Let’s get to know Michael McAuliffe, author of No Truth Left to Tell!
Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was a significant and permanent influence on me as a young reader learning about family relationships, especially how children can love and admire a parent for being principled and kind. The eclectic collection of characters in To Kill a Mockingbird has stayed with me since reading the book in school. The story morphed into something else when I reread it as an adult––more focused on race, criminal justice and southern culture. But I remember it first and foremost for its portrayal of a parent’s love for his (or her) children. Interestingly, the book makes a brief appearance in my novel.
Like many readers, I love the magical, mysterious qualities in numerous books by Gabriel García Márquez and Hermann Hesse. I learned to love getting lost in a book through reading their novels. I have both to thank for introducing a mystical quality to my early reading experiences.
Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard remains a central work that helped instill in me a wonder for travel and personal exploration.
Lastly, I enjoy books by Geraldine Brooks who writes with emotional precision and often elevates her fiction with lyrical passages that linger after the page is turned. I especially enjoyed The Secret Chord.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I started my legal career as a federal civil rights prosecutor at the Justice Department in Washington, DC. At the age of 25, I found myself traveling the country investigating and prosecuting violent extremists, corrupt law enforcement officers and human traffickers. I saw a part of America up close that I had never had any exposure to growing up.
While with the Justice Department, I––working with a team of prosecutors and agents––investigated and prosecuted the leader of the Ku Klux Klan in Louisiana and thirteen of his followers for committing hate crimes. As such, the cross burnings and the attempts to start a new race war depicted in my novel are events I am familiar with as a prosecutor. I met and came to know many victims of racial violence through my work at the Justice Department.
In another case around the same time, I investigated a rogue police narcotics unit in Indiana that involved allegations of officers torturing detainees and stealing their drugs and money. The target of that investigation was killed soon after we sent him a target letter communicating that he was to be charged with federal crimes. I also handled numerous other cases of police misconduct that involved contradictory and less than clear lines of right and wrong.
Those cases and others formed the genesis for the novel’s story. I have always thought the type of work undertaken by the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department made for high drama and emotional reckonings. I also remember my Criminal Section colleagues as interesting, very smart, and sometimes complicated individuals. It took me thirty years to translate those events and some of the characters (more accurately, some character traits loosely lifted from people I knew) into a work of fiction.
How did you get started writing?
I have been a practicing lawyer for over thirty years. I’ve been a federal prosecutor, an elected state attorney in Florida, a company’s global general counsel, and a private practice trial lawyer. Throughout my legal career, I’ve thought of myself as a storyteller and communicator. As a result, writing and communicating have been a part of my life for decades. Three years ago, I decided to pursue writing fiction and teaching with more focus and I set some specific goals. My debut novel No Truth Left To Tell is one result. I also teach law to students as an adjunct professor at William & Mary Law School and as a senior lecturing fellow at Duke University School of Law. The debut novel is the natural extension for me of my longstanding interest in sharing meaningful stories about the law and its many life lessons.
What is your favorite/least favorite thing about the writing process?
I enjoy the process of creating and developing characters much the same as I like getting to know a new friend by spending time together. At some point, otherwise fictional characters take on real, separate existences from the physical page, and when that happens, it’s a wonderful and significant experience––one that’s free and universally available to all.
I least enjoy the inescapable (and necessary) judgment that accompanies the process of writing. One person’s carefully crafted event or character, likely the product of significant effort and commitment, can be rejected with the summary verdict of the author, an editor, a publisher, or even a reader. Those at times harsh judgments can leave a bruise. Of course, if the judgment is positive, my least favorite part of writing becomes my new favorite one.
Michael McAuliffe is the author of No Truth Left to Tell and has been a practicing lawyer for thirty years. He was a federal prosecutor serving both as a supervisory assistant US attorney in the Southern District of Florida and a trial attorney in the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC. For more information, please visit https://notruthlefttotell.com/