In his first novel, A Minor Fall, Price Ainsworth tries to answer the question, how do we recover from our mistakes? The story is one of corruption, defeat and redemption as we follow the trials and tribulations of Davy Jessie, a young personal injury lawyer captivated by the hedonistic lifestyle of his mentor, Tim Sullivan—a smooth-talking, practiced lawyer who can persuade people in and outside of the courtroom. As the protégé of Sullivan, Jessie’s emulation of his mentor leads to dangerous consequences.
Ainsworth, himself a trial lawyer in Austin, uses the legal world that he knows so well to create the backdrop of this story situated in the city of Houston—a place that he describes to Houstonia as “a hotbed of litigation and good lawyers” and also the city where he will appear at Brazos Bookstore for a signing this Friday, June 30.
As someone who has practiced law for more than 30 years, Ainsworth’s experience provides an unmistakable authenticity to the novel. From the real-life personalities that have inspired his characters to the catchy phrases he’s managed to scribble down from the courtroom, the reader is privy to the inner-workings of the legal world.
In fact, Ainsworth has worked on the novel for 12 years while juggling his full-time job as a trial lawyer. Inspiration first struck in the strangest of places: when he was sitting in the car with his kids. As they listened to the song "Hallelujah" from the movie soundtrack of Shrek, he became inspired by the lyrics which tell the biblical narrative of King David’s temptation by the beauty of Bathsheba. Drawing from this story, Ainsworth began to develop a plot that brings the Old Testament saga into the modern day.
Ainsworth welcomed the change of pace from legal briefs to fiction writing. While he finds both types of writing persuasive in their own way, the creative process of creating rich storylines and complex characters appeals to him. He says he was motivated to play with different voices, struggling to find the balance between first- and second-person narration because he wanted audiences to be able to empathize with his characters.
Thankfully, he was successful, crafting characters that make it easy to consider bigger ideas like the meaning of life and God on a personal level. Indeed, Ainsworth writes a book that asks thought-provoking questions through a storyline that his audiences can identify with. "People have the opportunity to fix their mistakes by asking others for help and moving forward,” Ainsworth says.
While the message might seem pithy or overly moralistic, he makes sure to entrench his message in the grittiness of the court room. Ainsworth’s tone is what makes the novel effective. The simple, direct prose describes characters and conversations in vivid detail so that the story is layered.
The novel indulges perceptions of trial lawyers from shows like Law & Order and The Closer and Matlock. Popular imagination runs wild with the images of stone-faced lawyers who dramatically rise from their seat to deliver an eloquent closing statement that wins the case. This is the kind of excitement most people are looking for and something that Ainsworth seems to understand.
Though Ainsworth seems to chuckle at these portrayals of trial lawyers on TV, he admits they are grounded in reality. “They are dramatic situations, rights are in conflict, and people are seeking compensation,” he says. With that, A Minor Fall indulges the reader in the seediness and drama of the legal world, all the while making sure that it feels real.
Booking signing this Friday, June 30. Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet Street. 713-523-0701. More info at brazosbookstore.com.