ORLANDO – Moments before Marcia Clark walked onto the stage inside the Orlando Public Library, a woman in the audience leaned over to a friend and said, “She took part in the O.J. Simpson trial, so she’s not from Florida.”
Clark is indeed not from the Sunshine State, having been born in Berkeley, Calif. An attorney since 1979, she was a prosecutor for Los Angeles County where, along with Christopher Darden, she prosecuted O.J. Simpson in his murder case, a trial that captivated the nation in the mid-1990s.
But when Clark came to Orlando today to talk to a local audience, she wasn’t there to rehash the now 17-year-old case that’s long since faded from the headlines. Instead, she wanted to talk about “Guilt by Association” and “Guilt by Degrees,” her fiction books about Los Angeles prosecutor Rachel Knight and her crusades for justice.
“She’s a workaholic,” Clark said, adding that the books follow the legal escapades of Knight and two other women working in the District Attorney’s office.
“That trio of women are all best buds, along with their boyfriends – who are all hot because I’m writing the story,” Clark said. “She lives in a hotel. Why a hotel? Because I hate laundry. I’m living vicariously through her. Every time she’s having a martini, I wish it were me.’’
Clark was in Orlando on Saturday as part of a nationwide book tour. The former deputy district attorney has written several fiction books. Originally published in hardback in April 2011, “Guilt by Association’’ will be out on June 26 in paperback, while “Guilt By Degrees’’ was just released by Mulholland Books.
Erica Lee, a member of the Friends of the Orlando Public Library, introduced Clark after noting that her book was available for purchase in the library bookstore.
”She will be signing copies of the book after the talk,’’ Lee noted, while adding, “Now would be a good time to go buy one.’’
After Simpson was acquitted in 1995, Clark authored a book called “Without A Doubt’’ about the sensationalized case, then became a “special correspondent” for Entertainment Tonight, providing coverage of high profile trials, while also contributing a column for The Daily Beast. Clark has even been a lyric in a Westside Connection rap song, “The Gangsta, The Killa, and The Dope Dealer.”
Although she’s no longer a prosecutor, Lee cautioned the audience to shut off their cell phones as a courtesy to the guest speaker, saying ”Even though she’s not practicing anymore, I believe Marcia Clark can still hold you in contempt.’’
Instead, Clark talked about how she gravitated from law to fiction writing.
” ‘Guilt by Association’ came out last year,’’ Clark said. ‘’It was my first novel. How did I turn to fiction?’’
She joked that when the book came out, one critic suggested there was a prosecutorial motive behind it all, writing that “Clark turns to fiction to control the outcome.’’
Clark laughed at the suggestion, then added, “That might be a part of it.’’
A more obvious motive, she said, was a longtime passion for a good mystery.
‘’As a kid, I loved reading fiction,’’ she said. “I loved Nancy Drew. Even while practicing law, I would go home and read mysteries. How sick is that?’’
After leaving the field of law, she began writing for the Lifetime Channel’s drama series – almost accidentally, she added.
While serving as a legal advisor for one dramatic program, “The creator said ‘I think you should write,’ ’’ Clark recalled. “I said no. She said, ‘Okay, just write this scene. You don’t have to write the whole thing.’ ”
Clark did, and soon found that she enjoyed writing fiction. At the same time, she was handling criminal appeals, and “I said, ‘If I’m ever going to tackle this book thing, it’s now or never.’ ”
The result was “Guilt by Association’’ and the first adventure of Rachel Knight.
It took a while to get the book in print, Clark noted.
“I had one agent say ‘No, I don’t get it,’ and I had another who said ‘Okay, I’ll work with you,’ ” Clark said.
She set the books in the Special Trials Unit of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office, based in part on her own past experience.
”They never had a woman in the unit,” she recalled. ”It was four older guys in the unit and me. They thought I was cute. They called me the lawyerette.”
It was a great unit to work in as a prosecutor, she added.
”That unit is different from the others in the D.A.’s office,” she said, ”because we get the case the day they get the body, and we work on the case with the detectives. We go out on the streets with them. We don’t tell them what to do because they would tell us where to go.”
It was rather fun working with homicide detectives, Clark added.
”Homicide detectives are some of the funniest people I know, and that sounds counter-intuitive,” she said. ”The sheriff’s detectives have a saying, that ‘Our day begins when yours ends.’ I told you they have a sick sense of humor.”