Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Top 100 Kindle Title

Many thanks to all the readers who helped One Dead Judge reach the Top 100 list on Amazon for Kindle satire titles.  Please click to link to Amazon to read more or purchase.

Monday, June 6, 2016

How To Tax A Tomato

Many of my books deal with (let's call them) nuances of the American legal system, to which I was first introduced as a kid decades ago, trailing my father, grandfather, and uncle to various courtrooms, mostly in Baltimore City.

When I began law school, one of the first cases we were assigned to read was Marbury v. Madison, a cornerstone of constitutional law. However, a case that might better prepare first year law students and non-lawyers to deal with the U.S. legal system is one that I just read, three decades after being assigned Marbury.

Nix, et al. v. Hadden, also a U.S. Supreme Court case, was decided in 1893, and as recently as 2015 was cited in Supreme Court decisions as solid precedent.

A tariff case, Nix holds that tomatoes are vegetables. This may not seem especially important, except for the very scientific fact that tomatoes are actually a fruit, due to the botanic classification that they are "that part of a plaint which contains the seeds of the plant, especially the juicy, pulpy product of the plant, which covers and contains the seed."

So how did the Nix case so flatly deny science? By making vegetables a tax matter.

At the time the case was decided, the U.S. imposed a tariff on imported vegetables, but not on imported fruit. Alas, as it was in the best interests of governmental revenue that tomatoes be a vegetable, the Supreme Court deftly performed legal gymnastics and ruled that vegetables shouldn't be defined by botany, but by when we consume them.

Vegetables, the court found, are eaten as a part of a meal, while fruits are eaten for desert.

Perhaps if there had been hipster ice creameries serving sun-dried tomato gelato in the late 1800's, tomatoes could have better argued their scientific standing as a fruit. Alas, that was not the case, and science was hustled out of the courtroom for what would not be the last time.


Preston Pairo's latest novel, One Dead Judge, a saga from Ocean City, is available exclusively at

Now on Amazon: One Dead Judge

Ah, summer.  Dallas Henry's favorite time of year—except for this week when the State Bar Association holds its annual convention in Dallas' beach town, and hundreds of his former legal brethren arrive like a red tide of litigating menace.

Dallas has been giving away free rooms at his one-star motel to keep any lawyers from checking in, but suddenly he has bigger problems.

Cranky Judge Crenshaw calls Dallas in the middle of the night and claims someone's trying to kill him, but won't say who he thinks it might be, or why.  Convinced the judge is pulling another of his infamous practical jokes, Dallas plays along, only the next day Crenshaw turns up dead and doughy prosecutor Brent Bannister claims Dallas' car was the murder weapon.

Then Dallas' old law school girlfriend shows up, followed by a TV advertising lawyer with bad hair plugs, a felon with bad aim, a bag of steamed crabs, someone digging holes in the judge's back yard, piles of deer pooh, the dead judge's reclusive ex-partner, a former courthouse worker who gets three pension checks, a real estate tycoon hell bent on building a new golf course, and a convention center full of lawyers who want to make Dallas "Attorney of The Year" for running over Judge Crenshaw.

Dallas' helpers, meanwhile, aren't helping.  Francophile Herbie's massive origami creation is taking over the motel's front desk.  Misdemeanant Dash is stealing limos from foreign diplomats.  And Susan still isn't the love of Dallas' life.

Who would have thought one dead judge could cause such a commotion?  A satiric whodunit from the sunny beaches of Ocean City, Maryland, One Dead Judge is now available exclusively as an eBook at

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Wrong Lawyer | a short story

"The wrong lawyer?" Jake Burton squinted. His gloved hand, that had expected to have an envelope in it by now, firmly set his empty shot glass on a coaster that was stuck to the table. "I got the wrong lawyer?"

Arnie Dill's slender eyebrows raised as he nodded.

Jake thought Arnie plucked his eyebrows into narrow lines to match his pencil-thin moustache, looking like he was straight out of an old movie with the skinny eyebrows, moustache, slick hair, and black turtleneck. Truth was, he was right out of Dundalk--high school dropout from the would-be Class of '89 who'd made some money doing things no one had put him in jail for yet. Like making book in the back of this dark, crappy bar in Locust Point.

"Wrong lawyer?" Jake Burton was a 51-year-old man with a barrel chest and bulldog face. His topcoat was of the finest cashmere.

The two men were alone at a corner table. The tavern's only other customers were a middle-age couple at the bar. The woman was attractive. The guy, though, was that a toupee?

Jake leaned forward. "I got the lawyer..." He poked the table with two gloved fingers to emphasize his point. " told me to get. Guy came out the building you said he was comin' out of, the time you said he was comin' out, headed in the direction you said -- "

"Jake." Arnie cut him off, not knowing how to make this any clearer. "You got the wrong lawyer. Didn't you look at the picture I faxed you?" Arnie was getting a little snippy.

"Yeah, and that's the lawyer I got. Three quiet .22's in the back of his head. Puff-puff-puff. He goes down. I leave. No witnesses. And now I'm here for my money and you're feeding me some -- "

Arnie dug impatiently into a pocket of his black blazer--J.C. Penney all the way. He pulled out two pages, unfolded them on the table. The first was a Yellow Pages ad from the lawyers section, the one with the picture of the lawyer Arnie wanted dead. "That's what I faxed you."

Jake examined it. "That ain't what he looked like coming through my fax machine."

"Who's fault is that?" Arnie started unfolding the second page. "Buy a better fax machine." He slapped a photocopied Sunpapers article on the table: the obituary of a lawyer who was survived by three ex-wives--the lawyer Jake shot in the back of the head. "That's the lawyer you got. The wrong lawyer."

Jake sat back and squinted at Arnie. "This ain't my fault."

"How you figure?"

Over at the bar, Mr. Toupee put his arm around the woman on the stool beside him. She didn't seem thrilled.

Jake said, "I followed your directions."

Arnie kept his voice down, but was getting angry. "No, what you did was screwed up."
Jake's barrel chest butted the table. "It was a blurry fax. I couldn't half see it." Spit flew out when he talked and landed on Arnie's pock-marked cheek.

Arnie grabbed a napkin and wiped his face. "So why didn't you ask me to send it again."
Jake's reply came out as quiet rumble. "What the hell, I was doing the guy in the dark. I figured that's what he'd look like in the dark. Blurry like that. And he did. Which is why I shot him."

Arnie started to say something, but stopped. He exhaled deeply. "Look, what's done is done."

"Yeah, I'll say." Jake pushed the obit back at Arnie.

"You get the right lawyer, I'll pay you."

"So you ain't payin' me..." Jake dropped his fat finger on the face of the dead lawyer in the obituary. "...for this guy."


Jake's lips moved as though his gums were brushing his front teeth. "Yeah, all right, what the hell." He sighed and eased back in his chair, making its old wooden legs creak. "I got the wrong guy. My fault. I shouldn't've taken any chances. Gotten a clearer picture. Whatever. Here..." He motioned for the yellow pages ad, wiggling his fingers toward it. "...gimme that. Make sure I get the right guy this time."

Arnie handed over the advertisement with the picture of the still-alive lawyer he wanted dead.

"This guy," Jake said, holding up the ad, "right? Not this guy." He finger-pointed the dead man's obituary again.

"You got it."

"All right. I'll see you in 24, 48 hours, tops." Jake stood.

Arnie smiled. "Good deal."

"You're still buying the shot, right?" Jake motioned toward his empty glass.

"The shot I'm paying for."

"Make sure I didn't drink the wrong drink."

Jake walked out of the bar and into the cold.

It was starting to snow. White flakes swirled along the street.

Jake stuffed his hands into the pockets of his expensive topcoat and turned down the alley.

Loiza Ely was leaning against Jake's Cadillac Eldorado, hands in the pockets of a ski parka, catching snowflakes on his tongue. "You ever do this when you were a kid, Jake?" the tall Romanian tech wizard asked.

"No. Get in the car."

"What's the matter?"

"Got the wrong lawyer."

"How's that?"

"Get in the car." Jake threw open the passenger door and thumped down. Even with the seat powered back, his chest was almost on the dash.

Loiza slid in the driver's seat. "Whaddayou mean the wrong lawyer?"

"Shot the wrong damned lawyer," he swore. "Friggin' Arnie. Who the hell faxes a picture of someone they want hit? What the hell'm I supposed to do with that? Now it's my fault?"

"So we're not getting paid?"


"And that was such a pure hit. No witnesses." Loiza stared down the alley, contemplating this latest lesson in being a killer he was learning from Jake. After half a minute, he said, 
"Now what?"

It was cold in the car without the engine running.

Jake didn't respond at first. He appeared deep in thought. "You know," he offered, "my mother wanted me to go to law school. I took the LSAT's and everything."

"Really?" Loiza didn't disbelieve Jake, it just seemed out of character.

"Got a good score, too."

The back exit to the bar opened and Arnie came out. He pulled his Penney's blazer close against the cold and blew into his hands, angling away from them across the alley, toward his Mercedes SLK.

Jake eased quiet and quick from the Cadillac and started down the alley toward Arnie, his steps light for such a heavy man

Arnie, still blowing into his hands, never heard Jake coming until he was five feet away, so by the time he turned and grunted, sensing something bad, there wasn't time to do anything about it.

Jake shot him three times in the head -- using the same .22 fitted with a silencer that had killed the wrong lawyer.

Arnie dropped dead, face up in the bricked alley, his mouth and eyes staring open into the falling snow.

Loiza came running, said, "Look, Arnie's catching snowflakes."

They dragged Arnie across the alley to the Cadillac, popped the trunk and put him in with room to spare.

"You know," Jake grunted, closing the trunk, "maybe it's not to late to do the lawyer thing."

Loiza brushed his hands down the sides of his ski jacket. "Actually, Jake, I picture you more as a judge."

They got in the car and pulled off.

Turning the corner, Jake saw the woman from the bar come out alone, leaving without the man with the bad toupee.

Jake nodded, figuring he and the woman had both made good decisions tonight.

copyright 2001, 2016, Preston Pairo III

Jake Burton also appears in Preston Pairo's legal thriller, Her Honor, available exclusively at

Friday, March 25, 2016

After Decades of Crime, A Romance

After writing crime novels for nearly 30 years, my writing took on a heartfelt change with The Builder, a contemporary romance set on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Released as an eBook exclusively on, The Builder began 15 years ago as a screenplay collaboration between with John Bensink, an established television writer.  It was a story we both believed in, but other projects seemed to push it aside.  Plus, it was a new genre for me, and I think it took me a while to feel comfortable writing a romance novel.

The breakthrough began in 2007.  My dad, with whom I was practicing law, began a long battle with health issues, and during that time I struggled to continue a new crime novel, which I eventually abandoned to begin writing a love story set in Ocean City.

I spent three years writing that other romance novel, and did it more as an escape from reality than the potential for commercial success.  My agent kept warning me the book was going to end up being too long, and 700-plus pages later, she was right.  But I finished the manuscript, which ultimately inspired me to get back to The Builder.

John Bensink was on board to expand the screenplay to a novel, and we returned to work.  I 
transformed the outline into the completed manuscript, while John undertook the duties of editor, thereby returning us to the respective roles we each held when we met in New York City in the 1980's.

It's very different to see a romance novel in my booklist, but I'm extremely pleased with the way it turned out.  And while I'm currently working on a new crime novel, I hope for more romance titles in the future.