ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — For the first 11 months of the year Jonathan Miller is a practicing criminal defense attorney in Albuquerque. In December Miller readjusts his labors, turning from lawyer to writer. He writes the first draft of books; most of them have been in his fictional Rattlesnake Lawyer series.
Miller’s most recently published book is the 2014 novel “Navajo Repo.” It contains an ensemble of characters who have appeared in some or all of Miller’s previous Rattlesnake Lawyer books. An extensive author’s note in “Navajo Repo” refreshes reader’s memory (if they’re fans) about which characters (e.g. lawyers Sam Marlow and Luna Cruz) have appeared in which novels.
The rough-hewn “Navajo Repo” opens at Acoma Pueblo. Then the scene quickly shifts to Ciudad Juarez. Marlow’s impending marriage proposal to Selena Mondragon is short-circuited when her ex-husband kidnaps her. The “Repo” of the title has an expanded meaning – rescuing people, namely Selena.
After Juarez, it’s back across the border and on to Beverly Hills. The story moves to the fictional locale Crater County, New Mexico, and to the Crater Band of the Navajo Nation.
Miller said he delayed publication of “Navajo Repo” so that he could check the accuracy of the geography of Indian lands and mythology referenced in the book.
He recalled giving a talk at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Ariz. He gave advice on writing stories. He also asked audience members if anyone had stories to tell.
“One elderly woman was talking about clans and mythology. A disabled veteran was telling about his life. I knew I had to incorporate that – the mythology, their stories and their emotions – into ‘Navajo Repo,'” he said.
As part of his research, he visited the iconic Shiprock formation and the pueblos of Acoma and Laguna.
His most recent manuscript is a departure for him – science fiction. Titled “A Million Dead Lawyers: A Speculative Rattlesnake Lawyer Novel,” it’s set in Albuquerque.
“I tried to imagine what the existing institutions would be like 100 years from now,” Miller said. “One of my characters, Marlow, wakes up in the year 2112 where there are no lawyers. He has to do a jury trial, the first jury trial in 50 years.”
A spin-off of his life as an author and an attorney is his work hosting workshops on this subject: “How to Turn Your Life Into a Book and Not Get Sued.” Miller said he tells workshop participants how to start the writing process but to make sure they don’t open themselves up to lawsuits.