Saturday 25 April 2009

Writers From The Legal Profession

When I read about western writer Walt Masterson studying law I began to think about others who had a background in British law who wrote fiction.
One of the best when I was young was Michael Gilbert. He wrote crime fiction an area that is favoured by most solicitor/writers. He is, probably, remembered for his novel 'Death In Captivity' a murder mystery set in an Italian P.O.W camp where the British prisoners are planning an escape. This was filmed with Richard Todd as 'Danger Within'.
Michael Gilbert used to write his stories in long hand while commuting on the train to London.
One of his 'big' clients was the writer Raymond Chandler who's will he drafted.

It is not just solicitors who write fiction - a High Court judge by the name of Henry Leon made his name writing fiction about the British legal system with great humour and unpredictable twists in the plot. Using his second christian name as a surname Henry Cecil wrote many books amongst which was the 1955 novel 'Brothers In Law' which was filmed in 1957 and, later, turned into a TV and radio series with Richard Briers.

In modern times one successful solicitor/author is the creator of the Helen West and Sarah Fortune series of novels, Frances Fyfield. Although born in Derbyshire she practises law in London. To date she has been awarded the Duncan Lawrie Dagger in 2008 for her novel 'Blood From Stone' and a Silver Dagger for 'Deep Sleep'. Her Helen West story 'Trial By Fire' has been filmed for TV and this was followed by a series of Helen West stories.
She also writes psychological thrillers under the name of Frances Hegarty.

It should not be assumed that all solicitor/writers ply their trade in London for there is a writer up North who is ranked by the Legal Profession as one of the best Employment Law practioners.
He has a handful of Legal books to his name but he is also a writer of crime fiction.
Martin Edwards' creation Harry Devlin is a solicitor who can't help but get involved when murder is committed on Liverpool's streets. These books have titles that are so rooted in the sixties like 'Waterloo Sunset', 'The Devil In Disguise' and 'Eve Of Destruction'.

So coming full circle and back to westerns - even Jack Giles had his grounding in the English Legal Profession specialising in Conveyancing and Land Law.

These are just the writers that I have read and enjoyed and one I met in a professional capacity. My one regret is that faced with one of my favourite crime writers I never asked him about his books but I was young back then and a little in awe of the writer - but not Michael Gilbert the solicitor.


David Cranmer said...

Ray, I don't think there is ever a time I stop by that I don't learn something knew. Interesting post.

Paul D Brazill said...

yes, top post. and we should also mention John Mortimer.

Nik Morton said...

Tanks, Ray - interesting and enlightening as ever.
I used to enjoy Henry Cecil's comic novels too - obviously based on real characters; a good mix of humour, pathos and realism.

Nik Morton said...

Tanks? Oh, well, it's getting late...

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for the mention - I'm flattered to be in such illustrious company. Michael Gilbert was something of a writing hero for many years, and Frankie Fyfield is one of the best contemporary crime novelists.