I confess (a bad word for defence counsel) that I had not read this fine author’s books prior to 2011. Compounding my regret, he is a fellow lawyer whose practice focused on criminal law. Lastly, my guilt was exacerbated by both of us being graduates of the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan.
Deverell, now 75, worked for several years as a journalist before attending law school in Saskatoon. While in law he was night editor for the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix newspaper. After law school he moved to Vancouver where he had a distinguished career as a member of the criminal defence bar. (It was reported he did some prosecutions.) His website said he was counsel in 1,000 cases including 30 murders. Considering the length of his career I expect he actually represented far more than 1,000 people charged with offences.
He won an Arthur Ellis Award in 1997 for Trial of Passion, the first book in the Arthur Beauchamp series. It was the first Deverell book I read and I thoroughly enjoyed the skillfully written book with absorbing courtroom scenes.
I admire his ability to create court dialogue that sparkles far brighter than real courtroom exchanges. I appreciate even more that his courtroom action follows the real rules of court. He demonstrates my belief that excellent courtroom scenes can be written within the rules.
In researching this post I learned from the author’s website that his actual home on Pender Island played a role in Trial of Passion as the fictional home to which Beauchamp has retreated to the Gulf Islands from the demands of Vancouver life.
Each of his books is rich in humour. Being funny is important to Deverell. It is a rare mystery author who has a mystery nominated for the Stephen Leacock Prize, the leading humour in fiction award in Canada.
One or more political issues appear in each book. In I’ll See You in My Dreams the issues of Indian Residential schools are a part of the plot both in the early 1960’s and 50 years later.
Asked by Canadian Living magazine how much Beauchamp resembles him, Deverell deftly replied:
I am now forced to insist with as much vehemence as I can muster that I am not an impotent alcoholic cuckold.
He is an excellent dramatist. His website says:
He wrote the screenplay Shellgame for CBC-TV drama, which served as the pilot for CBC's long-running series Street Legal, and he is the creator of that series, which has run internationally in more than 80 countries. He also authored several one-hour radio plays performed by the CBC in the Scales of Justice series and numerous film or TV scripts.
With regard to public advocacy he was a founding member of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
He has provided advice to other writers. On Allyson Latta’s blog Deverell provided 10 writing tips. I found No. 8 most interesting:
8. Roam your “wooded hills” (wherever they may be). Writing is solitary and sedentary, but that doesn’t mean a writer always has to be. In Costa Rica, Bill gets up at six every morning and takes a walk down the hill from his home to the beach and back before settling down to write. He likes to quote the German physicist Helmholtz, who said that great ideas come not at the worktable or when the mind is fatigued, but “come particularly readily during the slow ascent of wooded hills on a sunny day.
In addition to Trial of Passion and I’ll See You in My Dreams I have read Snow Job. The latest in the Beauchamp books, I’ll See You in My Dreams, was shortlisted for the 2012 Arthur Ellis Awards. Out of the trio I have read I consider I’ll See You in My Dreams the best. It is a contender for “Bill’s Best of 2012 Fiction”.
I just finished I"ll See You in My Dreams, and enjoyed it very much -- the legal and political issues, courtroom dialogue, characters -- and the wit, of course. Very funny book.ReplyDelete
The revelations about the abuse against Indigenous Canadians in Catholic and Anglicans play a big part in the book. I'm very glad that the author examined this heinous crime against Native peoples.
This book shows that mysteries can well bring out political issues, including those long suppressed -- and do it well.
I worry that one theme might aggravate the LGBT community, would like to know about that.
I'd read more of his books, but this library doesn't carry them. I just located April Fool at Abe Books, I think.
Having cut my mystery teeth as a teen-ager reading (and watching) Perry Mason in the courtroom, this has always been a favorite genre of mine. If the books are well-written, which this one certain is, then it's very enjoyable for me.
And the humor is just the icing on the cake.
And Deverell appears to be a good guy, from what I read, certainly on the side of the Native peoples.
I do like his parodying and poking fun at the legal system there and those who take themselves so seriously. He's able to do this so skillfully.
I had to laugh at the three judges in the appeal section of the book. They were caricatures of so many pompous types.
A satisfying, good book. Could not put it down and laughed out loud.
Thanks for this fascinating "confessional" post, Bill. Thanks to you I also have read Trial of Passion, and enjoyed it. In view of yours and Kathy's recommendation, I know which one to try next. I too would like to leave all the cares of regular life behind and go to live on an idyllic island away from it all, but I know that will never be, sadly.ReplyDelete
Bill - What an excellent choice! And thanks for providing all of this interesting background material about Deverell. Such a fascinating person as well as a talented author!ReplyDelete
I love the addition of humor! I will look for his books!ReplyDelete
An interesting author, whom I have heard of but did not know much about. I have not read many legal mysteries. The information is welcome and your overview is very good. I saw your list of other legal mysteries which I will look into also.ReplyDelete
Great post BillReplyDelete
I haven't read this fellow Canadian but he has done some famous work. I love his daily writing routine.ReplyDelete
kathy d.: Thanks for the comment. You have written a good review in your comment.ReplyDelete
I always think of Raymond Burr when I see mention of Perry Mason. I have not liked the casting of most American adaptations of mysteries but Raymond Burr was perfect.
Deverell has a wicked sense of humour.
Maxine: Thanks for the comment. If there be not an English isle to which you can escape maybe you can cross the ocean and Canada to the Gulf Islands.ReplyDelete
Margot: Thanks for the comment. Deverell has lived a full and interesting life.ReplyDelete
Peggy Ann: Thanks for commenting. Deverell is likely to make you laugh not just smile.ReplyDelete
TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I plan to continue adding reviews to the Legal Mystery section of the blog. I am reading more of them outside the England / Canada / U.S.ReplyDelete
Jose Ignacio: Thanks for the generous words.ReplyDelete
Clarissa: Thanks for the comment. I hope you venture to the West Coast in your reading and try Deverell.ReplyDelete
Sounds great Bill -a s this is a new author for me, can I ask my standard question - is it important to read the books in chronological order? I am unlikely to just come across these int eh UK I suspect but wanted to have your opinion. Thanks for the help and the excellent and informative post (as ever).ReplyDelete
Sergio: I do not think it is important to start at the beginning. It is useful but they can be read out of order. The last book, I'll See You in My Dreams, much of the book set 50 years ago. Going back you have some knowledge of what has already gone on personally in Arthur's life but the mystery plots are not affected going back.ReplyDelete