This month I’m celebrating the publication of my first book, Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Linden/Quill Driver Books), winner of the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction. Two weeks ago, I shared the backstory of how the book came about and linked to my list of Common Mistakes Writers Make About the Law, first published in The Writer in September 2013. The editors asked me for a list of favorite novels about the law, published in a sidebar. And you know what? Though I’ve read hundreds of novels since then, I don’t know that I’d change a single one.
Herewith, one lawyer-writer’s list:
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (1960) – None of us will ever be Atticus Finch, but we’re better for trying.
Snow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson (1995) – Trial and prejudice, with brilliant courtroom dialogue.
The Firm, John Grisham (1991) – A newbie with a dog named Hearsay outwits his wily bosses—what’s not to love?
Rumpole of the Bailey series, John Mortimer (1978-2009) – Taught me everything I know about the British legal system.
Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987) – The epitome of the legal thriller.
Anatomy of a Murder, Robert Traver (1958) – A classic by a Michigan judge, basis of the fine and fiery movie.
Every Secret Thing, Laura Lippman (2003) – A castoff Barbie, a missing baby, and two young girls—a heart-breaking look at juvenile justice.
If I’d Killed Him When I Met Him, Sharyn McCrumb (1995) – Domestic violence is nothing new.
The Trial, Franz Kafka (1925) – Still gives me the chills.
The Indian Lawyer, James Welch (1990) – A tale of anger and revenge, beautifully told.
Got a favorite book or movie touching on the law?