In the literary world of legal thrillers being penned by lawyers, names like Scott Turow and John Grisham immediately come up. Local barrister Mark Torres has been quietly following in the duo’s footsteps. While he got his start debuting with 2015’s A Stirring in the North Fork, the Floral Park resident returns with Adeline, a sequel that also features his main character Savoy Graves.
Like Torres, the semi-autobiographical protagonist is a blue collar laborer who enrolled in law school later in life. The difference is that Graves’ creator started out as an HVAC tech at NYU and has currently been general counsel for Local 810 for nearly a decade. It’s served as a font of rich source material for the scribe that has extended into both novels and his 2017 children’s book, Good Guy Jake.
“It’s funny because in Adeline, as well as Good Guy Jake, there’s a scene where one of the characters is being disciplined by his supervisor with the shop steward there. I wrote that from first-hand experience,” Torres said.
His current book centers on the mysterious death of an innocent young woman wrongly committed to a notorious mental asylum in 1977. The cold case is brought to Graves by the victim’s dying mother decades later. The sleuthing lawyer is forced to deal with powerful business interests, government bureaucracy and a sinister secret society while trying to honor the book’s namesake. While his first novel used the North Fork community of Greenport as an almost-secondary character, history buff Torres was drawn to the idea of using an abandoned psychiatric facility as a setting for his follow-up. In addition to visiting a number of places for inspiration, including Letchworth Village in Tarrytown and King’s Park Hospital, he also took a deep dive into forensics and medicine to ensure his fictional world was as accurate as possible.
“I set a very high bar for myself as a writer and I did a lot of research,” he explained. “One of the people I reached out to was Dr. Peter Speth, who helped resolve the case of the Golden State serial killer. It wasn’t just speaking with him. I gained a lot of information and knowledge to write that story. It took some time. And I’m glad it did. Even when I had the proverbial writer’s block, I went back to my research, got lost in it and came out of it so much more charged and it enabled me to complete the story.”
While his first book was quite the page-turner, Adeline is a richer story that paints a vivid picture of how these facilities doubled as their own mini-cities. Not unlike Michael Crichton, Torres succeeds in weaving a solid yarn while leaving the reader more informed than when they first turned a page. The father of three leans heavily on wife Lola for feedback as a behind-the-scenes muse for Torres, so much so that Graves’ wife shares a name and personality with her real-life counterpart.
“This month will be 20 years of our knowing each other,” Torres said. “I’ve gotta tell you she’s my greatest collaborator because when I write stories, I put it out there. Her brutal honesty and refreshing look on life is important and helps me maintain such a high bar with my writing.”
Torres’ loyal fan base found him having fun and asking readers to send him pictures of them holding copies of A Stirring in the North Fork at locations on all seven continents. With that mission accomplished, the Queens native is looking to do the same with Adeline.
“Readers sent me selfies of themselves posing with A Stirring in the North Fork from all seven continents within one year of its release. It’s a great source of pride,” Torres said. “I’ve already had pictures of readers with Adeline in Australia, throughout North America and Europe as well. So I’m working on Africa, Asia, Antarctica and South America is coming quickly too. To me, it’s a great way to get people involved. I’m not one to ask someone to buy my book. I think people enjoy sharing in the emotional part of it and it’s just a lot of fun to put it out there and say that my book has been all over the world.”
Mark Torres will be doing a reading of Adeline at the NYU Bookstore, 726 Broadway, NYC. Visit www.bkstr.com or call 212-998-4667 for more information. Visit www.longislandweekly.com to read about Mark Torres’ favorite authors.