Bodily Harm Readers Questions and Answers
- What sparked the idea for BODILY HARM?
- How did you go about researching the toy industry?
- Is the use of magnets in toys a safety hazard?
- Do current regulations involving toys manufactured in other countries protect American consumers and manufacturers?
- Are there any other changes you would like to see in the industry as a result of your research/li>
- What makes your main character, Sloane, such a force in the courtroom?
- Without giving anything away, did you expect this novel to be such a personal journey for Sloane?
- What's next for David Sloane?
A Conversation with Robert Dugoni
What sparked the idea for BODILY HARM?
Answer: Honestly, there was an Internet survey on the 10 worst cars of all time and my 1974 Ford Pinto was first. This is not a contest that you want to win. It was first because of that minor detail Ford overlooked that the car could explode when rear ended. Never fear, they had a recall and fixed the problem. Only a memorandum surfaced that they knew about the problem and decided it would be cheaper to pay out the claims, including the death claims, than to recall the car and correct the problem. That made me feel good. When I looked into many of the recalls on dangerous products, I found the same situation existed - companies making moral decisions based on economics. Then I found an article in the Seattle Times on the death of a young child due to a defective toy. Everything germinated and sprouted from there.
How did you go about researching the toy industry?
Answer: Unlike my prior novels, and current project, I didn't have to travel much to interview people, although I did go back to Washington D.C. to visit all of the locations in the book. I made it to the outside of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, but didn't make it inside. I did, however, make it inside the CIA at Langley and that was an incredible experience and they were very open about talking to me about Charles Jenkins as a former CIA agent.
I also interviewed several lawyers who handled product liability cases, but I was familiar with those types of cases. Here in Seattle, I talked with an attorney who handled cases involving defective magnets. He had to be careful not to divulge certain information to me, however, due to confidentiality agreements with the companies and I respected that. But once I had the idea I was able to pull up binders full of articles on defective products, the inefficiency of the Consumer Product Safety Commission due to excessive deregulation, manufacturing in China, the use of powerful magnets, and, ultimately, on the toy industry, including several books on the subject. I felt like I was back in college doing a thesis. I probably read 10,000 pages of material. The trick is to then synthesize that material down for a 400 page book in a way that doesn't bore the reader.
Is the use of magnets in toys a safety hazard?
Answer: Yes, it can be. The magnets are incredibly powerful and small. The hazard occurs when they become free of their casing, whatever that may be, plastic, rubber. Some are what connect the head of the toothbrush to the electric portion. When they are free, they look like small little pieces of gum, or candy. Kids will naturally explore with their mouths so you have the potential for disaster, even with a warning on the label. Also, back several years ago, people didn't understand the potential hazards of these magnets. The belief was that if a child swallowed something and didn't choke on it, they would simply excrete it. Only a few people contemplated the problem when the child swallows more than one of these magnets and what happens inside the child s stomach and intestines if these powerful magnets begin to attract one another. It is serious, like a gun shot or knife wound.
Do current regulations involving toys manufactured in other countries protect American consumers and manufacturers?
Answer: The thing is, nobody really knows. What companies in third world countries say they are doing and what they are actually doing are two separate things and that is a huge problem that brings in discussions like child labor, exploitation of the poor, etc. that was really outside the focus of this book. The issue really is how can American companies compete in a world market when they are competing against companies in foreign countries that don't have the same costly regulations and don't have unions that demand certain hourly wages? And if American companies can't compete, then it hurts the American worker and the American economy. So I'm not sure what the answer is except global cooperation so that all can compete on an even playing field.
Are there any other changes you would like to see in the industry as a result of your research?
Answer: There was a bill before the house and legislature that was to provide more money to the Consumer Product Safety Commission so that they could hire more staff to conduct investigations and one of the Commissioners went out publicly against it. That's mind blowing to think about, but that s also politics. Deregulation really gutted the CPSC and that has to change. If they are going to be the watchdog then they have to have the resources to do their job. But again, that is an almost impossible task. It really is going to have to come down to a balance between the companies regulating themselves and the CPSC stepping in when they don't, hopefully before people are killed or injured, and making those companies feel it deeply in their pocketbooks, or put them out of business.
What makes your main character, Sloane, such a force in the courtroom?
Answer: Frankly, he is incredibly bright, but beyond that he has great common sense, is personable and thinks well on his feet. I knew a lot of attorneys who were bright but couldn't express themselves. I knew a lot of attorneys who were personable but not very bright. The best attorneys are both. Of course it helps when the writer can think over strategy and cross-examination questions as well as know the answers. Most lawyers don't get that advantage.
Without giving anything away, did you expect this novel to be such a personal journey for Sloane?
Answer: Not at the beginning, but you know, I just felt that with a series it is important to shock the reader, or to at least surprise them in some way with each book. I wanted to be bold. I wanted to take chances. Some readers will love it. Some may not, but at least no one will be able to accuse me of being complacent with my characters.
What's next for David Sloane?
Answer: David will be back. The book I'm working on now will find him in an incredibly vulnerable place in his life when he is asked to defend a high profile Seattle female lawyer (who is in Bodily Harm) accused of killing the drug dealer responsible for the overdose of her only daughter. Criminal law is a whole new world for Sloane and I've immersed myself in it for the past six months. It is going to be another new experience for us both.