Legal thriller serves as first novel for Michigan-born attorney


Lawyer investigates a friend’s brutal murder by a serial killer

By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

There were many times attorney Michael Jordan wanted to throw his hands up and walk away when he was writing his first novel.

“Writing is lonely and tough, but I believed in myself and my story,” said Jordan, 64, a Saginaw native living in Rocky River, Ohio.

A practicing attorney for 38 years, Jordan graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Sigma Alpha, and Omicron Delta Kappa from Ohio Wesleyan University with an undergraduate degree in politics and government in 1976. He attended George Washington University Law School – the oldest law school in Washington, D.C. – graduating with his juris doctorate in 1979. While in law school, Jordan was a member of Law Review.

“I had to learn to write at a professional level. I was always a good writer, just like many people are good golfers,” said Jordan. “But winning your local golf club championship does not mean that you are ready for the professional tour. I had to up my game, as they say.”

After five years of writing and rewriting, as well as taking a college writing course, attending several seminars, and working with other authors, agents, and editors, the result was the legal thriller called “The Company of Demons” (Greenleaf Book Group $15.99), which debuts Tuesday, Jan. 16.

“Demons” introduces attorney John Coleman. The brutal murder of a friend leaves him stunned and holds the city of Cleveland in a grip of fear.

The perpetrator is a serial killer known as the Butcher, whose modus operandi parallels that of the Torso Murderer, who dismembered at least 12 people in the 1930s before vanishing without a trace. In fact, the Torso Murderer even eluded legendary lawman Eliot Ness, the man who brought down infamous mobster Al Capone.

“I moved to Cleveland when I was in my early 30s and first learned of the Torso Murderer then. The fact that the killer terrorized the city, eluded Eliot Ness, and then disappeared without a trace was fascinating. The brazen nature of the crimes, the letters to the press that mocked Ness and the police, and the fact that the killer vanished – just incredible,” explained Jordan. “In early drafts, I did much more with Ness, but the book started to read as more fact than fiction. I made the decision to remain generally faithful to the historical record, but to make sure that the focus was on a work of crime fiction and not a history.”

Jennifer, the murder victim’s beautiful daughter, hires John to handle her father’s estate, and romantic feelings for her soon complicate his already-troubled marriage. Inevitably, it leads to an extramarital affair. Soon thereafter, John finds himself entangled with a cold-blooded biker gang, an ex-cop with a shady past, the drug-addicted son of the dead man, the Butcher, and the legacy of the Torso Murderer. Struggling to make sense of it all, he cannot shake a growing sense of dread that it will end badly for him.

“I wanted John’s predicament to arise, in part, from his misogynistic views. His fascination with Jennifer, for the wrong reasons, allows her to use him as the perfect patsy,” said Jordan. “We all know someone who has frustrated us by making a series of bad decisions and never accepting responsibility for their actions. I wanted to create a character like that, but then push him to his absolute limits and see how he would react. Would he crumble and fail? Or would he finally understand that only he could better his situation in life?”

Jordan insists he’s nothing like his character. 

“John has qualities that I would not want to have. I had to constantly remind myself that John is a character in a play in my head. The question was always, what would John do? The answer could not be what Michael Jordan would do,” he said.

Jordan’s favorite scene to write was when the Butcher captures John and tortures him in the basement.

“Because that is the scene where John loses everything and in a frightening, desperate way. His resolve to make things right with his family would never come to pass, and he was convinced that he would die without them ever knowing his intentions,” he explained. “I think that one of the most frightening things that could happen to anyone would be losing any control over a threatening situation. The absolute helplessness, coupled with the certain knowledge of what would eventually happen, would shake anyone to his or her core. I wanted that to happen to John, to make him understand the beauty of the life he had thrown away.”

Jordan pointed out while the Torso Murderer was real, the Butcher is fictional.

“First, to remain generally faithful to history, the Torso Murderer of today would be too elderly to credibly take some of the actions that I needed the killer to commit,” he said. “More importantly, I wanted a parallel between the Torso Murderer and the Butcher and John Coleman and his daughter.”

For Jordan, the best part of writing “Demons” was the beginning and the end.

“In the beginning, researching the history of the Torso Murderer was very educational and fun,” he said. “At the end, it was very gratifying to see the positive reviews from the vast majority of people who have been able to read it pre-release.”

According to Jordan, “Demons” may not be the last readers see of John Coleman.

“I think we will see John again. More than one of the earlier reviewers have asked for a sequel, and I’m curious myself to see what the future holds for him,” he said.

At the moment, Jordan’s revising the draft of a thriller set in the closing stages of World War II.

“(It) involves an effort to sabotage the nuclear bomb project at Los Alamos,” he said.  “Like (‘Demons’), it stems from actual events during that time, and my book asks the classic question: ‘What if?’”