Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Burt Weissbourd Interview - Rough Justice

Photo Content from Burt Weissbourd

Burt Weissbourd is a novelist, screenwriter, and producer of feature films whose novels include Danger in Plain Sight and Rough Justice, the first two Callie James/Cash Logan novels; the Corey Logan trilogy (Inside Passage, Teaser, and Minos); and In Velvet, a thriller set in Yellowstone National Park. Weissbourd grew up in Chicago and graduated cum laude from Yale University, with honors in psychology. During his student years, he volunteered at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris and taught English to college students in Thailand. 

After he graduated, he wrote, directed, and produced educational films, then began a finance program at the Northwestern University Graduate School of Business, which he left to start his own film production company in Los Angeles. From 1977 until 1986, he developed screenplays with actors such as Robert Redford, Lily Tomlin, Goldie Hawn, and Sally Field, and produced films including Ghost Story, based on the novel by Peter Straub and starring Fred Astaire, and Raggedy Man, starring Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard. He’s a voting member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. In 1987, he founded an investment business, which he still runs. An avid fly fisherman, Weissbourd has lived in Los Angeles; Bainbridge Island, WA; Seattle; and New York City. He currently lives on Long Island with his wife, Dorothy, and has three adult children and two grandsons.


When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I came to Hollywood in 1977 to produce feature films. I was 28 years old, I didn’t know anyone in the movie business, but I’d stumbled onto a timely idea — I was going to work with, and most importantly, back screenwriters. I worked with writers whose work grabbed viewers viscerally, not with explosions but with multi-dimensional characters that would draw you into a deeply moving story. I spent countless hours working out the stories and shaping the people in them. I worked with the following screenwriters, with some of their most famous works noted in parentheses: Frederick Raphael (“Two for the Road”), Alvin Sargent (“Ordinary People”, “Julia”), Andy Lewis (“Klute”), Joe Esterhas (”Basic Instinct”), Ron Bass (“Rain Man”), Stewart Stern (“Rebel Without a Cause”). William Wittliff (“Lonesome Dove,” Raggedy Man”), Larry D. Cohen (“Carrie,” “Ghost Story”), etc. (These writer’s film credits are for identification purposes. Excepting “Raggedy Man” and “Ghost Story,” I did not work on these films.) Working closely with these great screenwriters was a rare opportunity to learn how to create complicated characters and to see how these complex people enriched storytelling.

What I discovered, unexpectedly, was that most of these great screenwriters came back to work with me again. I was adding value in helping them develop plot and characters. That’s how I learned that I could write, and soon after, I realized that I loved writing.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I gave an early draft of Inside Passage to a psychiatrist friend who was in a writing group with me at the NYC YMCA. I was touched and honored that she asked if she could give the passage about Abe’s personal experience in therapy to her patients.

The passage read, in part:
“At first, you work to understand why you feel what you feel. There’s lots of talking about that. Then there’s one failure after another. It’s discouraging. But you just keep after it. The fear is still there, and it’s real, but at some point, you’re ready to take a chance again, try a worrisome thing. And little by little you begin to do things you thought you could never do. There are lots of setbacks, but when that happens, you talk about what’s holding you back and how you could handle it differently, and eventually you try it again… And then sometime later, you begin to see how you’ve grown stronger. It’s incremental change, baby steps, but the time comes when you know you can do hard things, even if you make mistakes….”

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
My 99 year old mother was dying while I was writing ROUGH JUSTICE. I spent a lot of time talking with her, visiting her in Chicago, and just thinking about her life and her choices. She died on Oct. 12, 2022. The book was released on Oct.11, 2022.

What chapter was the most memorable to write and why?
The most memorable chapter to write was Chapter Three. The chapter begins with Callie and Cash in their restaurant at their favorite table upstairs in the far corner of the bar. It’s a late, leisurely dinner, after 11:00 pm, and they’re enjoying their meal and the company. Will, Callie’s maĆ®tre d’ comes up to their table and says “Sorry to bother you, but Cash, there’s a young woman downstairs who insists that she has to talk with you. She says you don’t know her, but yes, you’ll want to hear her story, and it won’t wait.”

The woman, Sara, tells a remarkable story beginning with how she grew up in a primitive French orphanage, escaped at ten, eventually found her mother. She lived with her mother on a boat in the Southern Mediterranean until she died. Six years later, after years of work, she got a job and a visa to come to Seattle. Ten days ago she arrived in Seattle. A woman picked her up at the airport to take her on a boat in the San Juan Islands to bring her to her new job at the Pacific Trading Company. She stopped at an isolated inlet to look at the stars and tried to kill her with a blackjack. Sara, an accomplished fighter and diver, drowned her attacker underwater.

She hid on an uninhabited island for four days and decided what to do. She knew no one in Seattle. Before her mother died, she gave her a letter from the young man who got her pregnant. At their table in Callie’s restaurant, Le Cochon Bronze, Sara announces, “The letter was from you, Cash Logan. You are my father.”

Can you tell us when you started ROUGH JUSTICE, how that came about?
I first started the original version of Rough Justice in 1989. It was my first try at writing a book and it was way too ambitious for a beginning writer. I finished a version, nothing like the book I finally published, and put it aside. I never submitted it to publishers.

When I started writing the sequel to Danger in Plain Sight, I realized that Sara, who appeared in the original 1989 book, with her early history and her subsequent development, would be the ideal unknown daughter for Cash. I also thought that Rosie and Yu, who originally appeared in the 1989 version, could be further developed for the antagonists in the new version. Everyone else in the current Rough Justice was either from Cash and Callie’s crew in Danger in Plain Sight or new people from Miami, Haiti, and a host of others in Cuba. I never regretted using those elements from the 1989 version. Sara takes over in the new version and Rosie and Yu are formidable. I couldn’t be happier with the new book, and I was thrilled to be able to use those characters that I’d lived with for so long.

Greatest thing you learned at school.
In 1969 and 1970, at Yale, I created tutorials with three prominent professors. These three men had an enormous impact on how I think about understanding complicated behavior, personal change, and changes in the culture. All three of them wanted to know what young people were experiencing, how we were changing, where we were going during this transitional time, and I still recall our conversations vividly as I’m writing my books.

1. Robert Jay Lifton, psychoanalyst, psychiatrist, and author of many important books, including The Nazi Doctors (1986), Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism (1961), The Protean Self: Human Resilience in an Age of Fragmentation (1995), Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (1967). For over two years, we met together regularly to discuss and analyze what was happening in contemporary American culture, and how was it changing during the late 1960s, particularly among young people.

2. Kenneth Keniston, psychologist and author of The Uncommitted: Alienated Youth in American Society (1965), and the companion book, Young Radicals: Notes on Committed Youth (1968). He had a profound cultural impact on the 1960s and 1970s

3. Kai Erikson, sociologist, chair of the American Studies Program at Yale, and author Wayward Puritans: A Study in the Sociology of Deviance (1966), and many other books.

Favorite scenes from Rough Justice
PAGE 26-27
“You scared?"... Susie circled, slapping the blackjack...She was a predator stalking her prey.

"What do you want from me? I don't have money.” Sara was buying time. Backing toward the edge of the deck. She felt the adrenaline starting, then the familiar physical rhythms that went with responding

to pain, danger.

“You've done your bit, honey.” Susie nodded, then she moved closer, swinging the blackjack at Sara's face. Sara jumped away, and timing it perfectly, grabbed the swinging arm with both hands, accelerating Susie's momentum. Holding tightly, she leapt backward with all of her strength, pulling both of them into the icy water.

As a diver, Sara was no stranger to cold water, and she didn’t panic.

Sara guessed that the water was maybe sixty degrees. She knew that cold water was her ally, her edge on this killer. Susie was thrashing, swinging her blackjack at Sara. In the water, staying away from the weapon was no problem. Sara tread water, moving just far enough away to tire Susie out. Still, Susie was a strong swimmer and clearly dangerous. Sara was starting to feel the throbbing pain in her shoulder grow stronger. She realized that she’d have to take her best shot, soon.

Suzie's voice was deep, masculine now, "Ready to die...bitch?" She swam toward Sara. That's when Sara took a deep diver's breath and disappeared under the water. She surfaced behind Susie, grabbed her hair with her good arm and, after taking another deep breath, Sara dove, pulling Susie under. Sara's kick was strong, and she pulled Susie down with her. The water was colder than any Sara had dived in without a wetsuit. Susie panicked as soon as she was pulled under the cold water.

She flailed at Sara, losing the blackjack, unable to hit the strong swimmer that was relentlessly pulling her down, backward. Sara could hold her breath for almost two minutes, but she only needed forty-five seconds.

Before drowning, Susie swallowed a great deal of water.

PAGE 33-34
“Six years later, I spoke four languages, knew I wanted to immigrate to America, and against all odds, I got my visa. I’ll tell the visa story later-I know you'll want to hear it. For now, suffice it to say that a woman met me at the Seattle airport when I arrived, ten days ago. She took me to the San Juan Islands on a boat. We were going to my new job at the Pacific Trading Company. We stopped in an isolated inlet to look at the stars. She came from behind me and tried to kill me with a blackjack. I'm agile. I sensed her coming and swerved. She missed my head and hit my shoulder. I grabbed her arm, and I was able to pull her into the icy water. Because of my time diving in the cold Mediterranean with my mother, I was able to dive under and come up behind her. I pulled her by her hair deep underwater. I can hold my breath for two minutes underwater, and I drowned her. Later, I put her in the boat, set fire to the boat and blew it up."

Cash just looked at her, plainly unsettled, disconcerted. Callie held her hands tightly clasped on her lap.

PAGE 228
Alvaro led Sara by the hand to the dance area. He took her in his hands, and moved her gently, gracefully around the dance floor- Alvaro, a superb dancer, led masterfully, moving her beautifully in sync, forward step together, back step together, forward step together. One, two, three, hold four...five, six, seven, hold eight. There was an intuitive connection, a series of swirls, sidestepping, general walking away then effortlessly coming together...then something magical happened... Sara flew through the air as he swung her in a circle, holding only her wrists and hands. She landed gracefully leaning backward, her head almost touching the floor as Alvaro held her waist, spinning her in yet another circle, and then she was in the air again. The crowd went wild, crazy, as she flew down lightly into his arms.

PAGE 229
Cash laughed. "Okay. It's bedtime.” He stood, hugged Andre, Itzac, then Alvaro. Finally, he took Sara in his arms. She put her arms around him and started to cry.

She stepped back, wiped away her tears. "Dad, I hope it's okay when I cry. I'm doing that a lot around you. Honestly, it's good for me."

Cash turned toward her, with a warm smile. Callie came and put one arm around each of them.

What is the first job you have had?
1971 - 1974: Journal Films, Gilbert Altschul Productions - wrote, produced, directed, and edited educational films including:

"What's so Important About a Wheel?"

"The Right to Know - the Freedom of Information Act"

"Food Labeling"

What was your favorite subject when you were in school and why?
Psychology (as studied above). It helped me think about the culture and how it was changing and helped me think about myself, who I wanted to be, how I wanted to live and so on.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
When I first met Dorothy, who became my wife. Our first date was at the Oyster Bar Saloon in Grand Central Station. For me, it was love at first sight and it just got better from there.

What is your greatest adventure?
When I was nineteen, I took a year off, away from Yale. I volunteered at the Museum of Modern Art, Paris, France. It was just after May 1968 in Paris, and the museum had a new section—Animation, Research, and Confrontation. I got to know many French and Spanish artists, becoming friends and living with an artist. They were all interested in Happenings, new kinds of directions in art, experimental events, and art as political expression. I participated in some of these activities. I was involved in animated, formative conversations about redefining art, what it was, what it should be doing. It certainly reshaped my own thinking, influenced my own sensibilities during this exciting time. I’m still in touch with many of them, some of whom became celebrated artists.

My roommate from Yale, who was away on Yale’s experimental five-year BA program, invited me to spend the summer with him in Thailand and travel in Southeast Asia. He got me a job teaching at this new college in Thailand. They had a fancy curriculum, but the students didn’t speak English well and my Thai was very weak. My task was to teach them English. I soon saw that they listened to popular western music, like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. I ended up teaching them the words from those songs. It was not uncommon for me to come into town and run into some of my students, who liked to break into singing me those songs.

My friend, Brad, was fluent in Thai and a gifted linguist. That gave us access to places we probably shouldn’t have gone. We traveled to Laos and Cambodia. This was a dangerous time; the Vietnam war was very present. We were in Angkor Wat in Cambodia, when we were the only people there because of the war.

For fans of Scott Turow, Lee Child, and Raymond Chandler.

Callie and Cash are back!

“When you get out of jail, don’t ever come back here.”

Callie James thought those were the last words she’d ever speak to Cash Logan. Two years later, in Danger in Plain Sight, Callie and Cash become an improbable team taking on lethal adversaries.

Now, in Rough Justice, Callie and Cash are back, and their world is about to explode.

It’s been a year since they saved her ex-husband’s life and faced unexpected, terrifying adversaries. During that process—confronting kidnapping, murder and the destruction of her restaurant—they came together, and against all odds, fell passionately in love.

The smooth sailing abruptly ends when Sara, a twenty-five-year-old, half-Algerian woman, unexpectedly shows up at the restaurant and insists on telling them her shocking, unbelievable story. Someone has stolen her identity, and they’re trying to kill her. Sara needs their help now, and she has a stunning, life-changing secret to tell.

Again, Cash and Callie assemble their unconventional ragtag family—including peg-legged Andre, and Itzac, “the Macher.” Together, they go to war with formidable adversaries to save Sara and ultimately their own lives. The fierce global battle leads them to Cuba, where they launch an audacious offensive that shocks even them…and will absolutely take your breath away.

With Rough Justice, Burt Weissbourd elevates not only his deeply rich and complex characters, but the entire thriller genre.

You can purchase Rough Justice at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you BURT WEISSBOURD for making this giveaway possible.
Winner will receive a Copy of Rough Justice by Burt Weissbourd.


  1. My family used to go to this park called Rocky Glen

  2. This looks like a fantastic novel I will like

  3. I loved hanging out with my cousins at the beach every summer.