Smile Politely

It’s a big, dark world

Money-hungry sharks. Ambulance chasers. Shifty opportunists. Greasy weasels. You know: lawyers. The good news is that these are, of course, stereotypes. I happen to know several good attorneys (shout out to Chapin and Long). Even better news is that local attorney Scott A. Lerner (pictured, left) also seems to be a goodie, because he has released Ruler of Demons, a sequel to his previous paranormal suspense thriller, Cocaine Zombies.

The back-jacket synopsis of Ruler of Demons is as follows:

Only eleven shopping days till Christmas. And less than a week to save the world. Three nuns—in Chicago, Paris, and Jerusalem—have been killed in a religious ritual. The choice of victims and the macabre details of their deaths indicate that someone is following a recipe provided on an ancient text—a recipe to unleash the forces of hell on earth. The final sacrifice must occur on the Winter Solstice. Samuel Roberts, a small-town attorney in Urbana, Illinois, knows a bit about the supernatural, having triumphed at least once over the forces of evil. Thanks to a friend who is aware of Sam’s little known previous efforts on behalf of mankind, Sam is hired by a big Chicago law firm to take on a sensitive case. His mission? Nothing less than halting the impending apocalypse. Sam and his good buddy Bob travel first to Jerusalem then Paris in a desperate race to save mankind. Ruler of Demons is the sequel to Cocaine Zombies, which won a Bronze medal in the 2012 IPPY Awards.

The protagonist, Sam, is a reluctant hero who, despite himself and his instincts, often manages to do the right thing. Sam is an idiosyncratic fellow who has a healthy appreciation for women, but also has no problems lying to them. Similarly, he revels in gluttony, but avoids smoking or doing drugs of any kind. This is a man who is very selective about his poisons. Sam’s skepticism and curiosity (such as researching where the expression “I’ll be there with bells on” comes from) make the books fun.

Like author Lerner, Sam is a lawyer who practices in Champaign-Urbana. As a townie myself, I delighted in his references to the local restaurants and stores, even if they were thinly disguised by other names. Some that stand out are “Golden River” instead of Silvercreek and “Elly May’s” instead of Merry Ann’s. As I read, it became a game for me to see if I could decipher the real-life name of the place that fictional Sam was visiting. However, Lerner provides enough dead-on description that someone unfamiliar with the area would still get a feeling for each of the locales Sam visits.

In this adventure, Sam’s friend from law school, Fred, contacts him to consult on a case. Fred works at a fancy law firm located on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, and Sam is hesitant to get involved. Readers of Cocaine Zombies will remember Fred’s assistance to Sam, and he uses this opportunity to call in favors from Sam to get him to come to Chicago. This time, Sam must travel to Israel and Paris to get to the bottom of the case. The fast-paced story makes this an easy, enjoyable read, with just enough twists to keep the reader from getting bored or being able to predict the resolution.

The book is published by Camel Press, a small company based in Seattle. I was surprised to find that Ruler of Demons was not self-published, because there were some spelling errors that the English teacher in me couldn’t miss. Complaining about spelling errors may seem petty, but I firmly believe that a person paying $14 for a paperback deserves to have a quality product. In addition, the typesetting was very distracting, with some words spaced out across lines, and others with words jammed in. The inconsistency made for a jarring reading experience. Another facet of the book is the extremely short chapters. Is it necessary for a 200-page book to have 44 chapters? The break from one chapter to the next is unnecessary in most cases.

That said, both of Lerner’s books are entertaining. The main characters are likable—or at least become so after a while. As Sam tells us in the beginning of Ruler of Demons, “Terrible things are all around us.” Lucky for us, this book isn’t one of them.

If you’re intrigued or would simply like to know a little more about Mr. Lerner and his books, his website and blog can be found at

More Articles