About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Questions and Answers with Gail Bowen

Former university English professor, Gail Bowen, is one of my favourite authors. Her mysteries set in Saskatchewan featuring Joanne Kilbourn are consistently excellent. Recently I sent her five questions and she provided great replies. The questions and answers are:

1.) As a Saskatchewan lawyer in his late 50’s whose practice includes litigation I was excited when Zack Shreeve, a Saskatchewan litigator in his 50’s became an important character. Why did you add a lawyer to the series?

Zack Shreve was introduced in The Last Good Day.  The inspiration for the group of lawyers who form the law firm Falconer Shreve Altieri Wainberg and Hynd was a chance comment from a friend of mine who studied law here in Saskatchewan and is now a judge.  My friend said that when she was in first year law, the students knew at the end of the first six weeks who was going to be significant and who wasn’t.
I found the assessment a little chilling, but also fascinating. So in The Last Good Day, we meet ‘The Winners’ Circle’, five lawyers who 25 years earlier had come together because they realized they were the best and brightest in their class. After graduation, they became law partners, and professionally they have been extremely successful.  Their personal lives have been less successful and that, of course, is what draws me to them as characters.

In The Last Good Day one of the partners commits suicide. In his determination to find out why, Zack appears as a somewhat menacing, controlling character. He’s a brilliant but ruthless litigator and privately he lives on the edge. He’s fond of liquor, three-day poker games, women and fast cars.  He and Joanne Kilbourn, my protagonist, are as different as two people can be and yet, in a curious way, each completes the other.  They becomes lovers and within six months of their first meeting, they’re married.  As Joanne says, their marriage is not an easy one but it is a good one.

2.) Was there an inspiration for making the lawyer disabled? I do not know any Saskatchewan litigators who are paraplegic.

Zack is a paraplegic.  I modeled him in some ways after Charles Ruff, the paraplegic lawyer who defended Bill Clinton in his impeachment trial. He was brilliant, and the President was acquitted.  During the impeachment hearings, I’d been struck by Ruff’s eloquence and his ability to present a complex argument in terms that a layperson could understand and respond to.  I’d also been struck by his statement that he’d chosen the law because ‘it was a sedentary profession’.  Unlike Zack, Charles Ruff was self-effacing, but if you watched him closely you could see that he had a pretty healthy ego – a prerequisite, I understand, for any trial lawyer.

3.) While I have the occasional comment about how you portray court proceedings I have been impressed by your legal knowledge. Do you sit in on trials?

I’ve sat in on a couple of trials, but I have two close friends who are judges and I know a number of lawyers.  They all like to talk about the law and they all have war stories – although the judges’ war stories are all about their days as lawyers.  I like to listen. I’m also grateful to the lawyers who check out ‘the law’ in my books.  Truly this is a case where the errata are my own.  They give me good advice, and occasionally I ignore it.  Writers of fiction are mercifully freed from some constraints.  As Peter Robinson says, ‘never let the truth get in the way of a good story.’

4.) Every lawyer loves to talk about their successful cases. At the same time no one wins them all except in fiction. Can you see yourself writing about Zack losing a major case?

I think it would be good for Zack to lose a big case, especially if the case was one readers really wanted him to win and felt he deserved to win.  Any suggestions? (I am taking up the challenge and will be providing suggestions and posting them next week.)

5.) When you write about a case in the series do you adapt an existing case in the manner of many episodes in The Law and Order television series or are the cases original to you?

Because my books are driven by character, the cases are original.  For my purposes, the case has to ‘fit’ the character.  The crime has to grow out of what a particular person is and what combination of circumstance and character flaw might drive him or her to commit murder.  I can’t cite any specifics without a ‘spoiler alert’ for people who haven’t read the books, so I’ll just have to let people who have read the Joanne Kilbourn Shreve series cast their minds back.


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