The Boss, your fourth novel, uses the oil industry as a background. Why did you choose this industry over others?
Stan Pottinger: Oil is a bigger addiction than crack. It's more intoxicating than alcohol and more powerful than nitro. We go to war for it, guzzle it, and make astronomical profits from it. Whenever you have this much money and power concentrated in one product, you have the perfect stage for the conflict, drama, and sex a good novel needs. We're trapped by our dependence on oil, and we'll do anything to escape it-but not every choice is right or sensible. In comes The Boss.

Now that women are making it to the top, are they just as ruthless as men?
SP: Of course-and why shouldn't they be? Some are ruthless, tough, and driven as men and some are talented, honest, and noble. Women in positions of power run the character gamut as much as men. Tacoma Reed is a beautiful, talented, and intuitive woman in ways that make her a mystery to the two men in her life. We don't know who she really is until we near the end of the book.

One of the story's main character's, Spin Patterson, is a man who seemingly has everything. In your opinion, is it possible to be financially successful in life without being corrupt?
SP: It's possible, but not easy. Success as we define it in the modern world depends on power, and as Lord Acton said, "All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." It's at the intersection of success and corruption that this novel lies. What are more important, wealth, money, and power, or honesty, integrity, and love? Everyone faces this question at some point or other, if they're lucky. It's the question that gives The Boss its drumbeat from the first page to the last.

Before you embarked on a writing career, you practiced law, arguing four cases in front of the Supreme Court. How much of your legal background do you inject into your plotlines?
SP: My experience in government, politics, and law has helped shape all my books to some extent or another. The intrigue, power struggles, and energy that reflect a lust for money and power are the common stuff of life in American cities like Houston, Washington, and New York. They and other cities of political power and commerce are the "playgrounds of the rich and powerful" in real life and in The Boss.

Black Eyes is a fictional device in The Boss that could detect oil tens of thousands of miles in the ground. Do you know if such technology exists today?
SP: It does exist-though it's not yet perfected. The book is based on real technology and science that is currently in development in one form or another. You may have recently seen a that major oil producer found a deep field in the Gulf of Mexico with the help of technology reminiscent of Black Eyes, the Deep Sonar invention used in The Boss.

Do you relate to a particular character in The Boss? Do Spin Patterson, Max McLennon or Joe Wright in any way mirror Stan Pottinger?
SP: All my characters, including female characters, are a mix of personal experience, observation, and good old fashioned imagination. So no, there is no single character that mirrors my life or experience. Like most people, I have never murdered anyone, but like most people, I've imagined it. In The Boss, much of the story is told through the eyes of Max McLennon, the young man caught in the middle, so if any character tends to see things as I do, it would probably be him more than the others. But unlike Max, I have never fallen in love with a beautiful part- Indian, part-Scottish woman, so on that score, I envy him more instead of mirroring him.

The "buried alive" scene with Max and Tacoma seems so real? How did you come to write it?
SP: When I was a prosecutor with the Justice Department, one of the enduring questions we used to kick around was one that still exists: "What happened to Jimmy Hoffa?" It raises a recurring question, which is where could you bury someone where they'd never be found? My answer to that is the scene in the book where two people are buried alive. How they try to get out of it-and how they succeed if they do-is apparently not something Hoffa experienced.

Should readers loathe or sympathize with Max McLennon's brother, Will?
SP: Will is a complex mixture of good and evil, strength and moral weakness. So our sympathies for him will vary from one moment to the next depending on what he's doing. But I think most of us will identify with his feelings of anger and hurt, either from our own experience or that of someone we know. At the end-without giving away what that is-the conflicts he feels inside himself are resolved by the choices he makes, not imposed on him from the outside. Escaping self loathing -almost regardless of how it is done-is a moral victory that's sympathetic.

Do you think we've seen the last of high-profile white-collar crimes?
SP: Not a chance. Not now, not in the future, not in America or anywhere else on the globe where humans can exploit fellow workers. In one way or another, "white collar crime" has always been with us, from the "fur collar" crime of the cave man to the "tunic collar" crime of the Roman Empire to the "church collar" crime of the middle ages to the white collar crime of Enron. Of course we'd be better off without it, but we'd probably miss it so much we'd re-invent it. It's a reflection of the real life we live, but that's the fun of reading a story like The Boss.