Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Reece Hirsch

Reece Hirsch’s debut legal thriller THE INSIDER was published this month by Berkley Books. Reece is a partner in the San Francisco office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP specializing in privacy, security and healthcare law. He is also a member of the board of directors of 826 National (, a non-profit organization that conducts writing programs for young people. Reece lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife Kathy and their dog Simon.

Reece, congratulations on your book.  Tell us about it.

THE INSIDER is the story of Will Connelly, a young corporate attorney in a big San Francisco law firm who is on the verge of making partner. Will thinks that becoming a partner will solve all of his life’s problems, but his troubles are only beginning. Within a week of being promoted to partner and taking over a major merger transaction, Will becomes the prime suspect in a colleague’s murder and an unwilling participant in a complex criminal scheme that involves the Russian mob, insider trading and a secret government domestic surveillance program.

What are your writing goals?

As a reader, I love books that have narrative momentum and provide an immersive reading experience. That’s what I was aiming for with THE INSIDER. But I suppose that’s what thrillers are all about – keeping the reader turning the pages, anxious to find out what happens next.

Do you have specific techniques to develop the plot and stay on track?

I usually have a sense of the general arc of the story when I start writing, but I don’t prepare a detailed outline. At any point in the writing, I’ll usually have notes on what’s going to happen in the next four or five chapters. I find that writing a thriller is a little like playing both sides in a game of chess – you keep looking for ways to surprise yourself. And if you can surprise yourself, then there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll surprise the reader, too.

Where do you write? When?

Because my law firm job is pretty demanding, it’s not always easy to find writing time. I work very early in the morning on weekdays, on weekend mornings, and on the BART train to work. They say that Scott Turow wrote much of Presumed Innocent when he was riding the train to work as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. I’ve always taken some inspiration from that story.

What is your current project?

I’m currently working on another stand-alone thriller with a San Francisco attorney as the protagonist. Like THE INSIDER, my new book touches upon some cutting-edge privacy and security issues that are drawn from my legal practice. Go with what you know, right?

How did you draw upon your privacy law expertise in THE INSIDER?

In the early Nineties, the National Security Agency (NSA) developed a powerful encryption device known as the Clipper Chip, which was to be used to encrypt telecommunications transmissions. The encryption software was to be made available for use by private businesses and individuals. However, the Clipper Chip was designed to provide government agencies with “key access” to all encrypted transmissions for law enforcement and national security purposes. The program was criticized in Congressional hearings based upon privacy concerns and was ultimately abandoned in 1995.

THE INSIDER posits that the Clipper Chip program was never really abandoned, but went forward through an undisclosed deal between the NSA and a private software company, and that the NSA continued to secretly monitor the communications of private citizens during the ensuing years. THE INSIDER also considers what might happen if the encryption keys that permitted government access to all of that confidential data fell into the wrong hands.

As an attorney specializing in privacy and security issues, I’ve long been aware of the Clipper Chip program. The program was real, but it was entirely abandoned by 1996. However, the issues highlighted in THE INSIDER are still very much with us today and have never been more timely. In the wake of 9-11, the government has continued its pursuit of what was once referred to as “Total Information Awareness.”

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

For more information about my books and events, please see my author website at You can also find the first chapter of THE INSIDER on my website.

Continued success, Reece.


Anne Patrick said...

Your book sounds great, Reece. Best of luck to you.

Susan, you have such facinating guests on your blog that I've chosen it to receive the "Creative Writing" Blogger Award.

You can pick it up at my blog:

Susan Whitfield said...

Thanks, Anne. I picked up the award and will add it here. You're such a doll! Looking forward to having you come back and talk about the latest book on May 24th.

Reece said...

Thanks, Anne! And thanks again, Susan, for inviting me to be a guest!