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Alan Richard Gordon, a public defender since law school graduation, entertained a pair of dreams at the restless age of 30. He would become a stand-up comedian. Also, he would publish a novel before his watershed 40th birthday, even if it meant keeping his day job with the Legal Aid Society of Queens. The first dream did not go well. He stepped up to a comedy club microphone in 1991 and said, “Hi, my name is Alan and I’m a recovering lawyer — ” A smattering of snorty laughs ensued. Then, after a few jokes that Gordon is pained to remember, he had a big problem. Big enough for a comedian. Devastating for a litigator. “ I developed a stutter,” he said. Gordon’s wife, Judy Downer, was sympathetic. But surely a part of her was relieved. An editor at Dell Magazines, Downer faithfully accompanied her husband through a maze of “smoky bars and late nights and waiting through dozens of people you think are terrible, and then going on before not too many people in the audience.” “No wonder he stuttered,” she said. For his 30th birthday, Downer encouraged her husband’s other dream. She gave him a ream of paper, a box of manila envelopes, a container of giant-size paper clips and a copy of the scrivener’s bible, “Writer’s Market.” “It was all the things — the only things — a writer needs,” said Gordon. “It was her way of saying, ‘Shut up and do it already.’ “ Lo, a few months shy of his 40th birthday came Gordon’s first published novel � “Thirteenth Night,” a mystery released by St. Martin’s Press. Gordon’s amusing story of intrigue, praised in The Washington Post and other helpful venues, is set in medieval Europe. Its protagonist sleuth, the Jester Theophilos, is a prominent member of the fanciful Fools’ Guild, whose members manipulate events in the political chaos of the 13th Century. What compelled editor Keith Kahla to single out Gordon’s manuscript from the slush pile? “The submission letter caught my eye,” said Kahla. “Here’s this lawyer writing a mystery that’s got nothing whatsoever to do with the law. So he says in his letter, ‘I decided not to write a legal thriller because all the good titles are taken.’ “Besides, he had a thoroughly original idea. It was funny, too,” said Kahla. “I know he tried comedy some years ago. On paper, his jokes worked. Also I’m a sucker for really good research and a layered story — I hope I’m not putting words in his mouth,” said the editor of his author-attorney. “That’s a lawyer’s job.” No sweeter words from an editor’s mouth were the ones asking Gordon for two more Jester Theophilos books. “What a wonderful scam,” said Gordon, who by now had enlisted a literary agent. “They’re giving me money for things that don’t exist.” At which point Gordon went into “total panic” with what he called the dreaded writer’s question: “Can I get away with this again?” He did. The second installment of the series � “Jester Leaps In” — was published last fall. Gordon has completed the third book, as yet untitled, scheduled for release later this year. “It seemed that he needed someone to give him permission to write,” said Downer. “It must have seemed a little bit selfish to him to write fiction. “It meant some late nights, especially after our son was born (Robert, age 8),” she added. “After Robert was in bed, Alan would always say, ‘I’m going to do some writing now — if that’s OK with you. He never became that sort of gruff, uncommunicative writer.” SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS Gordon’s parents were socially conscious musicians. “It wasn’t that I had to join the Peace Corps or become a missionary,” he said. “But I had to do something constructive with my working life, and not just be generating income for somebody.” When he graduated from the University of Chicago School of Law in 1984, “I knew I didn’t have the right mindset for the more commercial aspects of the law.” Having been raised in New Jersey, he did know that he wanted to return East. “When the Legal Aid job came up, everything made sense.” In court, according to Judge Robert J. McDonald of the Queens Civil Court, he tells his story well. “He’s very studious, and quiet but forceful,” said McDonald of Gordon. “He’s always very, very well prepared — one of the best lawyers I’ve ever had in front me.” A FOOL AS A HERO Inventing the world of the Jester Theophilos makes another kind of sense to Gordon. “Having a fool as my hero allows me to pick a target and say anything I want.” Meanwhile, “I run into the reality of making a living. What I do as a lawyer — representing poor people — is extremely important,” he said. “But I’ve been doing it for awhile, and it’s nice now being something else besides a lawyer.” What’s next for New York’s newest author-attorney? “Maybe the ultimate contemporary Queens crime novel,” Gordon said. His editor has his own prediction: “Fame, fortune, international success, a PBS series,” said Kahla. “Or at least some more books.”

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