The Sirens of Suspense

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An Anthony Award-nominated website on all things mystery.

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One of America’s top entertainment attorneys, Don Passman practices law with the Los Angeles-based firm of Gang, Tyre, Ramer and Brown, Inc. Having specialized in the music business intensively for over twenty years, his clients include major entertainers, publishers, record companies, managers, producers, and other participants in the music industry. Responsible for the record-breaking “mega” deals for both Janet Jackson and R.E.M., he has also worked with a number of major artists. He is the author of the nonfiction bestseller ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE MUSIC BUSINESS, which has sold more than 150,000 hardcover copies in print, as well as the fiction novels THE VISIONARY, MIRAGE and his latest, THE AMAZING HARVEY.

Passman’s hobbies include real estate investment, guitar, five-string banjo, weight lifting, chess, ham radio, magic, dog training and karate. He is a licensed real estate broker, a magician member of the Magic Castle, a dog obedience trainer with degrees in the US and Mexico, and the highest possible amateur radio licensee.  Don lives in Los Angeles with his wife and four children.


Find him on Facebook and Twitter.


You have a lot of unique hobbies: playing the five-string banjo, dog training, karate, and magic - just to name a few. Your latest book, THE AMAZING HARVEY, is centered around a young magician accused of murder.  Tell us a little bit about your background with magic (and any stories about the Magic Castle are more than welcome), and how you chose magic as the focus of your novel. 

I’ve loved magic since I was a little kid.  My mom used to let me spend hours in the magic store in Dallas, Texas, which I always thought made her a super-mom, but in reality she used it as a free baby-sitter.  

When I turned 21, I joined the Magic Castle, a private club for magicians in Los Angeles that’s featured in The Amazing Harvey.   I was able to join as a magician member, which meant I had to pass a magic performance test, and that gave me access to their extensive library of magic books.  I started hanging around there most every night, like a puppy following some of the all-time great close-up magicians, such as Dai Vernon, Albert Grossman, and Larry Jennings.  Once they got to know me, they started sharing tricks you can’t learn from books.  In fact, I traded Larry Jennings guitar lessons for some of his tricks.  

You don’t have to study magic very long to fool laymen, so magicians take great pride in doing tricks that fool other magicians.  For example, you might bring a card to the top of the deck in a unique way.  Laymen wouldn’t notice the difference, but magicians know you didn’t do the standard move for that trick. 

I decided to write my book The Amazing Harvey about magic because magicians learn to think differently.  They see the world with an  insatiable “How do they do that?” attitude, and it occurred to me that this makes the qualities of a great detective.  So I put together my love of solving puzzles, the off-beat thinking of a magician, and my sarcastic, smart-aleck sense of humor.  The result is Harvey, a twenty-seven year old struggling magician who’s accused of a crime and has to use his magical skills to clear himself. 


You’ve watched the music industry change as a result of the Internet - something which is now happening with the publishing industry. Do you have any predictions (or suggestions) for publishers and authors dealing with the shift?  

Unfortunately, physical books will likely become like Vinyl in the music business.  Collectors love vinyl, as do kids (who think vinyl is a “new technology”),  but the vast majority of the music business is digital.  And I think the book industry will be mostly electronic as well.  However, like the music biz, the good news is that more people will have easy access to reading materials, so potentially the business will be bigger than ever. 


As an entertainment lawyer who focuses in the music business (he negotiated the record-breaking $80 million deal for R.E.M, but has handled such diverse matters as the Taylor/Burton divorce), and author of the book often called the “Bible” by industry insiders, ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE MUSIC BUSINESS, you must have hundreds of stories which would be fodder for fiction.  Will you every write a legal thriller or lawyer protagonist?

I never know where the muse will take me.  The Amazing Harvey has a female criminal lawyer as a central character, and she’ll definitely be back in future books. 


What’s coming next for you?

I’m already researching the next book, and will be writing it soon. 






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Writing ambience: Because I started writing when I had little kids, I learned to get in and out of the zone quickly, so I can write anywhere I can find a computer.

Book(s) he wishes he could read again for the first time: MARATHON MAN.

What he's reading now: HAVANA NOCTURNE (a nonfiction book about the mob in Cuba).

Outline or no outline I do a general outline, but like to be surprised.

Who he'd like to see play his protagonist(s) onscreen: Jesse Eisenberg.

Favorite online resource: Google.

Favorite independent bookstore Book Soup (both my favorite independent and local bookstore).

If he could have any superpower: Flying.

If he could invite any four people to a dinner party: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.