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Most works of fiction — especially those penned by former attorneys — begin with the same disclaimer: “Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.” But Sam Zhang, a Philadelphia attorney central to the plot of the recently released “The Revolutionary’s Confession,” wouldn’t be convinced. “Sam didn’t believe in coincidences,” writes author George Grayson (a pseudonym for George Phocas — chosen for privacy and ease of pronunciation). “The notion of coincidence — in the words of his favorite law school professor, Jason Behr — was the refuge of a lazy mind, a relief from the chore of digging for a connection.” That Phocas wrote a novel set, in part, in a large downtown Philadelphia law firm is no coincidence. After earning his law degree at the University of Chicago, the New York native worked in the corporate and tax departments of Philadelphia’s Pepper Hamilton for four years before leaving in 1998 to complete his first novel. The name of the fictional law firm which employs Sam — Tew Logan & Case — is also intentional. “Pronounce the name of this venerable law firm correctly,” Tew Logan & Case rainmaker Bob Silver tells Sam during his interview, “The first name does not rhyme with pew. It sounds just like the number two. Two Logan & Case.” Pepper Hamilton’s Philadelphia offices are located at Two Logan Square. But that, Phocas says, is where the similarities between the two law firms end. FACT AND FICTION Partners in any Center City firm may often be accused of working their associates to death, but rarely do young attorneys have to fear the fate which awaits Sam — he is murdered in his office by Silver before the end of the first chapter. Although authorities rule his death a suicide, his sister, Kristina, is not convinced. With the help of University of Pennsylvania law school professor Behr, a former federal prosecutor, she investigates the coincidences surrounding her brother’s death, uncovering the generations-old connection between a big-money acquisition Sam was preparing, the Zhang family and $48 billion worth of stolen Chinese gold. The novel follows the formula of most best-selling beach-blanket novels: Apparent damsel in distress meets rugged protector with a past. Together, they unravel international intrigue, falling in love amidst a volley of bullets. The characters of “Confession” are familiar, but not unlikable, and the fast-paced story line, which bridges almost 70 years and two continents, will keep readers engaged. The novel’s setting is a strong presence, as Phocas plays with specific quirks of the city of Philadelphia. A car chase on Interstate 95 ends when Behr recognizes a unique Philly phenomenon. “Philadelphia was a tough town on drivers, particularly those who lacked aggression or horsepower,” Phocas writes. “The outer lanes of a highway were used for passing, and the middle lane was left to the slow drivers who in fear and frustration were unable to exit the center lane groove as people zipped by on either side. So when Behr saw the van speed up, he used this phenomenon to his advantage. He made his move.” The internal moves of Philadelphia law firms are also revealed. The brass nameplate which Sam first admires as the firm’s commitment to each associate and his or her career is not as permanent as he thought. “His name was actually printed on clear adhesive tape that could be pulled off the underlying brass by anyone with unbitten nails,” Phocas writes. “The brass would then be recycled for the next occupant. Such was life at big law firm — far more transitory than the endless wood paneling and gray hair would suggest.” It is a world that Sam has decided to leave, spurred by the revolutionary’s confession. ‘FINISH THE BOOK’ The words of a Chinese revolutionary — Sam and Kristina’s grandfather — scratched into the margins of 28 copies of the so-called little red book, “Quotations from Chairman Mao ZeDong,” begin the novel and the mystery that drives the plot. Translating the Chinese characters, Sam begins to write a novel of the same name as Grayson’s. Sitting in his office after midnight on a Friday, he thinks, “Finish the book, then you can quit!” Phocas knows the feeling. “I was writing ["The Revolutionary's Confession"] on one screen while I was doing other stuff at Pepper,” Phocas admits. “Plot start taking shape late at night in the law firm in front of the copy machine — I was trying to fax to Tokyo at one o’clock in the morning. Even the cleaning staff is gone at that time. A law firm can be a pretty lonely place,” he recalls. Pepper gave him insight into law-firm culture and taught him about nations’ finances — a subject integral to novel. History gave him a starting point; during the Communist takeover of China, the gold in the country’s national treasury disappeared. And his own experience teaching in China prior to law school helped him understand the country and its people. “China is the kind of place that ignites your imagination,” Phocas says. Phocas’ imagination led him away from Pepper Hamilton, despite financial concerns and coworkers’ baffled reactions. “I saw a lot of older people in the firm with outside interests who had seemed to let them wither a little bit; I didn’t want to lose the interests that I had before the law,” Phocas explained. “I thought that if I didn’t do it then that I’d never do it. I wasn’t like a lot of people who hate the law — I enjoyed what I did at Pepper, though sometimes the hours can be a bit of a drag.” Phocas still practices law occasionally, often as a favor to family or friends, but his attention is focused on his second novel for Intrigue Press, the publishing company he now runs. The work-in-progress, set partly in Turkey, may again feature Professor Behr. “The Revolutionary’s Confession” is available at bookstores, Amazon.com. and Intrigue’s site, www.intriguepress.com.

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