You can’t write a great mystery story if you don’t know the law. Editors may reject your story for even the smallest inaccuracies. You can create a diabolical victim — but is he really committing a crime? You can create an intrepid hero — but is she acting beyond her legal authority? Your murderer kills to win a sizeable inheritance — but do you really know how wills work? Your best story can be ruined by an elementary mistake in legal procedure.
Written by a lawyer who is also a mystery writer, Books, Crooks and Counselors is an easy-to-use writer’s reference to legal terminology, procedure, and concepts – and how to use credible legal situations to create fiction that is crackling with real-world tension and detail. Books, Crooks and Counselors is the winner of the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction, and is nominated for the 2012 Anthony and Macavity awards.
Using examples from actual cases, as well as from fiction, movies, and TV, Books, Crooks and Counselors answers real writers’ questions on more than 160 separate topics of criminal and civil law.
Written with a lawyer’s in-depth knowledge and a writer’s intuition of human conflict, Books, Crooks and Counselors teaches writers both what the law is and how to use it to create innovative plots, strong conflicts, authentic characters, gritty realism, and stories that come alive.
For more on the book, and an excerpt, visit Leslie’s website, LawandFiction.
Nothing on this site is intended as legal advice, and should not be relied on in handling “real world” legal problems. No attorney-client relationship is formed through use of this site. All information provided is intended solely for use by writers devising fictional plots.
Keep in mind that because laws and procedures vary widely and sometimes change, you should check the status of any law that affects key elements of your story.
Leslie — Does your book address issues involved with wills, e.g., can a will take effect as soon as the writer is dead?
In my second book, I have an estranged (from his daughter) father die, and the following day, the daughter (visiting NC from Maryland) is murdered. (Both in North Carolina.) Assuming the daughter’s partner is named in her will, would she inherit from the dead man? And would she need to come to North Carolina from Maryland (and find a local lawyer) to gain access to the bank account now twice removed from her partner’s father?
Thanks, John (Guppy and follower of your Guppy posts)
John, there is a chapter on wills and estates, and a section addressing survival clauses, e.g., a clause in the will or a provision in state law that says beneficiaries must survive the decedent for a specified period before inheriting. if such a law applies to the father’s will, under NC law, then the daughter might not inherit. Her will — if I understand your scenario correctly — would be probated under MD law. The partner would not necessarily have to go to NC, but she could, and she certainly would want a local lawyer to fight for her rights. The father’s executor (aka administrator or PR, for personal representative — terms vary by state) is a key player, too — and the book discusses the PR’s role as well. The PR has a lot of discretion and if it’s, for ex., another child who resents the dead woman or doesn’t want the partner to get dad’s money, there’s more potential conflict. Bad for the family, good for story!