Atlanta has a burgeoning, home-grown star who is a cross between Doc Hollywood and Perry Mason.
Jason Sheffield, a criminal attorney with a past in theater, busts through with his seminal book, “Son of Bitch.” Inspired by true events (his own trials and tribulations), the novel loosely chronicles the story of Benjamin Scales, who grows up coping with his single, flamboyant mother, a criminal attorney herself.
Carter Scales dragged Benjamin through hell while clawing her way to the top of the sexist, male-dominated legal profession in Atlanta. It’s up to the reader to weigh the climate and conditions for an ambitious woman balancing priorities and lifestyle when it wasn’t de rigueur being Super Woman, let alone doing it while single.
Under her ferocious veneer, Carter is a shattered and lonely woman. As a young adult, Benjamin chose to break away from her. They haven’t spoken in years, but when she is caught in flagrante delicto with her star Mafia client, she turns to the one person she thinks should always have her back.
But why should Benjamin help her?
The novel, which explores the peril of a parent-child relationship amid the crazy world of criminal defense, is a tale of motherhood and manhood, forgiveness and redemption, and a mother’s hope that her son, now a man, will close his eyes to the past and open his heart to the future.
Read about how the Sheffield evaluates his own journey.
Jaffe: So, Jason, is the book biographical or not?
Sheffield: The feelings and choices we experienced are real. I did have anger about some elements of my childhood. This book allowed me to talk it through. Remember, she was No. 1 in her law school class when a single, attractive, ambitious woman was plodding new ground. I was navigating this all as a young child. It wasn’t until I matured that I could step into her high heels and forgive her.
Some of the things in the book did not happen, like the sex act visiting a client at jail. … That was contrived to provide Benjamin the platform to reconnect and help her.
Jaffe: What elements of the book relate to your being Jewish?
Sheffield: Growing up in East Cobb circa 1980, we had to drive into the city for Jewish connection. There was no question as to our religious identity. Since this is the High Holiday season, certainly there is redemption in asking for forgiveness and looking deep within to recognize our own flaws and not being judgmental. The ultimate exchange of hearts, knee to knee, is what heals us. My mother sometimes traded being a good mother for success and her own struggles. Since I’m a parent now, I am more sensitive to what pulled her. Hey, she grew up watching “The Untouchables.” An apology goes a long way.
Jaffe: So your relationship now?
Sheffield: She is a terrific grandmother. And, yes, we do still work on some cases together.
Jaffe: Great title. So if you’re the son, does that make her “the bitch”?
Sheffield: That is not such a bad word. … If being a bitch makes one fearless and serious about the search for justice, then I am a bitch also.
Jaffe: What’s next for you?
Sheffield: The script is begging for a movie or TV series deal. Also, two other books are in the works: a prequel of Carter’s life before and the third book, a continuation of our working together and the ultimate death of a character.
Jaffe: I’ll ask the worn-out “demean the lawyer” question. How can you justify putting criminals back on the street with your own expertise by finding a legal loophole?
Sheffield: All my clients are not innocent. However, we do have a Constitution, and, believe me, it is very scary when the state comes against you with all its force with the assumption that you did it. Some of the accusations of police officers are opinions. There are shades of gray, and I try to get criminals to examine the situation and get help.
Criminal attorneys stand as a check and balance separating society from oppression. And, yes, I do enjoy using my acting background in the courtroom.
By Jason B. Sheffield
Michael Terence Publishing, 384 pages, $14.99
Who: Jason Sheffield
What: Book talk and signing
Where: Bookmiser, 4651 Sandy Plains Road, East Cobb
When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14