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Q&A with Alan Topol, author of The Washington Lawyer

Is the Washington Lawyer one of those legal novels that deals with trials and witnesses?
It is  not.  There are no courtroom scenes in the novel.  Although one of the lead characters, Andrew Martin, is an influential Washington lawyer, it is a political thriller with espionage.  It involves a young woman’s death, her twin sister’s desire for revenge, and an inside look at the seedy aspect of Washington politics. 

At the heart of the Washington lawyer is a fateful Veteran’s Day weekend tryst involving a U.S. Senator, Wesley Jasper, and a Congressional staffer, Vanessa, who was a former runway model.  Does this kind of thing happen in Washington?
Absolutely.  I have  been a Washington lawyer myself for many years.  Periodically, events like this occur. Three examples:  One is Senator Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick incident.  Another is stripper Fanny Fox out on a date with a powerful congressman, Wilbur Mills, and she dove into the tidal basin near the Jefferson Memorial.  And most recently, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.
You have been a partner in a powerful Washington law firm for many years.  Have you modeled the firm in the Washington Lawyer after your law firm?

The law firm in the Washington Lawyer is a composite of many law firms I have seen.  In addition to the thriller aspect of this novel, the reader will gain insights into the operations of powerful Washington based international law firms.

Chinese spies play a pivotal role in the Washington Lawyer.  Is this your creation or is Chinese spying a major factor in Washington?

Chinese spying in Washington is huge.  The Chinese are now doing what Russia and the KGB did during the Cold War days.  I wanted to shine a light on this Chinese conduct in the Washington Lawyer.
One of the major issues in the Washington Lawyer is the bond between Allison and her twin sister, Vanessa, as well Allison’s determination to find out what happened to Vanessa on that fateful weekend in Anguilla. Why did you decide to write about the bond between sisters?

I have three daughters and have observed them first hand.  I have seen my daughters’ strong bond and commitment to each other.  I know that many books dwell on the jealousy and backstabbing of sisters.  But in the Washington Lawyer, Allison and Vanessa always were proud and supportive of each other. 
Why did you make Allison an archeologist on an excavation in Israel?

I have always been intrigued by archeology and especially in Israel.  So this was a way to add another dimension and locale to the Washington Lawyer.  Also, archeologists dig and that’s what Allison does metaphorically to discover what happened to her twin sister Vanessa in Anguilla with Senator Jasper.

Why did you use the Caribbean island of Anguilla for the tryst between Senator Jasper and Vanessa?
I wanted to pick a peaceful and secluded island where the rule of law prevails.  I made several visits to Anguilla before writing the book.  When I decided to use it, I went back and did research.  When authors write about international locales, it is important for them to know the place.  Only then can the author make it come alive for a reader.
The Washington Lawyer is your eleventh novel.  How have you found time to write novels while being a Washington lawyer yourself?
I’m fortunate that I don’t need much sleep, so early mornings are perfect for writing.  I travel a great deal on business and am able to tune out noise around me.  That makes airplanes great for writing.  Also, being an international lawyer has complimented my novel writing.  It has enabled me to meet people, see places, and observe events which can go into the novels.
Do you have an agenda or objective in writing your novels? 
I want to entertain readers in the sense that I want them turning pages to find out what happens next. However, I also want to provide insights about world events and people.  In the Washington Lawyer, one of my objectives is to focus readers on the rivalry between the U.S. and China and the extent to which the Chinese are spying on the U.S.  At the same time, on a personal level I want to show people making critical decisions which lead to a chain of events out of their control, particularly Andrew Martin, the powerful Washington lawyer.  At the beginning of the book, Martin is a paragon of virtue.  He desperately wants to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  The Washington Lawyer explores how far Martin will go, what he is willing to do on the dark side, to obtain his objective.  This parable is at the heart of the novel. 
Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?
First, develop a compelling story because story, story, story are the three major ingredients of a good novel. Second, create vivid characters whom the reader will root for or despise.  Prepare a detailed outline—scene by scene.  Mine are typically around 50 pages.  Then sit down and write a first draft in a white heat.  Don’t read a word until you finish your draft.  Then read it and evaluate what you have.  Find a trusted reader.  Obtain input from that reader.  If you believe you have a possible book, begin the painstaking process of rewriting and polishing.  Nothing is more satisfying than seeing your book in stores or online.

About Alan Topol

Allan Topol THE WASHINGTON LAWYER is Topol’s eleventh novels of international intrigue. Two of them, SPY DANCE and ENEMY MY ENEMY, were national best sellers. His novels have been translated into Japanese, Portuguese and Hebrew. One was optioned and three are in development for movies. More recently, his books had focused on his Craig Page series, including THE ARGENTINE TRIANGLE, THE RUSSIAN ENDGAME, SPANISH REVENGE and CHINA GAMBIT.

In addition to his fiction writing, Allan Topol co-authored a two-volume legal treatise entitled SUPERFUND LAW AND PROCEDURE. A graduate of Yale Law School, he is a partner in a major Washington law firm, and an avid wine collector, he has traveled extensively, researching dramatic locations for his novels. He wrote a weekly column for and has published articles in numerous periodicals including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Yale Law Journal. He also has blogged for Huffington Post.     For more information, visit

About The Washington Lawyer

Hard on the heels of The Argentine Triangle and also The Russian Endgame comes author Allan Topol’s next great thriller, THE WASHINGTON LAWYER. In the high-stakes world of Washington politics, hotshot lawyer Andrew Martin is being put to the test. When long-time friend Senator William Jasper calls, it’s with explosive news—and a favor to ask. A sex tryst at Martin’s beach house in Anguilla has gone awry and former model Vanessa Boyd is dead. Just how far will Martin go to protect the chief justice nomination on which he’s built his entire career?
Rife with sophisticated backdrops and hairpin plot turns that put Topol on the best-seller list, THE WASHINGTON LAWYER is a heart-stopping foray into human vice coupled with power accelerating towards catastrophe.
Topol, himself is a well-established partner at one of DC’s top law firms and author of 11 thrillers. THE WASHINGTON LAWYER is a penetrating glimpse into Capitol Hill’s seedy underbelly. Topol impresses again with this latest escapade into the intricate underpinnings of Washington’s influential power layers, drawing the reader into a new of questionable morals, deadly intrigues and treachery from which this is no escape.

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