Although the Benjamin Davis Series is sequentially numbered, the novels were not written chronologically. Third Coast is a prequel opening in 1985 with flashbacks to the life of Morty Steine in the 1930’s and World War II. First Do No Harm, centers around the Plainview cases, concerning unnecessary medical treatment and surgeries in 1991/1992 by two incompetent and unethical doctors with the cooperation of a rural hospital. Second Degree begins in 1995 with Dr. Peter Nichols hiring a young cosmetic dentist, Dr. Charles Juan Batista Garcia, who makes sexual advances to patients. In Taking the Fifth, the Davis team in 1996/1997 represent three unsuspecting women who had consensual sex with Roscoe Carmichael, who secretly videotaped their sexual encounters and suit is filed for an invasion of privacy. In Fourth of July, the latest novel in time, tells a story during 1998-2000, where a wife, daughter, and mother disappears and Davis must uncover whether she was kidnapped, or murdered, and by whom and why, or did she simply run away?
CAST OF CHARACTERS
WHO IS BENJAMIN ABRAHAM DAVIS ESQ.?
Benjamin Abraham Davis (BAD) was born on February 8, 1955, in Brooklyn, New York, the second son of Larry and Helen Davis. In 1959, the Davises moved to Woodbury, Long Island, and Larry opened his first of three dry cleaning stores. The Davis family prospered, and George and Ben grew up in a loving home. Both boys went to public schools and then graduated from George Washington University.
While the oldest son, George, went into the family business, Ben enrolled at law school and graduate business school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Shortly after Ben arrived in Nashville, he met Morty Steine and his wife Goldie, prominent members of the local Jewish community. Davis became a regular guest at their home for Sabbath dinner. Steine, a world-renowned lawyer, had made his bones during the civil rights movement and in the music industry. Steine took a liking to the young Davis and offered him a legal clerkship. At three dollars an hour, Steine would frequently remind Davis that he was overpaid.
Steine, his wife Goldie, and his legal secretary, Bella, took Davis under their wings. Davis became the son Morty and Goldie never had. More important, Steine mentored Davis professionally, teaching him how to practice law, something no law student learns in law school. Davis was a quick study, and by the time he graduated from Vanderbilt with his law degree and MBA, Davis had four years of solid work experience and took off running.
While still employed as Steine’s law clerk, Davis met and immediately fell in love with a young nurse, Liza Caldwell. After he graduated, they married and had two children, Caroline and Jake. Davis was an attentive husband and a good father, but he worked long hours and spent more time with Steine than he did with his own family.
In 1992, at the beginning of the debut novel in the series, First Do No Harm, Goldie was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer, and Steine decided to retire to devote himself to her. Steine’s retirement was Davis’s opportunity to shine—out from under the shadow of his friend and mentor. Davis, at Steine’s retirement party, first learned of Dr. Laura Patel and the Plainview malpractice cases.
Davis’s decision to accept the Plainview cases, ten medical malpractice cases against two doctors for providing unnecessary medical treatment and surgeries, proved to be the greatest life-altering decision of his life. Davis now risked everything: his career, his financial security, his safety, his family, and even his life. After Goldie’s death, Davis coaxed Morty out of retirement to help him deal with the complexity of the Plainview cases.
In Second Degree, Davis helps Dr. Peter Nichols hire and then fire a new associate who is having sexual encounters with patients in and out of the office. Davis, whose practice had been limited to civil cases, is next pressured to assume the role of prosecutor of the young doctor, who is charged with second-degree murder.
In Third Coast, a prequel, Steine is lead counsel representing Albert Wilson, his childhood friend and fellow member of the blues group, Third Coast, in a pharmacy malpractice case. During pre-trial discovery, Morty realizes that his personal friendship with Wilson was impeding his professional objectivity, and he turns over the reins to Davis. This is the first case for Davis to assume the role as lead counsel, and he shines under the guidance of his mentor who never quietly sits on the sidelines.
In Fourth of July and Taking the Fifth, Davis has become the experienced litigator who was groomed and mentored by Morty Steine. Davis is now experienced, aggressive and persuasive. Davis and Steine, who by now is semi-retired, are also mentoring Sammie to help her develop her skills as a lawyer. Because of all these persistent demands, Davis constantly struggles to manage and compartmentalize his personal life and his professional career.
WHO IS MORTY STEINE?
Born in Nashville, Tennessee, on an unusually bitter cold morning in December 1920, Morty was the only child of Deidra and Bernard Steine. He was born on his grandfather Abe’s farm, Squeeze Bottom. He was circumcised at age eight days old at the Vine Street Temple, founded by his grandfather, Abe.
Abe arrived in Nashville via New York in 1878, at the age of fourteen. He managed to purchase a horse and cart and began selling rags and other merchandise, door to door. Abe was industrious, and by 1903, he opened Steine’s Department Store at the corner of 4th and Church in downtown Nashville.
Eventually, his two sons joined him: Bernie, Morty’s father, and his uncle, David. The business prospered, and by 1917, when America entered World War I, Steine’s was the largest dry goods store in the state of Tennessee. It became a destination. Tennesseans traveled from across the state to do their Christmas shopping and find-hard-to-get items.
During the Depression, Steine’s Department Store was a vital part of Nashville, extending credit to hundreds of its families, ensuring their survival. The Steines, despite being Jewish, was accepted and respected by the greater Nashville community.
Morty grew up working in the store. Unlike his father and uncle, Morty was not a natural merchant. He was warm and friendly enough, but he would rather visit with a customer and share a good story than close the sale. Morty was a natural storyteller; he was captivating. Customers both liked and trusted him. But what Morty loved to do most was to fly his airplane. His grandfather, who spoiled Morty, for his fifteenth birthday purchased the boy a Howard DGA-3. The boy flew all the time, and to his father’s wrath, he turned his back on the family business.
During his teenage years, Morty honed his skills as a pilot under the tutelage of his friend Albert Wilson’s father who was a World War I ace... In 1939, when Germany invaded Poland, over his father’s objection but to his grandfather’s pride, Morty withdrew from Vanderbilt University and he and his friend Albert Wilson joined the Royal Air Force to fight the Nazis. Morty became a Spitfire fighter pilot. He flew courageously during the Battle of Britain and was fished out of the English Channel twice. He was awarded the Victoria Cross, which was presented to him by Prime Minister Winston Churchill himself. Quite an honor for a twenty-year-old. Morty Steine “was one of those few” who saved the British Empire, as Churchill referred to them in his memorable speech.
In September 1945, he resumed his studies at Vanderbilt and was at his grandfather’s bedside when he died, at age eighty-one. Morty always felt that the old man waited for his safe return from the war before he allowed himself to pass. With the death of his grandfather, Morty lost his protector, and his father insisted that he work part-time at the store. Morty graduated from Vanderbilt and in 1947 enrolled in Vanderbilt Law School. While working in the store, Morty met a breathtaking salesgirl, Goldie Rose. It was love at first sight. The next year they married, and the year after that Morty hung out his shingle and began practicing law.
Morty grew up color blind. As a Jew, Morty always hated prejudice. He had spent six years of his life fighting the Nazis. But when he came home, the Jim Crow laws offended him. Even his beloved Steine’s Department Store had separate bathrooms and water fountains. Together with his new bride, Goldie, he took on the system and tried to change it.
As a civil rights leader, Morty met some very brave people and also some cowards. The courageous marched and were arrested, while the cowards wore hoods. Morty was constantly threatened in person and by mail. Morty never claimed he was non-violent. One night, three hooded strangers jumped him outside his law office. He put two of the men in the hospital and made no apologies for doing so. He eventually worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Thurgood Marshall. The three men became lifelong friends. Unfortunately, Dr. King’s life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet in 1968. Marshall, former General Counsel of the NAACP, served twenty-four years on the United States Supreme Court and helped change the system.
During his career, Morty handled many high-profile cases. He was even named a special prosecutor in the murder of his dear friend Peter Nichols. But Morty made his mark in the music industry. He represented songwriters and performers, such as Dolly, Willie, Waylon, Kris, and Johnny, and helped them form their own publishing companies to secure independence from the big record labels and obtain financial security. Miss Dolly dedicated the song “I Will Always Love You” to Morty.
Professionally, Morty traveled solo, except for his trusted secretary, Bella Rosario. In 1975, that tradition was broken when he hired Benjamin Davis, a first-year law student. Morty saw something in the kid, and as usual, he was right. He taught and mentored Davis, not only imparting his knowledge of the law, but also his unique skills as a trial attorney. Davis became the son Morty and his wife, Goldie, never had. The Benjamin Davis Book Series, including the debut novel, First Do No Harm, recounts the exploits of Davis and his teacher and beloved friend Morty.
Morty is a wise chess master thinking ten moves ahead. He can see a situation develop before anyone else does. With that skill, Morty guides Davis but also lets him make mistakes, so he can learn. These two men have a unique and loving relationship, and together they fight for justice that their clients deserve.
WHO IS SAMMIE DAVIS?
Sammie Davis is the daughter of George Davis, the older brother of Ben Davis. When she was five years old, her parents divorced, and at age eight Sammie moved from Miami, Florida, where she’d been living with her mother to Long Island to live with her grandparents. She was an only child, and her mother, Melissa, went through a series of boyfriends but never remarried. Melissa was a lifelong Rat Pack fan, and because she had a twisted sense of humor, she named Sammie after Sammie Davis Jr.
Her mother wanted some freedom, so every summer she sent Sammie to live with her father, George. In actuality she spent those summers at the home of her grandparents, Larry and Helen. At age eight she permanently went to live with the Davis’s. Sammie’s grandmother was happy to point out, to anyone who would listen, that Sammie was a beautiful child. But as she grew older and went through puberty, it became apparent to everyone with eyes that she was a breathtaking young woman.
By the time she left home for the University of Florida at age eighteen, she was over 5’10’’ in her bare feet. Her once boyish body had transformed, and she had piercing blue eyes, only one of her many features that attracted men. Sammie was always the most beautiful woman in the room.
In college, Sammie majored in having fun, and she got straight A’s. When she graduated four years later, she had her looks but no skills. That was when her grandfather, Larry, stepped in. He insisted that she learn a trade. After much debate and a few tears, Sammie enrolled in a paralegal program in Jacksonville, Florida. To everyone’s surprise, she applied herself and graduated from the program with honors.
At twenty-four, Sammie had her looks and some new skills, but no job. It was at this point that her grandmother, Helen, came to the rescue. With the determination of a Jewish mother, Helen forced her son Benjamin to hire his niece, Sammie, even though it was against his better judgment. There is nothing more powerful than a Jewish mother’s guilt.
In April 1992, a few weeks before Morty Steine’s retirement, Sammie arrived in Nashville and joined her uncle’s law firm as a paralegal. Morty graciously offered her residence in the ninth-floor loft above the office.
Davis initially resented his niece and the fact that he was forced to hire her. But with time and the guidance of Morty, he learned to appreciate her. She had the same drive and tenacity that Davis employed. She became a valuable member of the Davis team, and she was thrown headfirst into the Plainview cases.
In Second Degree, Fourth of July and Taking the Fifth Sammie evolves from paralegal to law student to law partner and becomes a more and more important member of the Davis team. Steine and Davis constantly challenge Sammie as she rises to each occasion. Although neither Steine nor Davis would admit it to her face, Sammie has the potential of being a better lawyer than either of them.
WHO IS BELLA ROSARIO?
Bella Rosario was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1932. In 1953 she married Anthony Rosario and gave birth to Tony Jr. and Angela. In 1959, Bella went to work for Morty Steine as his legal assistant, where she remained through the end of Fourth of July in 2000.
Davis joined the firm as a law clerk in 1975. Bella immediately took him under her wing and taught him the inside workings of the law office. During her 41 years with the firm, Bella became the heart and sole of the office. She is responsible for preparing all documents drafted by either Steine or Davis, who unlike the younger Sammie, do not use a computer or typewriter. She is responsible for paying all firm expenses, collecting all accounts receivables and maintaining books and records so the accountant can prepare the firm’s taxes. Nothing goes on at Steine & Davis without Bella.
Her husband, now with the help of his two children run Rosario’s Italian Specialty Market and Bakery. Each morning she brings to the office delicious pastries baked by Tony Jr.
Bella is both wise and warm, and the clients love her. She’s a big woman, with a motherly appearance and when she wraps her arms around you, you feel nothing short of safe.