FEATURE: Timothy Capps, Criminal Defense Lawyer and Author | Hadel’s Poetry Prose Arts and Storytelling
Life is a circular chain intertwining humanity so like-minded people may meet and share each other’s familiar stories of misfortunes, hilarity, or intrigues that makes for a good book and that is a personal sentiment.
I had a fortunate and delightful introduction with one such gentleman, Mr. Timothy Capps Esq. who had a long career in the US military and a degree in American law that matured into a mind-bending crime novel.
Mr. Capps joined the US Army as an Arabic linguist and held a top-secret clearance in the 101st Airborne. A graduate from Southern Illinois University School of Law and a Navy JAG lawyer, Mr. Capps had two missions in the Gulf during Operation Desert Storm receiving the Southwest Asia Service Medal; and served as both prosecutor and public defender while in the military. Once he returned home, Mr. Capps became a public defender.
Thanks to Mr. Capps’s perseverance and determination, he established a criminal defense practice handling death penalty cases. More recent, the Illinois Supreme Court invited Mr. Capps to serve on the committee confirming lawyers as defense counsel in capital cases.
Interestingly, Mr. Capps’ high-profile cases were reported in Life Magazine, referred to on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and debated on Nancy Grace, and CNN.
Mr. Capps became a recognized expert on death penalty defense, received distinguished awards, recognition from all peers, and a professional legacy to copy and follow.
As a result of an influential career and as an esteemed death penalty defense expert, Mr. Capps may also add another acclaimed caption to his name as an author of a urban fantasy book entitled Judging Angels.
Judging Angels is the first volume in The Rubricatae Chronicles by Mr. Capps that embodies a fearless quest, and psychological characters who by their own accord take the wrong actions for the right reasons. Set in contemporary time and containing a mythical element, Judging Angels is a well thought out text of forensic analysis, mysterious pursuits, and soul-searching themes guiding readers into surprising turns, and moral dilemmas.
Moreover, Judging Angels is an urban fantasy novel incorporating all the fine components that are classy and not raunchy, thought-provoking but not insulting the audience’s intelligence, and a suspenseful cliffhanger leaving Mr. Capps’s readers begging for more.
I was captivated by the first chronicle and instilled a moment of awe and gratitude from Mr. Capps’s command in US law and reserved background on every page.
I am truly thrilled to have Mr. Timothy Capps Esq. as part of my Arts & Entertainment Features and thank you:
Tell us about yourself?
Two words: Late bloomer. I barely made it under the age limit for a commission in the U.S. Navy JAG Corps after law school and my legal career was more intense than lengthy. After high school, I enlisted in the Army. I trained as an Arabic linguist in both Syrian and Egyptian dialects. Afterwards, I served in law enforcement, then radio. So here I am, almost 60 years old, publishing my first novel.
My mom was a writer. She published hundreds of short stories and humorous essays, and two books. One was Yellow Leaf, about her Indian great-great-grandmother; the other was Traveling Light, a collection of humorous essays. I understand her a lot better than I used to!
I retired from the practice of law in 2011, when the death penalty was abolished in Illinois. I had long been very active in that field: trying cases, developing innovative strategies, and training other attorneys. I now live with my wife of 40 years, Kathryn, on a little farm where we have goats, chickens and one fox with a price on its head. My four adult children live nearby.
You are an author of a fictional book called, Judging Angels, please tell us about your latest book?
I have told about it in a way. Judging Angels is about life ‘on hard mode.’ I had a lot of fun throwing one thing after another at these poor characters, each one worse than the last. No one is safe. Anything can happen.
That is one of the reasons I decided not to write a straight courtroom drama, but blended in urban fantasy. I wanted the freedom to paint a big stark picture, with lots of funny little doodles too — like those silly animal pictures monks used to put in the margins of their manuscripts.
Characters have conversations like intelligent — or, at least, struggling — adults really have. There is a lot going on in dialogue. But in the way of “What the heck is wrong with these people?” I hope things are painfully clear.
This called for some sleight-of-hand. I hope readers have sympathy for our protagonist, George Able, who has more than his share of problems and temptations. But more than that, I hope readers realize he talks a better talk than he walks and needs his estranged wife to hit him over the head a couple of times with her purple softball bat. It’s a fine line making someone likeable, but also very flawed in a way that is not the sort of ‘loveably flawed’ way.
The backbone of the story is a race between the good guys doing good and the bad guys doing bad, and seeing whose body count is bigger at the end (Kidding — a bit). Each chapter, the good guys maneuvered into ever-darker choices. But their moral options also become increasingly limited by those choices and, eventually, so do their destinies. Most of all, as the characters — and the reader — is often reminded, all the headlines in Heaven written about what happens on the inside.
Probably in Hell, too.
If there is one chapter title than sums it up, I think it is Drawing Lines. Where do you draw the line when it comes to saving someone you love? One of the characters is an educated Catholic. He knows enough of his Saint Thomas Aquinas to know that you cannot justify one evil to prevent a greater evil. The other position summed up by: “Yeah, well, Saint Thomas Aquinas didn’t have kids.”
That is pretty much the book in a nutshell. And if you are not interested in Saint Thomas Aquinas, there are redheads, guns, crazy schemes and a bunch of other stuff that would be telling.
Probably, here is as good a place as any to note that this is not a Catholic novel about good people fighting evil. More like a Catholic novel about some pretty awful people fighting evil. Worse, they choose to fight some evils harder than others — especially if those evils happen to have red hair. There is a bit of mild profanity and some things characters really need to go to confession for (and — come to think of it — some do), but nothing prurient, gratuitous or explicit. It is a novel appropriate for adults. Let’s leave it at that.
Finally, I do tackle some current controversies in the Church. At one point, George Able, tempted sorely by Red, ponders things he has heard about possible changes in the Church’s teachings on divorce. He decides, with predictable self-interest, that “Who am I to be more Catholic than the Pope” — if it means he can have a new life with Red? In fact, an important theme is the confusion some Catholics have experienced, as old certainties that seemingly called into question from various quarters.
Do you use real-life situations in your fictional stories?
Sure. I have used all sorts of things I learned from handling murder cases and other serious cases. Things ranging from details of fingerprint and DNA analysis, to catching the thought processes and even dark humor of criminal lawyers.
There are few examples like a career in criminal defense to offer a school of human nature. Nobody is as bad as an outsider imagines, nor as good as they imagine themselves to be.
What or who inspires you to write and why?
If there is one lesson I took away from my death penalty work, it is that there is a mystery at the center of human beings. I imagine that dealing so closely with murder and other crimes — and, more particularly, all the people involved in them — has given me insights others have not had the opportunity to develop. I guess I am fascinated by people at their extremes, where the mystery becomes the clearest. As a Catholic author, these insights do not just pop up in a vacuum, but formed by a specific Catholic understanding.
How did you become an author and how has this experience been for you so far?
I have always been an author. My parents bought me a massive old black Underwood manual typewriter. I sold my first story when I was in 7th grade. I guess I got that from my mom.
I really enjoy writing. I write a lot. I am well into Book II of The Rubricatae Chronicles (Judging Angels is Book I, in case that’s not clear). Writing brings me joy. I am not an ‘ansgty’ morose writer. I chortle with evil glee when I write.
I also maintain an almost daily blog and have for four years. My Bear blog persona’s style, that includes a big dose of mordant humor, will be instantly recognizable to my regular readers.
The challenge with Judging Angels was that it started years ago and has been rewritten many times, most recently with some professional guidance. I love much of what had to go. I still do. Sentence-for-sentence, some of the stuff that went is better than what remained. But in terms of serving the novel, the ‘best writing’ is not necessarily what you always need.
The biggest lesson I learned is that being good is not good enough. Everything must carry its load. Sure, I turned loose plenty of glossy thoroughbreds across Judging Angels’ landscape. But, sometimes, the job requires a pack-horse or even a donkey.
The turning point in making Judging Angels a novel I was willing to see in print was when I got brave enough and wrote the real story. That also involved forgetting about giving everyone a happy ending. Finally, I just popped some popcorn and watched the characters blunder toward their final dooms. No cheap grace, here. The good citizens of Bedford Falls are all off saving George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, not my poor old George Able.
Even though it is the first book in a series, I did want to make sure each character arrived at an ending for this novel, bringing to a close their development in this story. Judging Angels is a stand-alone novel. But if you become invested in the characters, their stories will go on, God willing, along with those of some new characters and a bigger role for some original characters.
For aspiring writers and future authors what advice may you give them?
Find your own voice. Do not pay too much attention to what you read about writing, especially all the Internet experts. If you end up as a combination of C.S. Lewis and Raymond Chandler, well, maybe the world has a place for that (I hope so)! But you might find the Stephen King shelves pretty much filled. Get people to read your drafts and listen to what they say, but you always make the final decision. One of the interesting things in having people read the book before submission is that two people seldom agree, anyway.
As a bit off practical advice: do your best, try to find an agent (an unpublished novelist probably will not), but mainly develop your resume and get your name and writing out there. It’s like fishing. You cannot put the fish on your hook. Learn how to fish, find the right bait and wait. In other words, do a good job and leave a lot of room for luck.
Please share with your readers an excerpt from your latest book, Judging Angels:
Setup. Okay, this strikes the essential sanctity of marriage theme. The main character, George Able, and his estranged wife, Alice, are at a possible tipping point after his ‘charm offensive’ to win her back from another man she had been seeing, while he had been going through his own problems.
George remained silent. The last thing he wanted to do was start a debate about who was the better man. On a checklist, Richard would probably win. It should not come to that in a marriage, though. There was always going to be someone who ticked more boxes. Marriage meant you put the checklist away once and for all.
The real argument is: you’re my wife.
But that one would not carry much weight with Alice, he knew. Alice was a practical and organized checklist person. She shared his silence. George felt his hope sinking into the cold sea of their mutual mistakes.
If I can cheat another one in, I would like to balance things a bit for Alice. Also, the impact of marital problems on kids is something I felt strongly moved to write about (although it was not part of my own growing-up). Both parents have been so clueless in their selfishness. Brian ambushes them on a long ride in a crowded car.
“You guys should get back together, and we should be rescuing Sandy as a family. And Red? Sorry, I like her — of course — but as a stepmom? Seriously? And why is she practically sitting on my lap? I’m almost 16 years old. She’s only, like, five years older than me, and, well, she’s Red. Do you even think?
“I’m not stupid. Richard’s rich and Red’s hot. So what? We were good enough before. You guys were great. I want things the way they were. And I want my sister. That’s all I have to say, if anyone cares.”
But Red would have her say. She turned to Brian and spoke gently.
“You should care about your father, too. There are many things you don’t know, Brian.”
Then she dialed up the old Red charm with a smile. Brian grinned and blushed, and looked down shyly, his objection to Red forgotten.
“And, of course, you can have as many pictures of us together as you want.”
She gave him a kiss on the cheek and giggled, like they were back at the Tastee Glaze.
Alice had watched Red’s little game with her son. Red was either being pathetic, charming you, or murdering you, and Alice felt all were pointless to resist. One smile and, suddenly, she had her cocksure 15-year-old eating out of her hand. Best friends forever or not, she would replace her in Brian’s life just as she had sunk her claws into his father. It was grotesque. Despair settled over her. She reached for anger out of habit, but could not find it. Red’s inevitability was a monster wave hitting her family, carrying George and Brian on its crest, even as it drowned Alice.
To read more about the author, Timothy Capps and his latest book, Judging Angels:
Learn more about Mr. Capps and his writings on a personal Blog:
Intro written and responses edited by Hadel S. Ma’ayeh ©Copyright 2017, All rights reserved. Images provided by Hope and Life Press ©Copyright 2017, All rights reserved.
Originally published at hadelsm.wordpress.com on May 18, 2017.