#Listen up: Brad Meltzer is neither John Grisham nor Scott Turow. Got it?

If this declaration seems a bit obvious—how could anyone confuse a 27-year-old first-time novelist with two best-selling masters of the legal thriller?—then you’ve somehow managed to miss the relentless pre-summer hypejob provided for Meltzer’s debut, The Tenth Justice.

Slick national commercials for the novel (about a greenhorn Supreme Court clerk fooled into divulging the outcome of an upcoming decision) have popped up during The X-Files and Letterman. Fox 2000 has already optioned the movie rights. And everyone from the New York Times to Vanity Fair has cranked out a glowing article about the suddenly hot lawyer-turned-writer from Chevy Chase.

And without fail, all parties involved have gone to exhausting lengths to knight Meltzer the next Grisham or Turow.

“We all know the comparisons are nonsense,” Meltzer says defensively, jumping into the question with weapons at the ready. “Every writer is different. I didn’t sit down and say, ‘OK, I want to do Grisham but new’ or ‘Turow but different.’ This is not your typical legal thriller. There is no typical happy ending. These characters are flawed. They are not superheroes.”

OK, but how will Meltzer deal with Glamour’s particularly cheesy take on the book: “If you can imagine the cast of Friends packing up its snappy dialogue and moving to Washington, D.C., you’re on the way to understanding the appeal of…The Tenth Justice.” Must-see Meltzer, huh? “Yeah,” the author sighs, no longer willing to do battle, “I have to laugh at some of the new ones they come up with.”

When Justice eventually makes the transition to the big screen, Meltzer wants to be as far away from the production as possible. “I like the novel; I don’t want to write a screenplay,” he says. “Friends have told me not to worry about it. When they call in Rick Schroder [to play the lead], that’s when you start panicking.”

—Sean Daly

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