Three years after she topped the New York Times bestseller list, Springfield author Nancy Allen made the list again this week — this time at the No. 2 spot for her legal thriller “The Jailhouse Lawyer.”
“I feel fantastic about lucky number 2,” Allen told the News-Leader. “It’s different because when it happened in 2018 I was so overwhelmed with making No. 1, the experience was hard to get my head around it. But this time, now that it’s happened a second time in 2021, I can I enjoy it more.”
“The Jailhouse Lawyer,” co-written by bestseller James Patterson, was beaten only by Liane Moriarty, author of “Big Little Lies.”
Allen’s previous bestseller “Juror #3” was also co-written by Patterson, who has sold over 300 million copies of his books – making him one of the most successful authors of all time.
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Allen said she celebrated her success by “going out on the town” in Springfield with her husband, which she says convinced her to make the leap into writing after a career in law.
As a lawyer, Allen was an assistant district attorney for Green County before teaching at Missouri State University.
Allen said she didn’t start writing fiction until she was 50.
“I’d always wanted to write a novel because I was studying English when I graduated from MSU in the 1970s, so one day I decided I was going to write,” she said.
That novel was the first in her “Code of the Hills” series, a legal thriller and mystery set in the Missouri Ozarks.
Allen calls herself a “self-taught” writer, but attributes much of what she learned to her collaboration with Patterson.
“He taught me more than I can tell you. And it’s the kind of experience that money can’t buy. Not only that, I get paid for it,” Allen said. “The opportunity to work with the most successful writer in the world, and that title belongs only to James Patterson, is an enormous privilege, but also an education.”
“The Jailhouse Lawyer” tells the story of a public defender who “tries to do her job and ends up in jail”.
While set in Alabama, Allen said the novel’s genesis stemmed from a 2019 Missouri Supreme Court ruling.
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That case banned the use of debtor jails in Missouri — which ruled that judges cannot threaten defendants with more jail terms due to inability to pay jail terms.
Allen said “The Jailhouse Lawyer” revolves around poor defendants facing this problem.
“We talk about the abuses being exposed in debtor prisons that are all over our country. Most people don’t know this is going on, and we’ve been able to shine a light on it and solve that problem in our case law system,” said Allen.
See Nancy Allen talk about her book at the Springfield Public Library
Allen added that she will be meeting with St. Louis Post-Dispatch Columnist Tony Messenger, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the subject, on December 7 at the Springfield Public Library.
Given Springfield’s high rate of COVID-19 cases over the summer, Allen declined to host book signings. Instead, signed copies of her book are available at the Pagination Bookstore and Springfield Barnes & Noble.
Allen and Patterson are already working on their next collaboration, and a solo book titled ‘Renegade’ is due out next year.
“I am very lucky indeed,” Allen said of her writing career.