The Case for Marcia Clark

O.J. Simpson prosecutor, Marcia Clark, turned crime author (Photo Courtesy of John Valeri)
O.J. Simpson prosecutor, Marcia Clark, turned crime author (Photo Courtesy of John Valeri)
Recently, I had the opportunity to go on book tour with Marcia Clark as she ushered her second crime novel, Guilt by Degrees, into the world. (Translation: Marcia Clark went on book tour and I independently followed her as she traversed the East Coast—three states in four nights!) Seeing as she gamely refrained from taking out a restraining order on me, I can now share some eyewitness testimony from the road.

The prosecutor is not the person: Upon encountering Clark, one might be surprised to find the nearly irrepressible smile that paints her face and an infectious laugh that comes easily and often. Indeed, those who know her only from her days as lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson murder trial seem to expect the feisty, no-nonsense civil servant who was beamed into their homes night and day for nearly a year; instead, they get a down-to-earth girlfriend who greets compliments about her appearance with self-deprecating humor (“It’d be hard to look much worse!”). She’s still plenty feisty—but it’s all in good fun.

It’s been a lifelong love of crime: Clark grew up on a steady diet of Nancy Drew books and, as an adult, would come home and immerse herself in grisly detective novels and Law & Order reruns after putting in a full day at the office/courtroom. (For the record: she maintains that the original L&O is still the best.) It was this lifelong love of mysteries that inspired her desire to write—a passion that was reawakened after she co-wrote a bestselling trial memoir, Without a Doubt, with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Teresa Carpenter in 1997. It was only after working as a consultant for Lifetime’s TV drama For the People that she found the confidence to embrace writing fiction on her own. (Her debut novel, Guilt by Association, was published to wide acclaim in 2011—sixteen years after the Simpson trial.)   

No topic is entirely off limits: A frequent media commentator—or “talking head,” as she once referred to the Simpson pundits—and columnist on legal issues, Clark gamely welcomes questions on the so-called cases of the day during the Q&A sessions that routinely follow her presentation. From Casey Anthony (whose verdict she deemed more surprising than Simpson’s) and Trayvon Martin to Phil Spector and John Travolta, she offers legally informed, no-BS commentary with the simple mission of counteracting misinformation that is often disseminated with reckless abandon. She’ll even entertain a Simpson inquiry or two, if you’re brave enough to broach the subject.

Guilt by Degrees by Marcia Clark
Guilt by Degrees by Marcia Clark
She walked the walk, she’ll talk the talk. Though she doesn’t fancy herself an especially gifted orator (the talented January LaVoy narrates the audio versions of her books), Clark will humor audiences by reading passages from GBD aloud (even crafting distinct, if admittedly subpar, voices for her characters). This is done in part as a response to the many attendees who enthusiastically proclaim that they envision Clark when reading about protagonist Rachel Knight. And these mental comparisons are not without some merit. Knight is a prosecutor in the L.A. County Special Trials Unit; she loves a good martini, loathes management, and has great difficulty holding her tongue. (Sound familiar?) Note:  Clark occasionally forgets her reading glasses, and she just might ask to borrow yours.  Seriously.

It’s a crapshoot: In addition to appearances at traditional venues such as bookstores and industry conventions, the fun-loving Clark (and her out-of-the-box thinking publicity/marketing team) has embraced more unconventional settings for these meet-and-greets. Case in point: Both her book tours have included stops at Mohegan Sun casino locations in Connecticut and Pocono Downs (Pennsylvania), where she has schmoozed with readers in an intimate cabaret theatre and from a stage erected behind a bar (where she rang in “Drink-o de Mayo” last year with cocktail in hand). Not only will you find Clark at these designated discussion and signing locations, but you just might bump elbows with her while dining at Ruth’s Chris Steak House or trying your luck at the craps table.   

So there you have it: a bit of evidence as to the character of Marcia Clark filtered through the eyes of an admitted admirer. As for what it all means? You be the judge.

John Valeri writes the Hartford Books Examiner column for  He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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