When Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were brutally murdered on June 12, 1994, I was in graduate school working toward my doctorate degree in clinical psychology. I spent my days attending classes, teaching undergraduates, and treating patients under supervision. I was spending my evenings reading journal articles and writing literature reviews. Although I have always loved reading, I didn’t have a spare moment to read for pleasure. I was completely absorbed in my studies and looking forward to my upcoming residency and career in psychology. However, my laser-like focus was derailed by this brutal crime, the ensuing investigation, and the resulting “Trial of the Century.” Although I had never been much of a professional football fan, even I recognized O.J. “the Juice” Simpson, although admittedly more for his roles in movies and commercials.
To say that I became enthralled by the trial would be a gross understatement. As I left for school each morning, I would carefully set an eight-hour VHS tape to record the daily trial coverage. In the evenings, I would rush through my homework and settle in to watch the trial. I abandoned all of my other regular television viewing, including ER, Seinfeld, and N.Y.P.D. Blue. It was entirely worth it to me because I found the trial provided better characters, conflict, and suspense than any other show on television. Important eyewitnesses were discredited for selling their stories to the tabloids, important timelines were established by a barking dog, a prosecution witness (Kato Kaelin) had to be declared a hostile witness by the the prosecutor who called him to testify, a glove demonstration went terribly awry, and a police detective asserted his own fifth amendment privilege on the witness stand. At the time, I remember saying that if the trial was written as a novel, it would be quickly dismissed as being ridiculous and fantastic. This real life trial provided more plot twists than any legal thriller that I had ever read. My graduate school mentor, who was an expert in psychology and the law, frequently tried to dissuade my interest by reminding me that this trial was not representative of the typical jury trial. I continued my obsession undeterred.
Although I had always been a diligent student, I admit to ditching class in order to hear the verdict read when the trial finally came to a close after more than eight months. Like many in the nation, I was shocked and dismayed when Simpson was acquitted in the face of a “mountain of evidence.” I clearly remember feeling particular empathy toward the family members of the victims, particularly Fred Goldman who had advocated so passionately for his son throughout the trial. What would I have done if one of the victims had been my loved one? What if Nicole had been my sister? And so the idea for my first novel was born.
But, alas, life interfered with my goal to write a book. When the trial ended, I resumed my studies in earnest and finished my graduate program in the spring of 1996. I went on to my clinical residency, joined the military, got married, and had two children. All of which explains why my first novel, The Perfect Game, wasn’t published until March 2015, more than 20 years after the murders of Brown-Simpson and Goldman.
In The Perfect Game, Lauren Rose is a medical intern who is devastated when her only sister, Liz, is murdered. Complicating matters is the fact that Liz was married to baseball pitching superstar, Jake Wakefield. As the sole beneficiary to Liz’s large life insurance policy, Lauren is quickly identified as a prime suspect. Given Jake’s fame, the media coverage during the police investigation and eventual trial is relentless. While the story is loosely based upon the Simpson case, the twists and turns take a very different course. Remember my impression that the developments of the Simpson case were too outlandish to incorporate into a novel? And in my opinion, The Perfect Game offers a much more satisfying conclusion than the real trial . . . although the fact that Simpson later landed himself in prison for a crime resulting from his attempt to hide his assets from the Goldman family also offered a very poetic justice.
I was surprised when the Simpson case landed back in the news this year as a result of the television miniseries, but I shouldn’t have been. As I have been watching American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson miniseries, I have become fixated once again. I have been thoroughly enjoying the peek behind the curtains that the series offers. As a result of my husband’s work, I have met Fred Goldman and as a result of my book, I have also met Marcia Clark. I have been watching the series with my own daughter, who frequently reacts with this question, “That didn’t really happen, did it?”
Believe it or not, that is exactly what happened!
Leslie lives in Arizona with her husband and two children. The Perfect Game is available from Poisoned Pen Press, and wherever books are sold.