From the Author
When I started doing the research, I was a full time law professor, and my focus was on writing a scholarly book on Columbus's impact on international trade law. I have since left full time teaching (I still teach about one course per semester), and that suddenly freed me up to write anything I wanted. I happen to love reading legal thrillers, so I thought "Wouldn't it be fun to write a legal thriller involving Christopher Columbus?" From there, The Legacy was born.
The first character to appear on the page was Renee, a badass Haitian American lawyer who was practical and pragmatic. She forced me to buckle down and look at the story through the eyes of a lawyer and not just a fiction writer. Renee constantly demands that I get the law right. Chris is far more interested in having me tell the story of a group of people nearly forgotten by history--the Taino "Indians" who greeted Columbus when he first landed in the Caribbean. I've tried to do right by both of them.
I hope you enjoy their story.
Yes, Columbus really did keep a journal of his first voyage. Just as I mention in the novel, the journal is lost to history. What we have are remnants preserved primarily from the work of scholar/priest, Bartolomé de las Casas. I read the journal, and I retold much of the "facts" as I imagine Columbus might have seen them. I did strive for historical accuracy, but this is first and foremost a work of fiction.
As for "truth," it is a slippery concept. Columbus went to great lengths to hide the most basic aspects of his background, so much so that when his son sat down to write a biography of his father he had to admit that even he knew very little of his father's early history. Certainly, there is no mention in recorded history of Columbus joining with a Taino woman. But as Renee soon discovers, just because something isn't written down doesn't make it false . . . or does is it?
How much of yourself did you write into your character, Renee François?
The only thing Renee and I have in common is that we are both Haitian-American lawyers who grew up in Brooklyn. I love that she is a badass. I probably have just a little bit of that in me as well (but I'm not as good with a choke hold!)
The truth is, I probably wrote a little bit of me into every character. Like Marie-Thérèse, I love to cook--and I make a mean akasan! I enjoy painting, although I am not as talented as Chris. I am probably just as idealistic and as troubled by the law as some of my other characters.
No matter how alike or different we might be, I love all of my characters. I just wouldn't invite everyone over to my house for dinner!
From the Inside Flap
Room thirty-nine was at the end of the hall. Renee made her way to the door, then stood there for what felt like hours. Her sweaty palm rested on the doorknob while her heart sounded a wild, syncopated beat. She forced herself to breathe deeply once, then again. Finally, she turned the knob and stepped inside.
"Where--" Her voice emerged as a hoarse croak, so she cleared her throat and tried again. "Where would you like me to sit?"
The Director's office had been transformed into a makeshift courtroom,with plastic tables and folding chairs standing in for the judge's bench and counsel tables. The prosecutor gave her a strange look, but pointed to a lone chair several feet away.
She took her seat before her legs gave out.