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Steve Martini :: Legal Thriller Author

Updated on October 4, 2013

The Works of Legal Thriller Author, Steve Martini

Steve Martini expertly crafts brilliant legal thrillers. His years of legal experience, coupled with a well-polished journalistic style, make him one of the most talented modern fiction writers today. I've read every one of his books and can't wait for a new one to be published.

A Brief Steve Martini Background and Biography

Attorney Plus Journalist = Brilliant Edgy Fiction

Steve Martini was born in San Francisco and grew up in the Bay Area and Southern California. An honors graduate of the University of California at Santa Cruz, Martini's first career was in journalism. He worked as a newspaper reporter in Los Angeles and as a correspondent at the California State Capitol in Sacramento, specializing in legal issues, before gaining his law degree from the University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law.

In 1974 he entered private law practice in California where he appeared in both state and federal courts. During his law career he worked as a legislative representative for the State Bar of California, served as special counsel to the California Victims of Violent Crimes Program, and was an administrative law judge and supervising hearing officer.

In 1984, Martini turned his talents to fiction. COMPELLING EVIDENCE, the novel that introduced attorney Paul Madriani, was published by Putnam in 1992. A national bestseller, that novel earned Martini a critical and popular following.


Listen to Steve introduce Shadow of Power, in a CNN Interview.

Steve Martini's Books

In Order of Publication

Simeon Chamber

Compelling Evidence

Prime Witness

Undue Influence

The Judge

The List

Critical Mass

The Attorney

The Jury

The Arraignment

Double Tap

Shadow of Power

Guardian of Lies

The Rule of Nine

My personal favorite is The Judge

To keep up with all the latest Steve Martini books, interviews and appearances, go to

Steve Martini Interviews

Eric Kuhn Interview on "The Huffington Post": You started this book in 2006 but it has a lot of similarities with today's election (there is the first African-American presidential nominee ever, controversial African American minister and the first woman on a national ticket since 1984). What were you thinking when you started writing your book about the 2008 election?.

Powell' Ink Q&A Interview: Writers are better liars than other people. . .

Interview with Caleb Jones on So explain who Paul Madriani is for those who don't know. . ..

Interview with Nancy Eaton: What other authors do you enjoy reading. . ..

Interview with You've taken on the legal system and errant judges. . ..

Interview with Putnam, Steve's publisher: In the field of fiction the book I most admire is . . ..

Interview with Glenn Beck on CNN: Glenn Beck / Steve Martini Video.

The Simeon Chamber (Paperback) - "The ancients long ago learned that the essence of a lie is to be found in its deception, not its words...."

The Simeon Chamber
The Simeon Chamber

San Francisco lawyer Samuel J. Bogardus has no way of knowing that the seemingly routine adoption case steered to him by his dottering mother is about to ensnare him in a web of intrigue, black-market art and murder spanning four centuries.

The beautiful and alluring client, Jennifer Davies, has handed Bogardus a package containing a cryptic note. James Spencer, Jennifer’s natural father, believed killed years before in a freak aviation accident, is alive, and Bogardus will need all of his investigative and legal skills to locate him. But inside the envelope Sam finds an even more intriguing message, for attached to the note are four pages of ancient parchment bearing an elegant but faded script and signature penned in a bold hand; the name – “FRANCIS DRAKE.”

Bogardus shares the discovery with his former lover and law partner, the sensuous, magnetic and headstrong Susan Paterson. Unaware of the terrible cost to be exacted for this indiscretion, Bogardus’s curiosity soon turns to vengeance. The vendetta is not cooled by confirmation that the parchments are authentic, part of a journal written by the English Explorer in the 16th Century, and by a bizarre twist of fate delivered to an unknown American buyer by Nazi war profiteers.

Pursuing a trail of murder, Bogardus uncovers a mystery buried in the text of the four pages, a secret committed to paper by Drake on his departure from the western shores of North America 350 years before. As Sam and Jennifer track the killer through a tangled web of deceit, they uncover the remnants of an elaborate black market art scheme – a conspiracy so perfidious that it numbers among its victims the publishing mogul and collector – William Randolph Hearst.

The Simeon Chamber spirals in a suspense-filled course from the gilded rooms of Hearst’s San Simeon Castle to the craggy cliffs of California’s north coast. It is a quest for a king’s ransom in lost antiquities and revenge which winds its way from the precipice of suspense to a spine-chilling and shocking conclusion.


Compelling Evidence (Paperback) - "FROM somewhere behind the scenes the lights in the chamber are turned on..."

Compelling Evidence (A Paul Madriani Novel)
Compelling Evidence (A Paul Madriani Novel)

In Compelling Evidence, Paul Madriani, a brilliant criminal defense attorney, was once a promising associate on the rise with Potter, Skarpellos, a prestigious law firm specializing in the defense of “compromised” executives. One of its cofounders is Ben Potter, Paul’s mentor, whose faultless reputation has earned him a probable nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the aftermath of an affair with Ben Potter’s wife, Paul left the firm and took up a self-imposed exile in a small solo practice. He must scramble for work amid the ghosts of his doomed affair while struggling to hold together the remains of a failing marriage.

On the eve of the nomination, Potter is found dead, a shotgun by his body, an apparent suicide. As details come to light in the police investigation, the case turns from suicide to murder and the needle of suspicion begins to point toward the victim’s wife, Talia Potter. Indicted and arrested for murder, snared in a web of intrigue as her husband’s associates plot for control of the firm, Talia turns to Paul, her former lover, to defend her against the mounting evidence to be presented by the politically ambitious chief prosecutor who is bent on sending her to the gas chamber.

Here is a courtroom drama of epic proportions. Never before has a trial been presented in a novel in such riveting and uncompromising detail. With courtroom scenes as sharp as the crack of a gavel, Compelling Evidence is as close as any reader is likely to come to the legal maneuvering and psychological trauma of a death penalty case. Mesmerizing in its pace, captivating in its action, this is a story that holds the reader to its final verdict and shocking conclusion.


Prime Witness (A Paul Madriani Novel) (Paperback) - "This place has the undiscerning smell of death about it..."

Prime Witness (A Paul Madriani Novel)
Prime Witness (A Paul Madriani Novel)

Steve Martini is a master of the genre,” says John Grisham about the bestselling author of Compelling Evidence. “He writes with the agile, episodic style of a lawyer quick on his feet and one step ahead of his many enemies.” Martini has joined the front rank of novelists whose legal thrillers have created a phenomenon in recent years.

Now, the writer hailed by Vincent Bugliosi as “a new literary lion in the fictional crime genre” delivers a seamless novel of high suspense and brilliant courtroom intrigue. Over just five days, the rural college town of Davenport, California, is rocked by two sets of brutal murders. When two more bodies are discovered, Paul Madriani, the brilliant defense attorney from Compelling Evidence, is tagged as the special prosecutor who must find the murderer, dubbed “the Putah Creek Killer” – and quickly. Following a trail of mounting physical evidence, Madriani and the police are led to a college security guard, who is arraigned on multiple charges of murder.

But things begin to spin out of control when Madriani confronts Adrian Chambers, the suspect’s defense attorney, who harbors a checkered past and a deep-seated vendetta against Paul. Even worse, while the evidence linking the suspect to the first four slayings is irrefutable, something is clearly different with the last two murders. As the trial slowly proceeds, Madriani begins to realize there is another killer at large.

Only during the trial – when he is fighting for the conviction of one killer and the identification of another – does Madriani discover terrifying answers that go far deeper than anyone imagined. Answers that will shock, mesmerize, and hold the reader captive until the last page.


Undue Influence (A Paul Madriani Novel) (Paperback) - "Bottom line, she was an unfit mother..."

Undue Influence (A Paul Madriani Novel)
Undue Influence (A Paul Madriani Novel)

With almost four million copies of his novels in print, Steve Martini has quickly joined the front ranks of psychological thriller writers, an author who John Grisham says “writes with the agile episodic style of a lawyer quick on his feet.”

In Undue Influence, Paul Madriani, the brilliant defense attorney readers came to admire in the New York Times best-sellers Compelling Evidence and Prime Witness, finds himself in a complex web of murder and deceit – this time within his own family. Paul’s wife, Nikki, has died of cancer, leaving him alone to bring up their young daughter, Sarah. On her deathbed, Nikki asked a favor of Paul: that he look after her younger sister, Laurel Vega, who is mired in a bitter child-custody battle with her former husband, a powerful state legislator. The two Vegas have brawled in open court for weeks, locking horns over who will be awarded custody of their two teenage children.

When Jack Vega’s new, younger wife is found slain execution-style in their opulent home, Laurel Vega becomes a prime suspect. And when physical evidence closes the loop, she is arrested and charged with first-degree murder. Paul, remembering his promise to his wife, has no choice but to take her case.

As he scrambles to mount a defense, Madriani investigates every angle of the murder, and uncovers more than a few skeletons in the Vega family closet. He unearths a dark and enigmatic side of Laurel, an aspect he never knew existed, and with this discovery comes the most chilling question of all: Did Laurel Vega commit murder?

Steve Martini holds the reader in his grip on every page of Undue Influence, with spiraling twists and turns, right down to the stunning, unexpected conclusion.


Steve Martini's: Undue Influence with Bonus DVD: Shadow of a Doubt (2007)

The Judge (A Paul Madriani Novel) (Paperback) - "YOU HAVE TWO CHOICES," HE TELLS ME, "YOUR MAN TESTIFIES OR. . ."

The Judge (A Paul Madriani Novel)
The Judge (A Paul Madriani Novel)

“Steve Martini rides his books as if they are surfboards. A helluva trip,” said Newsday about the New York Times best-seller Undue Influence, the book Kirkus Reviews called the “courtroom novel of the year.” Now, with The Judge, Martini returns to give his readers another edge-of-the-seat ride.

Steve Martini’s explosive new thriller finds attorney Paul Madriani the unlikely defense lawyer for an old nemesis. Judge Armando “the Coconut” Acosta is arrested on charges of soliciting prostitution in a sting operation of “johns,” and few, including Paul Madriani, who has a long history of enmity with the judge, are sympathetic. Abandoned by his friends on the Capital County bench, Acosta is forced, in an ironic twist, to ask Paul to save his career from impending doom. Paul initially rejects Acosta’s pleas, but when Acosta’s original defense lawyer is forced off the case by a zealous district attorney looking for revenge, Paul is required to step forward and defend the judge.

As the case proceeds, the young female deputy reserve officer who snared the judge is found brutally murdered, and Acosta is the prime suspect. The reason? The officer was the only person who could give evidence against the judge. With his client now charged with murder, Paul faces the most daunting, disturbing, and complex case of his career.

Packed with the nonstop drama and richly drawn characters that have come to be Steve Martini’s trademarks, The Judge delivers a decisive thumbs-up verdict.


Steve Martini's The Judge (2001)

Steve Martini's The Judge
Steve Martini's The Judge

I loved this movie almost as much as the book. Though it departed from the book in many places, as movies necessarily do, it stands on its own merit. Chris Noth is excellent as Paul Madriani.


The List (Paperback) - "Abby Chandlis was approaching her middle years and suffered the anxiety of nearly every woman-that she would not age gracefully..."

The List
The List

A bold and successful scheme to outwit the biggest players in publishing and film animates this novel by the bestselling author of The Judge – a suspenseful thriller in which the price of fame becomes terror. Gable Cooper has penned a novel to kill for. Six million dollars in book and film rights are looming just off the table for this unknown author.

But there is a problem: Gable Cooper doesn’t exist.

Abby Chandlis is an attorney turned novelist and the creator of Gable Cooper. In an age when glamour, not grammar, is often the secret to selling books, Abby has an intriguing plan to keep her writing career alive: find a charismatic male face to pose as the phantom author for the knock-dead thriller she has written.

Jack Jermaine is a man with dangerous good looks and a shadowy past. Trained by the military to kill, his obsession is to pen a blockbuster book. He has a trunk filled with rejected manuscripts and a gnawing problem that has turned him bitter: Jack can’t write.

Desperate to find a man to play the role of Gable Cooper, Abby is about to give up when Jack forces his way into her life. Reluctantly she is convinced that Jack’s humor and looks will clinch success for her novel. She uses her legal wits and makes a deal with the devil. Jack becomes Gable Cooper.

When Jack is propelled into the orbit of celebrity, Abby finds herself at once seduced and trapped by her own creation. Success turns to terror. The story careens from the Pacific Northwest to New York City and finally through the islands of the Caribbean as Abby races for her life to the one person she can trust – the one person who can prove to the world that she wrote the novel, and put an end to the nightmare that was once her dream, the dream of making The List.


Critical Mass (Paperback) - "Burned out at thirty-two, she'd had enough..."

Critical Mass
Critical Mass

The United States is fat and happy – and on the eve of the deadliest act of mass terrorism in history. From the embers of Oklahoma City comes the specter of Critical Mass.

Jocelyn “Joss” Cole, a burned-out public defender from L.A., has opted for a quieter life in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. Joss has no significant clients other than a group of commercial fishermen suffering from a strange and serious illness, a condition doctors cannot diagnose, which Joss believes has an industrial cause Then into her office comes Dean Belden, a well-heeled client in search of a lawyer to help him set up a business in the islands. Within days Belden is subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury. Before he can testify, and before Joss can discover what happened in the secrecy of the grand jury room, Belden dies in the fiery explosion of his floatplane on Seattle’s Lake Union.

Gideon Van Ry is a nuclear fission expert and a scholar in residence at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California. One of his duties is to update the Center’s database, an extensive catalogue of fissionable materials and weapons of mass destruction. Gideon is troubled by the apparent failure in accounting for two small tactical nuclear devices missing from a storage facility in the former Soviet Union. The weapons were last seen in packing crates awaiting shipment to an American company, Belden Electronics. Gideon has been unable to locate this firm, and now he is left with only one possible lead, the lawyer who incorporated the company – Jocelyn Cole.

Fraught with tension and suspense, Critical Mass is Steve Martini at his electrifying best. It is the story of what can happen in a world where private hate and public apathy combine to uncork the sleeping but deadly genie of nuclear terror. Martini weaves a story based on today’s fears and tomorrow’s headlines, riveting in its realism, genuine in its characters.


The Attorney (A Paul Madriani Novel) (Paperback) - "I can trace it back with precision to one of those fitful weeks in August, when the thermometer hit triple d

The Attorney (A Paul Madriani Novel)
The Attorney (A Paul Madriani Novel)

Paul Madriani is back in an absorbing new legal thriller by the New York Times bestselling author of The Judge and Undue Influence.

“Riveting …a suspenseful tale, right up to the satisfying climax,” wrote Publishers Weekly in praise of The Judge. “Legal thrillers don’t get much better than this.” Kirkus Reviews hailed Undue Influence as “the courtroom novel of the year.” Now Martini delivers Paul Madriani’s most challenging case yet.

Having moved to San Diego to be closer to the woman in his life, Madriani takes on the case of Jonah Hale, an elderly man in dire straits. As a result of their only child Jessica’s longtime drug addiction, Jonah and his wife have been raising their eight-year-old granddaughter, Amanda. On the heels of Jonah’s multimillion-dollar state lottery win, Jessica revives her interest in mothering. When Jonah won’t deal --- maternal rights for a mega bucks payoff --- Jessica pulls out all the stops.

Enter Zo Suade --- a flamboyant, feminist activist with a talent for making children and their “victimized” mothers disappear. When the next move turns deadly, Madriani finds himself drawn into a web of deceit and high stakes action , in and out of the courtroom.

Rich with characters drawn from today’s headlines, driven by motives both obvious and subtle, The Attorney marks the much-anticipated return of Paul Madriani.


The Jury (A Paul Madriani Novel) (Paperback) - "i notice one of the jurors, a middle-aged guy, taking his time, carefully studying one of the photographs of the

The Jury (A Paul Madriani Novel)
The Jury (A Paul Madriani Novel)

Lawyer Paul Madriani is called upon to defend a brilliant research physician-who just may be a killer-in this riveting new novel by the best-selling author of The Attorney....Madriani has ample reason to suspect he's representing a guilty man. Dr. David Crone, a respected medical researcher and principal in mapping the human genome, is charged with the murder of a young colleague: twenty-six-year-old Kalista Jordan, an African-American research physician whose body washed up on a beach in San Diego Bay.

Forensic evidence links her murder with material in Crone's garage. Crone had both opportunity and motive: Kalista had recently ended their affair, and may have been deserting him professionally as well, moving on to a rival genetic research facility. However, when a key witness for the prosecution dies unexpectedly, leaving an incriminating note behind, Crone's innocence seems confirmed-until Madriani hits upon a potentially damning loose end."


The Arraignment (A Paul Madriani Novel) (Paperback) - "Nick's office is on seven, the bottom floor of Rocker, Dusha and DeWine, better known to the legal set as

The Arraignment (A Paul Madriani Novel)
The Arraignment (A Paul Madriani Novel)

"Lean, speedy and packing a wallop of a plot twist," was Publishers Weekly's verdict of Steve Martini's THE JURY. "Martini remains one of the form's most popular practitioner." Now Martini has crafted yet another legal nail-biter in THE ARRAIGNMENT, featuring perennial favorite Paul Madriani.

After a lawyer-friend is killed along with his client in a hail of gunfire outside the federal courthouse in San Diego, attorney Paul Madriani takes on another client who Paul believes is involved at the edges of the double murder. He takes the case not to defend the man, but to find out who killed his friend and why. Paul is tortured by questions of conflict, his duty to a client who may have killed his friend and the need to know the truth, wondering whether he himself had been marked for death only to have a friend die in his place. Paul finds himself with a window into places he never wanted to go, drawn into a vortex of crime that spans the Americas.

As he searches for the killer, Paul rides the crest of a dangerous wave involving international drug deals and the people who murder for money. Suddenly he realizes it is not heroin or cocaine that resulted in the murder of his friend, but a priceless piece of pre-Columbian art, something so dazzling in the information it holds as to be one of the treasures of the ages.

In a quest that takes Paul from California to Mexico and the Guatemalan border, he discovers that while the motive to kill may be driven by distant, exotic and ancient artifacts, the killer, like a serpent, lies much closer at hand.


Double Tap (Martini, Steve) - "IT WAS A LITTLE AFTER FIVE ON A FRIDAY AFTERNOON and the traffic on Prospect was already bumpered up like a train wreck: the star

Double Tap (Paul Madriani Novels)
Double Tap (Paul Madriani Novels)

~ Synopsis ~

Attorney Paul Madriani defends a highly decorated soldier on trial for murder and unwittingly steps into a maze of secrets and lies that the United States government - and possibly even his client - would rather leave hidden and undisturbed.

In his new outing, Madriani is faced with daunting ballistics evidence, a so-called "double tap" - two bullet wounds tightly grouped to the victim's head, shots that could only have been made by a crack marksman. Madriani's client, Emiliano Ruiz, is an enigma, a career soldier who refuses to talk about his past though clearly he is a battle-tested pro. Ruiz is accused of killing a beautiful businesswoman and guru of a high tech software empire catering to the military. One key to the case that's especially damning for Madriani's client: the murder weapon is one used only in special operations where the "double tap" has become the signature of the most skilled assassins.

Ruiz is sitting on a story he says he's not at liberty to tell - a seven-year-gap on his military resume for which Madriani can find no details. And more troubling, Madriani discovers that the victim and her company were involved in a controversial government computer program designed to combat terrorists. Madriani finds himself in a deadly legal quagmire - with a client who refuses to help and prosecutors who stonewall every question about the victim's shadowy business and his client's past. Finding justice and the unvarnished truth has never been so elusive - or so dangerous.


Shadow of Power: A Paul Madriani Novel

Shadow of Power: A Paul Madriani Novel
Shadow of Power: A Paul Madriani Novel

The Supreme Court is one of our most sacred – and secretive – public institutions. But sometime secrets can lead to cover-ups with very deadly consequences.

Terry Scarborough is a firebrand. He’s also a controversial law professor whose new book, Perpetual Slaves, presents evidence that the roots of slavery are still deeply imbedded in the U.S. Constitution. Scarborough has cunningly created a media-frenzy, and his book is rocketing up the bestseller lists, while fueling unrest nationwide. In the midst of his highly-charged book tour, Scarborough announces that he is about to unveil an even greater and more damaging controversy: a previously unpublished letter written by Thomas Jefferson (the “J Letter”) that portends some deep secret about slavery at the nation’s founding. But on the day he’s to appear on national television to tell the world of this damning document, he is found beaten to death in a San Diego hotel room and a young man with unsavory connections is arrested for his murder.

As a favor to the young man’s father, Paul Madriani takes the case—even though it looks like an open-and-shut conviction. Madriani, a brilliant defense lawyer, begins by pulling out all the stops to get the truth out of his young client—especially why, as an employee of the hotel and perhaps the last person to see Scarborough alive, he ran from the murder scene instead of reporting it to someone. Factoring in the man’s admitted radical beliefs and an alleged plot to kidnap Scarborough, Madriani’s faced with the near-impossible task of keeping the kid off of death row.

Traveling far and wide to talk to Scarborough’s friends, Madriani thinks he’s chasing blind leads – with no potential subpoenas in sight. But he doggedly pursues references to the J Letter, and uncovers a mysterious connection between this explosive historical document, Scarborough, and a sitting U.S. Supreme Court justice. Madriani suspects that the letter is at the heart of the murder and he won’t let anyone stand in his way of uncovering how one of the nation’s top judges could be involved.

Madriani carefully treads a dangerous path through a complex legal minefield in one of the most politically and racially charged cases in U.S. history. Desperate to uncover the truth, he must hunt down the Jefferson document and risk exposing a high court justice without bringing more turmoil to an already uneasy public. But when Madriani discovers the astonishing facts behind the letter, the case breaks wide open and he must race against time to save his client’s life.

SHADOW OF POWER not only explores a dark chapter of our nation’s past but also its profound impact on today’s highly charged, politicized society. Filled with a cast of unforgettable characters and thrilling courtroom battles, SHADOW OF POWER will surely sit proudly among the masterworks of America’s most popular fiction.


Steve Martini & Phillip Margolin Interview Part 1

Steve Martini & Phillip Margolin Interview Part 2

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    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I hope you will consider submitting this to the Bookworms group (groups/bookworms)


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