Wiley Saicheck talks to Lawrence Kelter, who has written a novel featuring the characters from the hit movie My Cousin Vinny. The 1993 legal comedy starred Joe Pesci, Ralph Macchio, Marisa Tomei, Mitchell Whitfield, Lane Smith, Bruce McGill, and Fred Gwynne.
How did the chance to write BACK TO BROOKLYN come about?
Lawrence Kelter: There was one specific project I always wanted to be involved in, but like the rock star dream and the Super Bowl victory, I thought it was not to be. You might think this silly or lame. And maybe it is. There was a film I enjoyed so much that every time it popped up on TV, it made me late for an appointment because I just couldn’t pull myself away. I knew the script verbatim and often incorporated the better-known lines into my everyday conversation. That movie is My Cousin Vinny.
It popped up on the tube about two years ago, and I decided to email the screenwriter/producer to tell him how much I loved his film, thinking, Hollywood screenwriter—I’m dirt beneath his boot—He’ll never reply.
But he did.
And somehow we forged a connection. Emails led to conversations. He discussed his upcoming projects with me, and I with him. One day he called up and said, “Hey, I read one of your books and you’re pretty f***king funny.”
“So how about you let me turn My Cousin Vinny into a book series?”
“Make me an offer.”
Four attorneys and fourteen months later, BACK TO BROOKLYN was delivered to Eric Campbell, publisher of Down & Out Books.
What was the most rewarding part of writing established characters like Lisa and Vincent? The most challenging part?
Lawrence Kelter: Writing BACK TO BROOKLYN was the most fun I’ve ever had sitting in front of a keyboard. I have high hopes for this book. After all, I love the characters and the backstory—not to mention the two years I have invested in the project. But where it goes from here… I’ve received a great deal of feedback from readers. Almost universally they tell me that that they can hear Lisa and Vinny in their heads playing that cat and mouse game–they visualize Marisa Tomei and Joe Pesci as they’re reading. Nothing could be more rewarding than that.
At the onset there were two big challenges that gave me pause. (1) I had to get the voices just right–my Vinny and Lisa had to sound exactly like Vinny and Lisa from the film with the same type of smart Alec rhetoric and the same colloquialisms. They had to think alike and react alike. In the words of Beechum County DA Jim Trotter III, they had to be, “IDENTICAL!” 2) The movie reveal was just so damn clever and startling that it was a real challenge to develop a plot that felt like the original but was completely different, and at the end … well, it was a serious undertaking to reveal the true villain and his MO without relying on “magic grits” and “Positraction.”
Why should fans of My Cousin Vinny read BACK TO BROOKLYN?
Lawrence Kelter: Fans of the film will instantly fall back in love with Vinny and Lisa and hopefully laugh just as hard as they did the first time they saw the film. In the words of New York Times bestselling author William Landay: “Like visiting with old friends, BACK TO BROOKLYN captures the fun and spontaneity of every lawyer’s favorite legal comedy, My Cousin Vinny. As surefooted as a ’63 Pontiac with Positraction.”Have you heard feedback on BACK TO BROOKLYN from the original movie cast?
Lawrence Kelter: Both Ralph Macchio and his wife have both read the novel and reported that they really enjoyed it. I tried to get in touch with Joe and Marisa but was unsuccessful. On a lighter note, Nelson DeMille gave his copy of the book to his mother after he read it and she reported, “Nelson, this guy knows Brooklyn a hell of a lot better than you do!”
What are you working on now? Will we see further adventures with Vinny and Lisa?
Lawrence Kelter: I’m working on four or five new books at once. OMG, it’s scary that I can’t remember how many books I’m working on. They’re all in different states of completion. Next up is (insert drumroll) the novelization of My Cousin Vinny. Why you ask? Because it’s bigger, and fresher, with additional scenes, lots of new humor, and sneak peeks into Vinny and Lisa’s history that was not revealed in the film. It’s due for release in March of next year.
About BACK TO BROOKLYN (Down & Out Books, May 2017)
“Fans of the movie will enjoy Vinny and Lisa’s further adventures.” —Publishers Weekly
Gambini is back! Hot on the heels of rescuing his cousin Bill and Bill’s friend, Stan from an Alabama electric chair, our wildly inappropriate hero, Vincent Gambini heads home to Brooklyn where he attempts to establish a successful law career. Meanwhile, Lisa aches to have a wedding band placed around her finger and her biological clock is still ticking away like mad. Vinny and Lisa have been together ten long years. She’s waited so very patiently for him to complete law school and pass the bar. Winning his first case was the last piece of the puzzle, and now nothing can stand in the way of true love, except that between them they don’t have two nickels to rub together, and Vinny is about as romantic as a box of frogs.
In the course of building his practice, Vinny is reunited with Joe, his walking, talking embarrassment of a brother, Lisa’s nudging parents, Ma and Augie, and his dear old friend Judge Henry Molloy, who refers him the mother of all capital murder cases.
Theresa Cototi is young and pretty but far from innocent, and darn her luck … her boyfriend has just been scraped off the pavement after taking a header from eight- stories up. You’d better believe she’s going to trial, charged with murder one.
Aided by Lisa and a ragtag team of misfits, Vinny defends his client against overwhelming odds. Our endearing neophyte attorney must match wits with a cunning DA and a formidable influence peddler, who appears to anticipate his every move. In the balance hangs the life of a woman he believes to be innocent. Or is she?
Yes, Vinny may have finally won his first case but his and Lisa’s story is far from over.
About the author
Lawrence Kelter never expected to be a writer. In fact, he was voted the student least likely to step foot in a library. Well, times change, and he has now authored several novels including the internationally bestselling Stephanie Chalice and Chloe Mather Thriller Series.
He’s lived in the Metro New York area most of his life and relies primarily on familiar locales for story settings. He does his best to make each novel quickly paced and crammed full of twists, turns, and laughs.
Find Lawrence Kelter online …
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Lawrence-Kelter/e/B0058Q8IIW
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/673845.Lawrence_Kelt