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, March 1, 2013

Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

Even prior to reading To Kill a Mockingbird I had been aware last year of the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. After reading the book I looked up more information online about the Prize.

The Prize is awarded through the School of Law at the University of Alabama. The origins of the Prize were set out by the University in 2010:

To honor the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, The University of Alabama School of Law and the American Bar Association Journal partnered to create The Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. The Prize, authorized by Harper Lee, author and former Alabama law student, was announced in conjunction with Attorney General Eric Holder’s remarks on the book at Alabama in October 2010. The Prize honors Lee for the role model she created for the legal profession and for the extraordinary cultural phenomenon that her novel has become.

The role model is Atticus Finch who makes me proud to be a small town lawyer.

The current site sets out the criteria for entries from 2012:

In the spirit of Atticus Finch, the prize is awarded annually to a published work of fiction that best illuminates the role of lawyers or the legal system in society.

The work must be:
• a published book-length work of fiction
• published originally in 2012
• readily available to readers via commercial sources (retail or online bookstores
such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or iTunes)
• an electronically-published work with an ISBN may be submitted but unpublished manuscripts may not.

In June the shortlist of 3 books will be released and the winning entry will be announced this summer.

More than just glory accompanies the Prize:

The winner will be:

• announced on the ABA Journal and Harper Lee Prize websites
• honored at the Harper Lee Prize award ceremony, held in conjunction with the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. on September 19, 2013
• entitled to paid airfare for two and hotel accommodations during the National Book Festival
• given a copy of the 50th Anniversary Edition of To Kill a Mockingbird signed by Harper Lee
• entitled to use the Harper Lee Prize logo on the cover of the winning book
• entitled to identify the book as the Prize winner in other promotional materials.
In addition:
• an excerpt from the winning book may be published in the ABA Journal.
• the book may be sold on the ABABooks.com website if it is selected as a finalist or winner.
The 2012 shortlist for books published in 2011 was set out in the ABA Journal:

Those up for the prize this year are: Michael Connelly, author of The Fifth Witness; Robert Dugoni for his book Murder One; and David Ellis for Breach of Trust.

I am glad to have read The Fifth Witness but regret not even hearing of the other two books. Michael Connelly was the winner. I was interested to read that a poll of ABA Journal readers picked Murder One ahead of The Fifth Witness.

In 2011 the finalists were The Confession by John Grisham, Fatal Convictions by Randy Singer and The Reversal by Michael Connelly. The winner was John Grisham.

I consider The Confession one of Grisham’s most powerful books. Its exploration of the application of the death penalty in contemporary America will challenge every reader.

Based on the first two winners being two of the top three writers of American legal fiction I would expect that the winner in 2013 would be Scott Turow, the third member of the group, if he had published a book in 2012. Since he did not publish a book I hope that the selection committee will chose a writer other than Grisham.                                  


  1. I love legal thrillers, have ever since I cut my crime fiction teeth on Perry Mason mysteries as a teen-ager and my family watched the TV series together.

    I'll put Murder One on my TBR list.

    I didn't really pay attention to The Confession, as I've read so many books by John Grisham and was growing a bit weary of them. However, my anti-death penalty viewpoint was strengthened when I read his informative and painful book The Chamber.

  2. Bill - Thanks for sharing that information with us about the Harper Lee prize. I think it's a very fitting kind of award and I'm glad it's been set up. It will be very interesting to see who the shortlisted 2013 candidates will be.

  3. I might just read The Confession. When I saw Dead Man Walking my entire opinion of the death penalty was changed. I was ambivalent about it -- in some cases I thought it was a good idea. Now I think it should be completely abolished nationwide.

    I never thought of Connelly's books as legal fiction. But I guess with this new Lincoln Lawyer series he's changed his focus.

  4. Bill, thanks for writing about the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. Legal thrillers can engage a reader all the way to the end and given the suspense and excitement of fictional court trials, I am surprised there aren't really many authors who write these books. One keeps hearing of a handful of well-known authors that you mentioned.

  5. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. I also remember the T.V. series. What lawyer could not wish he was Raymond Burr with the great voice, piercing eyes and powerful presence in the courtroom.

    I suggest you read The Confession. Its portrayal of prosecutorial vengeance rather than presenting the evidence shows what is wrong when prosecutors are designated or chose to be advocates for finding accused guilty.

  6. Margot: Thanks for the comment. With a book of legal fiction published annually I will be surprised if Grisham's book, The Racketeer, is not on the list.

  7. John: Thanks for commenting. I hope you read The Confession. I think Canada is a better place for abolishing the death penalty almost 50 years ago.

    Connelly has created a very interesting lawyer in Mickey Haller. I like the books best which do not combine Haller and Harry Bosch.

  8. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. I agree that court cases have an inherent tension that works well in crime fiction. I expect there are not more writers of legal fiction because it is not easy to be accurate and credible in describing what happens in the courtroom unless you are a lawyer.

  9. Hi Bill! Verry interesting blog! I found it while researching for my final essay (I'm a graduate translation student from Montreal. I'm looking to translate a canadian author of legal fiction. Ideally, I was looking for short stories. Would you have any recommandations? I want the legal side of the story to be really authentic. Thank you :)