She contacted me via e-mail several weeks back, and we have "talked" electronically about the story's possibilities in several formats--book, film, documentary, educational video, new media. It could take the form of a multi-media project, using several platforms.
We are in the early talking stages, and much work stands between this stage and a finished product. My hope is that we will be able to meet on her next visit to the United States.
This much is certain: She has a track record of taking ideas and turning them into real works that reach international audiences. She writes in both English and French, and her books have sold primarily in Europe (especially the UK and France) and Australia. One of her early screenplays was a quarterfinalist in a major screenwriting competition.
How did she stumble upon our Legal Schnauzer tale? It started with her general interest in justice issues, especially the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. From researching the Siegelman story, she discovered Legal Schnauzer and noticed references to the personal encounters my wife and I have had with the Alabama justice system.
That piqued her interest, and I sent her links to several key posts that caught her up on our back story--the nutty neighbor (Mike McGarity), the sleazy lawyers (William E. Swatek, Jesse P. Evans III, Michael Odom, Richard Poff . . . ), the corrupt judges (J. Michael Joiner, G. Dan Reeves . . . ), the out-of-control law enforcement officers (Sheriff Chris Curry, Deputy Bubba Caudill), the slimy debt collectors (NCO, Ingram & Associates), the weak-kneed employers (UAB, Infinity Property & Casualty), and so on.
One of the challenges, she said, is that the scope of the story is vast. In fact, she referenced a multi-layered story that wound up falling short of the mark. "I worry about 'the Syriana problem,' which tried to deal with 'defense sales' and terrorism and everything else and ended up being very confusing to a lot of people. So somehow you need to connect the dots while telling the story."
I certainly agree, and I like her way of cutting to the chase. How does an experienced writer approach a story such as ours? Here is some insight, straight from the source:
Justice demands that the story be told. The question is how? The key to this is finding the story 'frame' in my view. Some enveloping, thematic event that will allow the stories to unfold within it. In my experience this usually emerges as you get into the nitty gritty of the story. It could very well lie in your perceptive comment about the fact that you were kind of swept into this sort of like collateral damage or a drive-by shooting. There is also the idea that you thought you were acting under the set of rules that we all are led to believe are in operation when in fact an entirely different system was/is in operation.
It's remarkable that someone who had been a complete stranger could be so perceptive about issues that had enveloped our lives for roughly 10 years. Mrs. Schnauzer and I had never compared our experiences to a drive-by shooting, but that's what it indeed feels like. We were just minding our own business--working hard and playing by the rules, as Bill Clinton used to say--when legal "weapons" were drawn and corruption "bullets" started flying all around us.
And let's ponder this quote: "You thought you were acting under the set of rules that we all are led to believe are in operation when in fact an entirely different system was/is in operation."
I don't think I've ever read a better summation of the American justice system--in it's current state. And it doesn't just apply to our Legal Schnauzer story, which involves mostly civil matters. It applies to numerous criminal cases where freedom has been at stake--the Don Siegelman case in Alabama, the Paul Minor case in Mississippi, the Charles Walker case in Georgia, the Cyril Wecht case in Pennsylvania.
So, what might come from this? It's too early to say. She could write something. I could write something, probably with her guidance on the publishing field. We could write something together. Or perhaps it could take a form--with other participants--that we haven't even thought of yet.
To be sure, numerous business and tactical hurdles remain to be cleared. But it's heartening to know that a pair of perceptive, talented, experienced eyes have noticed our Legal Schnauzer story and seen something worth exploring.
How's this for irony? If you live in the United States, you might feel that the moral collapse of our justice system is a story that just doesn't resonate. Many regular citizens--and Web journalists--clearly get it. But President Barack Obama seemingly has decided that the problem is not worthy of his attention. Attorney General Eric Holder has done virtually nothing to address it. And the mainstream media's performance on the story has been hit-and-miss, at best.
So isn't it interesting that someone from "across the pond"--who has lived much of her life in France and in England--would get it in a profound way.
"Justice demands that the story be told," she said.
Maybe it will take an outsider to help save Americans from their own corrupted justice system. Maybe that's the kind of perspective we desperately need.