featuring Jake Lassiter, the Penn State linebacker-turned-lawyer, who begins to suspect that his surgeon client who's accused of malpractice, might actually be guilty of murder. The novel was translated into 18 languages and adapted into an NBC World Premiere Movie in 1995.

Seven Lassiter novels were published in the 1990s. Since then, Levine has written two stand-alone thrillers including last year's "Illegal," plus the four-book "Solomon vs. Lord" series. Additionally, he wrote for the CBS military drama JAG and co-created the Supreme Court show "First Monday," starring James Garner and Joe Mantegna.

Levine said that whenever he is interviewed about the book, he plans to emphasize "not merely buying a $2.99 book, but rather directly supporting the Four Diamonds Fund as well." Levine is particularly happy that his book has the potential to continue to give to the fund for years to come, but direct support to Four Diamonds is also "a great way to help children and families beat childhood cancer."

Book sites and online reviews that focus on Levine's novel also are including information about the Four Diamonds Fund and a link to more information. The fund has helped more than 2,000 families since 1972 and every year 100 new families receive support.

In a playful nod to his novel's main character -- Jake Lassiter -- Levine "interviews" him below. An irritable Lassiter chides Levine about his pasty complexion and his writing style, but in the process the fictional character also discusses the featured novel, its plot and its pledged contributions to the Four Diamonds Fund.


Paul Levine, a Penn State grad and Distinguished Alumnus, sits down with Jake Lassiter, protagonist of his prize-winning series of legal thrillers.

Paul: You haven't aged a day in 20 years. How do you do it?
Jake: Being fictional helps. You could use some sun. Don't you ever get out of the house?

Paul: Careful, or I'll kill you off in the next book.
Jake: Then what will you do? Get a real job?
Paul: What's with the aggression? Are you miffed that I abandoned you all these years?
Jake: I don't get "miffed." I get mad, and when I do, someone gets decked. And no, I don't give a hoot you left Miami for Hollywood.
Paul: OK, just tell us about "To Speak for the Dead."
Jake: Why not shell out $2.99 -- less than your double mocha latte -- and find out yourself? It's for a good cause. Kids with cancer. And it's a great read.
Paul: C'mon, Jake. Your client, Dr. Salisbury, was having an affair with his patient's wife. Then the patient died after surgery. Was it malpractice?
Jake: Hey, I'm not gonna breach the attorney-client privilege.
Paul: Speaking of ethics. Did you have an affair with a woman who tried to put your client in jail?
Jake: So sue me. Women think I look like a young Harrison Ford.
Paul: Careful, pal, or I'll make that an old Henry Ford. Why do you get into all these scrapes?
Jake: I'm not bad. You just write me that way.
Paul: That's a cop-out, Lassiter. Dig a little deeper, and tell me the truth.
Jake: In the Miami courthouse, there's a sign: "We who labor here seek only the truth." There ought to be a footnote. "Subject to the truth being hidden by lying witnesses, distorted by sleazy lawyers and excluded by inept judges."
Paul: So you're angry about injustice?
Jake: It's my primary character trait. That, and a fondness for Grolsch beer.
Paul: Tell us about your football career.
Jake: Played some linebacker for Joe Paterno at Penn State. When I cut a few classes, he parked my butt so far down the bench my feet were in Altoona.
Paul: How'd you ever make it on the Dolphins?
Jake: I sacrificed my body on the suicide squad. Then went to law school. University of Miami, night division. Graduated in the top half of the bottom third of my class.
Paul: You pull some pretty outrageous stunts in the courtroom.
Jake: They don't call us sharks for our ability to swim.
Paul: Why do they call you sharks?
Jake: We eat what we kill. Come home empty-handed, we go to bed hungry.
Paul: Will you tell us anything more about "To Speak for the Dead"?
Jake: It sparkles.
Paul: Sounds like another word you wouldn't use.
Jake: I wouldn't. That's what The Times of London said. Critics loved the book. So tell the folks to spend a measly $2.99 and enjoy a "breathlessly exciting" read -- the Cleveland Plain Dealer said that -- and help kids with cancer, too.
Paul: Anything else you want to say?
Jake: You don't need an e-reader. You can download e-books to your laptop or desktop. And that's about it, Scribbler.
Paul: Thanks for taking the time to talk. Can we do this again?
Jake: Not unless you subpoena me.

For more information about "To Speak for the Dead" visit online.

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Last Updated August 12, 2011