Levine's 'Bum Deal' marks last appearance for Penn State-inspired character

June 12, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A 28-year relationship between a Penn State linebacker known around the world and the man who created him comes to an end this week when the fictional character appears as the lead in his latest, and for now last, novel.

Penn State alumnus and author Paul Levine created Jake Lassiter, a linebacker turned lawyer, 28 years ago. He has been featured in 13 of Levine’s 23 novels.

Lassiter returns this week in “Bum Deal,” a book Levine said will be the final appearance for the character he based largely on his experiences as a trial lawyer in south Florida and as a Penn Stater.

“I’ve been hanging out with Jake for a really long time. I originally created him because I wanted to write fiction and, you know what they say, you write what you know,” Levine said. “I was a practicing lawyer, it was set in Miami where I lived, and if you’ve gone to Penn State and you’ve been the sports editor of The Daily Collegian, you better know a little bit about football.

“He’s gotten older, not as old as me, but when the series started he was 40 and 28 years later he’s 50 — which is why it’s wonderful to be Jake Lassiter.”

Still, Lassiter’s life is not without challenges.

Readers of “Bum Deal” meet him as he’s experiencing ongoing headaches and memory problems — symptoms that are a precursor to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) as a result of his football career. He’s started experimental treatments, and he’s also been appointed a special prosecutor for a high-profile case that moves him from his familiar ground as a defense lawyer and puts him in the courtroom arguing against his two best friends and protégés, Victoria Lord and Steve Solomon.

While Lassiter was the character that brought Levine’s skills to prominence, the author said bringing his story arc to a conclusion made sense — though it’s not necessarily an ultimate end.

“It just seemed like the right time,” Levine said. “With any kind of fiction, you often want to make things really difficult for your hero. In Act 1 you put your hero in a tree. In Act 2 you throw stones at your hero in a tree, and in Act 3 you bring him down safely or not.

"Jake Lassiter thinks he has free will, but I actually write his lines. He’s not gone for me. He’s still there, between the covers. But if you’re getting up there in age, and you get a life-threatening illness … well, that’s a different story. If Jake isn’t around, if he really isn’t around, then (Solomon and Lord) are his best friends in the world and that sets up some interesting challenges. But I really don’t know.”

Levine has won the John D. MacDonald fiction award and he has been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, International Thriller, and James Thurber prizes. He is also the author of the “Solomon vs. Lord” series. His novels have been translated into 23 languages. 

Along with his novels, Levine wrote more than 20 episodes for the CBS military drama “JAG.” He co-created (with Donald Bellisario) the Supreme Court drama “First Monday,” starring James Garner and Joe Mantegna. Levine earned his degree in journalism from Penn State in 1969 and later graduated from the University of Miami Law School. He lives in Santa Barbara, California. 

More information about "Bum Deal" and Levine's other works can be found at www.paul-levine.com.

Last Updated June 12, 2018