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“A Different Cadence” by John Gordon Forester Jr. 1stBooks Library, 191 pages, $9.95 plus shipping As a lawyer, Washington, D.C., sole practitioner John Gordon Forester Jr. longs for an earlier time. “The practice of law was once a noble profession,” the 67-year-old Forester writes in the introduction to his memoir, “A Different Cadence.” “Lawyers dealt with people and their problems … . People lawyers began to vanish in the 1970s and 1980s. By 1990 they were virtually extinct, replaced by business lawyers.” As an author, however, Forester is hardly wedded to the past. In fact, you might say he’s on the cutting edge. If you want to read Forester’s beguiling account of his four decades in the law, don’t bother visiting your favorite bookstore. “A Different Cadence” will be found nowhere on its shelves. To buy a copy of the book, you’ll have to go online. An e-book, “A Different Cadence” is published by 1stBooks Library, one of several e-publishing houses that offer authors an alternative to traditional publishers. Although Forester started writing “A Different Cadence” in 1996, he had spent his career gathering string for his memoir. “Back when I first started my practice,” Forester recalls, “I began saving files and collecting them in a box called ‘Archives.’ I realized some fascinating people were coming across my door and that one day they would make an interesting book.” When Forester finished his manuscript and had it copyrighted, he turned to a number of literary agents to help him publish it. Yet he found little encouragement from those he contacted. Says Forester: “Some were quite candid, saying, ‘Look, a first book by a lawyer that is nonfiction is not going to sell.’ The more I thought about it, though, the more I began to think it should sell. But the agents know the market. If an agent feels he is not going to sell it to a publisher, obviously he’s not going to take it.” That’s when Forester received a call from 1stBooks. “1stBooks solicited me. They picked it up at the Copyright Office. They laid their program out, and I said, ‘Why not?’ and I went with them.” According to Patrick East, director of author promotions for the Bloomington, Ind.-based 1stBooks, Forester is one of about 6,000 authors who have done business with the e-publisher since its inception in 1997. E-publishing is “far, far different from traditional publishing,” explains East. “We don’t make any editorial decisions about what should be published,” he says. “We go ahead and publish it and let the market decide.” To publish with 1stBooks, according to East, an author pays a standard fee of $399 and submits his or her manuscript, preferably in electronic form. 1stBooks formats the manuscript in one of three book formats chosen by the author. The author works with 1stBooks in designing a book cover. 1stBooks will provide the author with a list of reputable free-lance editors should the author decide to take advantage of such services. The book is listed in 1stBooks’ online catalogue at its Web site — http://www.1stbooks.com. Authors retain complete rights. 1stBooks, however, sets the price. The publisher provides sales reports and royalty payments every three months. If you’re interested in buying a book, you have two options: You can either pay to download the text, which can be read with Adobe Acrobat or similar programs, or you can order the book through print-on-demand (POD). Surprisingly, most of the orders that 1stBooks receives are for POD. 1stBooks’ printer, LaVergne, Tenn.-based Lightning Source Inc., specializes in POD. Once you order a book on 1stBooks’ Web site, 1stBooks transmits your order to Lightning Source, which prints a single paperback of the book you ordered and ships it to you. (There are no initial press runs with 1stBooks’ publications; print is to exact demand.) If you were to place an order for “A Different Cadence,” for example, and ask to have the book shipped to a D.C.-area address by ground — the least expensive option — 1stBooks would charge you $9.95 for the paperback plus $5 for shipping and promise to have the book in your hands within five to seven business days. “If you order it on Monday, you should have it by Friday,” East says. Such other e-publishers as Ex Libris, iUniverse, and MightyWords offer authors and book-buyers similar services. For example, according to Erica Manuel, a spokeswoman for the Campbell, Calif.-based iUniverse, an author can choose from several basic publishing packages ranging from $99 to $250. Consumers who place POD orders from iUniverse’s catalogue of about 5,000 books will wait no more than three weeks before their order is fulfilled, and usually two weeks or less. AN EARLY START Forester is a longtime private practitioner in D.C. and is president-elect of the voluntary Bar Association of the District of Columbia. “A Different Cadence” briefly recounts his childhood in Wilkesboro, N.C., where even at the tender age of 10 he was contemplating a career in the law. His maternal grandfather had been a lawyer, and although the man had died before Forester was born, his memory was kept alive by Forester’s mother. So inspiring were the stories his mother told about his grandfather and the respect the lawyer enjoyed in the community that Forester began visiting the local county courthouse to watch trials. “I sat in the balcony with the colored folks because I could see better,” he writes in “A Different Cadence.” Forester’s memoir swiftly guides the reader through his college days at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, his stint in the Navy, his subsequent marriage, his employment at the Department of Commerce, his enrollment in the night program at George Washington University School of Law, and his clerkship for then-U.S. District Judge Leonard Walsh. After clerking for Walsh for two years, Forester believed he was ready to practice law. The judge offered to help him land a post in the U.S. attorney’s office, and Forester himself considered a job with the Justice Department. But the desire to practice law on his own was too strong to resist. Forester entered private practice and has never looked back. “A Different Cadence” is largely made up of Forester’s retelling of some of his standout cases over the years. It is an absorbing document. While it wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate to describe the book as a trial lawyer’s collection of war stories, such a description would diminish Forester’s accomplishment. War stories often tend to be self-aggrandizing. Although Forester stands anchored at the center of his stories, he is seldom the main character. He usually lavishes more attention on his clients, his courtroom opponents, the presiding judge, the jury, or a particularly effective witness than he does on his own role in each unfolding drama. Occasionally — when a risky legal manuever works out his way, for example — he is unable to hide his pride. Yet, for the most part, Forester keeps his humility intact. In a telephone interview from his office, Forester makes it plain that he intended to submerge his ego when he took pen in hand. “I wanted to write a book more focused on the people I dealt with and not on me,” he explains. Experience has taught him, he says, that a lot of factors contribute to the result of a case, and sometimes these factors are beyond the control of even the most skilled attorneys. “You’re as good a trial lawyer as your case is good. There have been times I’ve been wiped out in court because I had a lousy case, or because my witness didn’t do it, or because my client didn’t do it, or whatever.” If you had to describe Forester in a short phrase, self-effacing might prove the right choice. From the opening paragraph of his book, you’re on the alert that Forester doesn’t take himself too seriously:
I am a lawyer. I am not a juris doctor, an attorney nor an esquire. A juris doctor is a law degree which some educator decided to make it sound like more than it is. An attorney is a lawyer for someone, such as General Motors or Joe Smith. I am attorney for a Joe Smith, but not for General Motors. An esquire is a title given to landed gentry in Great Britain and is not suitable for members of the already pretentious legal profession in the United States.

This opening paragraph is a good illustration of the strengths and weaknesses of Forester’s book. Its tone is inviting, but its prose needs some tightening. Remember, an e-book almost by definition doesn’t receive the professional attention that more traditional publishers provide to their releases. In truth, “A Different Cadence” would have benefited from a good line editing. If you’re the kind of reader who finds it difficult to overlook the occasional dangling participle, misspelling, or typographical abomination — for example, a line break between the D. and C. of D.C. — then reading “A Different Cadence” might prove taxing. On the other hand, the book offers many treasures. Forester has enjoyed a rich career and has been involved in many interesting cases. His tales are entertaining and often downright charming. That traditional presses failed to deliver “A Different Cadence” to the world of readers is not surprising. Probably sound economic arguments can be made for not publishing the book, given the likely narrowness of its potential market and the product’s certain lack of polish. Yet it’s encouraging to know that there is an outlet where such an offering can still reach an audience. According to 1stBooks’ East, the best sellers on 1stBooks’ list have thousands of readers — not tens or hundreds of thousands of readers, but still not a figure to disparage. How large an audience will come to “A Different Cadence” I can’t predict. The only thing I can say for certain is that I’m glad I read it.

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