When a guy’s been practicing law in New York City for over twenty years and is about to publish his first novel, you don’t look at him and think, “Hey, at Great Neck North High School on Long Island, they kept him in remedial reading through eleventh grade.” But it’s true. There I was, meeting three times a week with about five other students in a classroom with a solid wooden door and a tiny window set up high to prevent nosy kids from sneaking a peek. The only problem was that, by junior year, everybody else was tall enough to look in.
Being seen there never bothered me, though. If one of my buddies tapped on the window to catch my attention, making a stupid face, I merely held up my bag of Doritos, sipped my ice-cold Coke and pointed to the TV remote I was holding. Then, before turning back to the screen, I’d flash him a big grin.
In fact, I should have been out of there sooner. But I was in no hurry to say good-bye to those deep, comfy chairs and fully stocked vending machines, the only ones in the building. As I sat there happily munching chips, it never once occurred to me I might one day publish a novel. What a crazy idea.
But all things turn out to be connected — even if you don’t always understand right away why or how they are. From that classroom came my earliest identification with the underdog. Okay, I had great deal more confidence than the rest of the kids sitting around me — and none of their other problems — but I’d been one of them. I knew what it felt like to be on the wrong side of the door.
Justice is something you shouldn’t have to compete for . . . but it is.
After I graduated from law school and began practicing, I quickly realized it was the little guys of this world, the small fry, the ordinary joes who don’t know how to stand up for themselves, who most engaged — and needed — my legal expertise and my fighting spirit.
So how did Tug Wyler come into being? He was undoubtedly hanging around, shadowing my daily life for a long time; I just didn’t know it. But here’s the short version: one morning, on the train into the city from Westchester–where I live with my wife, three kids, three dogs and an upstairs cat–the idea of him just appeared in my head. I don’t know from where. But there he was.