Prosecutor writes what he knows




Simon

Simon

A veteran prosecutor is taking on crime outside of court with a debut novel about a subject he knows well, murder, in the place he calls home, Ventura County.

Richard Simon, 65, is a senior deputy district attorney with the Ventura County DA’s office who says he hasn’t heard a jury say “not guilty” in any of the murder cases he’s prosecuted since 1994.

He took advantage of the pandemic-imposed closure of the courts to live out his dream of publishing a book. The result, “Bring Me to Life,” tracks the case of a lifetime for Ray Scapio, a fictional Ventura County homicide prosecutor.

The book is doing well on Amazon reviews, with 4.4 stars out of 5, taking the reader, one reviewer writes, “from the crime scene to the back halls of the courtroom.” The paperback price is $14.99.

Released in November 2021, the book took more than a year to write, Simon told the Acorn, but the foundation for it spans a career.

MURDER, HE WROTE—A career prosecuting killers gives Richard Simon plenty of material for his fictional stories. Courtesy photo

MURDER, HE WROTE—A career prosecuting killers gives Richard Simon plenty of material for his fictional stories. Courtesy photo

“I came up with the plot about 15 years earlier, and friends said I should write it,” said Simon, who’s spent 35 years in the DA’s office and coaches mock trial at Newbury Park High School.

He had plans to write once he retired. Then COVID hit in 2020.

“There wasn’t much to do. I’m a table tennis player, but I couldn’t do that. Restaurants shut down, movie theaters shut down,” he said. “So I said, do I watch every Netflix series or do I start writing the book?”

He chose the latter, writing 350 pages about a local tennis pro who is sick of playing doubles with his girlfriend and offs her.

Deciding on the setting was easy.

“To me, you write what you know,” Simon said. “If I was going to write about Seattle, I’d have to do tons of research and I’d still probably get it wrong.”

Being a prosecutor provides a good tool kit for a crime writer, and to make sure no twist, turn or funny aside slips by, Simon keeps a running list of them on his computer, ready to refine when the time is right.

“I use the experience that I have in developing storylines and incidents that occur in the book that I think are funny.”

Is it easier for Simon to write a book or court briefs?

“I would say legal motions. I didn’t realize how sloppy my writing was until I had an editor actually edit my stuff,” he said. “I had a good story but needed someone to make it professional. When I first got the book back from the editor, there were so many red marks.”

Not a few of them, he admitted, were because of poor grammar.

“I’m sure I do that in my legal motions, but I’ve probably gotten a little better since I wrote this book.”

His second book, in the works, involves a homicide in Ventura.

Simon will discuss “Bring Me to Life” at a local author’s event from 1 to 4 p.m. April 29 at the Oxnard

Public Library, 251 S. A St.

He frequently lectures on cross-examination, that part of a trial where an attorney tries to poke holes in the testimony of a witness for the other side or attacks the credibility of the witness.

A case can sink or swim depending on how well the cross-examination is done.

A good cross is so critical that Simon makes it a signature piece of his stories.

The crime genre is one of the bestselling and most requested at public libraries—and Simon makes easy work of explaining why audiences are so transfixed, especially when it comes to stories about death at the hands of another.

“If it’s petty theft or shoplifting, nobody’s clamoring for justice,” he said. “A murder case is a different story.”

Follow Scott Steepleton on Twitter @scottsteepleton.