Why Do So Many Lawyers Write Novels?
Ever wonder why so many lawyers write novels? And very successful ones at that? Just think of John Grisham and Scott Turow, both of whom have written exciting, entertaining stories that grab hold of us until the very last page. Both men have had active legal careers in the criminal courts. Every day, they have dealt [literally] with life and death issues. Every day, they have witnessed the brutal effects of crime upon victims, families and upon the lives of the perpetrators and their families. Often crime is a matter of fiery emotion erupting into the apparent ‘normality’ of everyday life. The law tries hard and does much to maintain that ordered calm Yet, while we prize that peaceful vision, every one is tantalized by the prospect of what lies beneath it.
The eruption of its opposite fascinates us. ‘Madness’ we call it. Of course, it exists in others but never in us, so far as we are aware. Now put a lawyer into the situation where he or she is dealing with these highly emotional stakes and is at the same time is trying to maintain some sort of order. What effect does this exposure have on a human being? Of course, it can lead to burn out or the choice of another occupation.
Some lawyers harden themselves and just get on with the job and hide the effects upon themselves in some dark dungeon of the psyche. Other lawyers see this as an opportunity and undoubtedly, it fulfils a need. In fact, law practice gives him or her a wonderful window on humanity. Every day, the lawyer deals with murder, theft and fraud. He sees the worst of human nature and strives to find the best and achieve a balance. How can that lawyer not think about and comment upon that? How can she not draw conclusions from what she experiences and learns from such dramatic situations? Most of us go from day to day in the ‘normal’ tangible world, acting as if that is all that exists. We have our families, our houses and our cars. We go to the office, the mall, the movies and out to restaurants. But deep down, we recognize somewhere in us that there is much more to life and human nature than meets the eye. Every day, the newspaper tells us so.
We read that last night, a man raped an elderly woman and stole ten dollars from her purse and a mother took the life of her child. There must be a whole other dimension to life, but not ours. I like to think that there is much more to human life than meets the eye. Joseph Campbell, an author [a mythologist, not a novelist] I greatly admire said that “The latest incarnation of Oedipus, the continued romance of Beauty and the Beast, stands this afternoon on the corner of Forty-second Street and Fifth Avenue, waiting for the traffic light to change.” Oedipus? You know, the one who lent his name to the mother complex. What on earth could Campbell have meant? Simply this, that each and every one of us [whether or not we are conscious of it] is acting out all the great mythological themes and dramas in our lives. And the lawyer has a front row seat on the action. How could they not write about it? Such work is tremendously popular because we like to glimpse that side of human nature from the safety of an armchair. Now, I am just an estates lawyer. I have never had a murder or rape trial.
But, in my practice I have seen the inmost workings of families. For example, when a parent dies, I have learned that there is often far more at work than just a tidy accounting. In other cases, I have seen almost every variation upon elder abuse, whether it is physical, financial or emotional. This is just another form of murder or rape. An estate lawyer is witness to and participant in every conceivable human relationship and interaction at a highly volatile time. And so, that has been my window on the world and the inspiration for three novels: Conduct in Question, Final Paradox and A Trial of One, all part of the Osgoode Trilogy, in which I like to explore the effects of this dark side of humanity on Harry Jenkins. Who is Harry? He is an estates lawyer and the protagonist of the trilogy, in which there’s plenty of murder and fraud in estate distribution. Indeed, I’ve thrown plenty of questions at him, such as how much money is enough? Can love and forgiveness be found amid fraud and deceit and must you be selfless to be compassionate? And so, the question is really, how can a lawyer not be inspired to write especially when he or she is witness to so much of human relations?.
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