Postmedia review of Whipped by Joan Barfoot: Deverell whips tension into page-turning treat
These are strange times — strange enough that it’s actually hard to know if a video of a Canadian cabinet minister fervently and nakedly urging a Russian dominatrix to whip him would necessarily cause a career-ending scandal.
But if it’s a question, it’s one best pursued through the mind and efforts of Canadian crime fiction’s most entertainingly skeptical lawyer, Arthur Beauchamp (pronounced Beecham), and his creator, former journalist and trial lawyer William Deverell.
Beauchamp, a recovering alcoholic, has been trying through several novels to enjoy a bucolic retirement on B.C.’s Garibaldi Island, tending his little farm and sinking into a community of distinctly unusual characters.
The trouble is, thanks to his fame as not just a shambling mess but a weirdly successful lawyer at a big, rich Vancouver firm, he keeps being lured back to tackle irresistible cases.
And in Whipped, the case is more vital than most, since his client is his second wife, Margaret, outspoken leader of the federal Green Party, who spends most of her time in Ottawa fiercely battling anyone with a good word for a pipeline.
That naturally puts her in direct conflict with Calgary MP and Conservative environment minister, Emil Farquist, a large man with unusual private desires.
The novel doesn’t start, though, with either Arthur or Margaret, but with Lou Sabatino, a journalist under witness protection after revealing a major scandal involving Montreal waterfront contracts, leading to a Mafia effort to kill him.
He and his wife and two little kids are now stuck in a shabby second-floor Montreal apartment safe house, bickering unhappily and forced to listen to unseemly sounds rising from the apartment downstairs.
When the leggy Russian dominatrix in that apartment decides Lou’s the person to help her make some money from her encounters with one high-profile client, she shows him the video that sets the plot racing forward.
Unnoticed, Lou makes a copy that for assorted reasons he decides to share with Margaret. Who, oblivious to the dangers of a hot mic, shares a tidbit or two with her assistant at a conference, remarks that are picked up by a hostile reporter.
And so it passes that Emil Farquist launches a $50 million lawsuit against her, ensuring that Arthur will have to use all his resources to save not only Margaret but all their assets, not least their Garibaldi Island retreat.
Given that the dominatrix has vanished, he needs to find Lou Sabatino and his copy of the video starring Farquist, but Lou has also hit the road, abandoned by his family, broke, jobless, and still fearful of the Mafia.
Garibaldi Island, meanwhile, has been invaded by a horde of followers of a charismatic guru type claiming to offer peace and self-understanding.
As islanders also fall under his influence, it seems that Arthur’s retreat is under spiritual as well as financial threat.
So there’s plenty of entertaining tension on the island among its dependably vivid characters to hold Arthur’s attention during his down-times.
And despite her long absences, an Ottawa affair she earlier confessed to, and a dangerously impulsive nature, Margaret holds his affections.
His regard for her isn’t without dents and tensions, but it’s firm.
Arthur always enjoys a good legal battle of wits — anything involving wits, really — and while the plot of Whipped hits a couple of unlikely spots, the whole array of characters, variously clever, shrewd, bumbling, wicked, corrupt and amusing, makes just about every page a treat.
But the special treat, thanks to author Deverell, is always Arthur Beauchamp, the wary-eyed curmudgeon who keeps trying hard to be not just the best lawyer, but the best man he can be.
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Sing a Worried Song
Globe & Mail Review By Margaret Cannon
Confession time: I love Bill Deverell’s books. I’ve been a fan since the villainous Dr. Au appeared in Needles and Deverell never fails me.
This sixth Arthur Beauchamp book is simply brilliant and should be shortlisted for next year’s Arthur Ellis Award.
The story begins with a bit of court testimony. The witness describes a man arriving in a motel room. It is stark and scary. This leads Beauchamp back to 1987, battling alcoholism and his wife’s infidelity. He’s one of Vancouver’s best defence attorneys but, faced with a truly vile crime – a thrill kill of a local clown – he takes the prosecutor’s role. He wins. He returns to his life and personal demons. Thirty years later, retired, married, fulfilled, and relaxing on glorious Garibaldi Island, Beauchamp is summoned to defend a local man. But his past is lurking there, waiting to rise up and take revenge for murders long thought settled. You won’t put this one down and, as an added bonus, Deverell is one of Canada’s best at developing the B.C. setting. Almost as good as a trip west.
Toronto Star review by Jack Batten
In William Deverell’s new novel, readers can only nod in agreement when he writes of his central character, “Arthur Beauchamp is a worrier. It is what he does best.” After six novels featuring Arthur, we’ve learned to accept and love him as the champion of all worrywarts. He’s 75 now, and he still frets about his manliness, his performances as a criminal defence counsel, his standing in the community, and practically everything else under the sun.
Sing a Worried Song gives us Arthur in full worrying mode at two different stages of his life. The first half of the book takes place more than a quarter century ago when Arthur was still married to Annabelle, the beautiful artistic director of the Vancouver Opera and a serial cheater. At this time in his career, in late 1986, Arthur briefly changes roles in the courtroom, taking on his first and only job as a prosecutor, acting for the Crown in a murder trial.
The case involves a slippery young guy accused of stabbing to death a Vancouver busker. As Deverell presents the trial, it’s gripping stuff. He may be the most convincing of all writers of courtroom stories, way up there just beyond the lofty plateau occupied by such classic courtroom dramatists as Scott Turow and John Lescroart, and in the new book, it’s Deverell at peak form.
The novel’s second half brings us forward to 2012. Arthur has now moved to Garibaldi Island, is married to Margaret Blake, the Green Party MP, and has mostly retired from law. In this half, Arthur has many mini-adventures dealing with Garibaldi’s rustic eccentrics. But throughout this gently humourous stretch, a hangover from the old murder prosecution nags at Arthur. It worries him, and maybe, we readers realize, he may have very good reason for the worry.
National Post Review by Naben Ruthnum
William Deverell’s Sing a Worried Song is about the murder of a clown. While those who fear and hate clowns believe that this is no crime at all, Deverell and his series character, lawyer Arthur Beauchamp, are quick to establish the corpse as a real and troubled person. Joe Chumpy was a gentle Vancouver downtown eastside busker, stabbed several times in his apartment in what appears to be a pointless thrill murder by a visiting Toronto rich kid. The killing could also have been the work of one of the gay prostitutes that Chumpy sometimes hired, but what little evidence and valid testimony there is seem to point to the out-of-town boy.
The book opens at the 1987 trial of the killer, Randolph Skyler — an excellent sinister rich kid name. Deverell’s two kinds of pro at once: an extremely experienced lawyer and a longtime writer of crime fiction, he makes the courtroom scenes lively and realistic, animating the proceedings with details of personality conflicts and Arthur Beauchamp’s shaky hold on his sobriety.
The second half of the novel takes us out of the courtroom and 25 years further on in time, with the retired Arthur Beauchamp leading a much more pleasant life on Garibaldi Island in 2012. The sense of unfinished business from the trial hasn’t faded, and one of the major players from the events of 1987 is threatening to make a reappearance in the most unpleasant of ways.
Deverell writes the first section in the past tense and the second section in the present tense, a neat division that works quite well. Leaving the courtroom also allows each half of the book to be in a slightly different subgenre, making Sing a Worried Song entertaining in a couple different registers.
The Publishers Weekly Review
From the back jacket copy…
The sixth novel in the acclaimed Arthur Beauchamp series
Everything is going well for Arthur Beauchamp in his early middle age. Life is so good for the top-notch defence lawyer that, in a moment of career restlessness, he decides to switch sides, just the once, and prosecute a young man charged with murdering a clown. Beauchamp is confident he can prove Randolph Skyler is guilty. Confident, but still worried and surprisingly blind to how precarious the evidence is — and, worse, to the fissures opening in his personal life.
It’s a case Beauchamp will never forget, not even years later, when he’s happily remarried and retired to a bucolic life on Garibaldi Island in the glorious Salish Sea. As Beauchamp is about to learn, the older you get, the greater the chance is that the past will come back to bite you. In Deverell’s latest marvel in his Beauchamp series, Arthur has causes aplenty to sing a worried song.
I’ll See You in My Dreams
In 1962, Arthur Beauchamp is about to undertake his first murder trial. His defendant is Gabriel Swift, a politically active young aboriginal accuse of killing Professor Dermot Mulligan, a former mentor to both men. Arthur becomes increasingly convinced that the police evidence against Gabriel is not only flimsy, but suspiciously convenient in a system - and a society - with entrenched racist assumptions. But as the case progresses, Arthur develops an uncomfortable sense that Gabriel is not telling him the whole truth. And to make matters worse, the green young lawyer is up against a wily veteran of the courts and a clever but biased judge. Five decades later, Arthur remains haunted by the case. Finally, he is compelled to emerge from retirement to try to complete what he began all those years ago. He must pass through some murky and long-repressed personal territory along the way, but the journey ultimately offers hope for the peace of redemption.
Audible.com’s version is available, as is the e-book. For more information and to purchase this title please go to http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/imprints/mcclelland-stewart and click on authors.
“A classic … . Deverell, one of the finest of Canada’s writers, builds his best book ever… . There is a great courtroom drama here, something that Deverell excels at, and an even better denouement with a twist nobody will guess… . . Superb.” – Margaret Cannon, Globe and Mail
“As with many of the great protagonists readers are drawn to in the mystery genre, it is Beauchamp’s flaws, and he has many, that make him so interesting.” – Victoria TimesColonist
“Deverell’s undertone of fury thrums most audibly [concerning] the multi-generational tragedies of Canada’s residential schools but there’s still laughter, though, in Arthur’s personal mishaps – his blunderings in his encounters with women, his rueful observations of himself as an often hapless old man, plus delicious nuggets of political gossip.” – Joan Barfoot, Toronto Sun.
“William Deverell is determined to avoid being pigeon-holed as a ‘mystery writer.’ His writing is much more eloquent, his characters more fully developed. And yet his plots are as convoluted as the best in the mystery genre. This fifth novel in the Arthur Beauchamp series follows the uproariously comical Snow Job with a far darker novel. I’ll See You in My Dreams delves into a case from Beauchamp’s early career, a murder that has haunted him for almost five decades. I found the parts of the book set in and around Vancouver BC in the early 1960s to be wonderfully evocative of that time and place. Beauchamp is a complex, captivating and sometimes disturbing protagonist, and this book helps readers to understand why. Deverell’s fans will be pleased with this latest, while newcomers are advised to read Trial of Passion, April Fool, Kill All the Judges, and Snow Job first, in order to fully appreciate this chapter in the Beauchamp saga.” Dr. David R. Boyd, author of Unnatural Law.
This is the novel that many dared me (a thrice-failed candidate for office) to write: a novel that takes the mickey out of our posturing politicians while maintaining the tension of a true thriller but with great dollops of humour. A genre-jumping finalist for the Stephen Leacock Award, it was read with glee, I’m told, by Ottawa insiders, One wrote: “Warmest congrats on Snow Job, it is your and Arthur’s fulfillment. I was especially delighted by the recognition of the poisonous mix of vanity, fear and highly conditional loyalty that makes up political life at the top. I thought of your acuity as I wandered through various Xmas parties on the Hill this year - rife with angst on all sides.”
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There’s a story to be told about how my utter incompetence as a politician saved me from a dismal career and propelled me into another one that had been my true dream. First, a synopsis:
Retired lawyer and courtroom star Arthur Beauchamp is in Ottawa because his wife, Margaret Blake, the leader of Canada’s Green Party, is now its first MP. But he hates it there: the cold, the politics, his place in his wife’s shadow, the too-thin walls of the condo they are renting. So when a delegation of government officials from the Central Asian country of Bhashyistan is blown sky high on its way to the Ottawa airport, and the shares of a Calgary-based oil company promptly drop like a stone, Arthur can’t resist taking on the defence of the suspected assassin, a high-school teacher last seen getting into the back of a stranger’s car. Then the Conservative government, led by the toper Huck Finnerty, is plunged into crisis when Mad Igor, the dictator of Bhashyistan, declares war on Canada.
Meanwhile, on Beauchamp’s beloved Garibaldi Island, Arthur and Margaret’s goat farm is being taken care of by a couple of newly released, convicted eco-guerillas, a no small matter that brings both Arthur and Margaret to the attention of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service - and a scheming glint to the eye of its head of operations. Soon, Canada’s newest MP and the husband she eclipses realize they are being shadowed by possibly the most incompetent spy since Mata Hari.
“Deverell’s latest Arthur Beauchamp novel cranks the wily old lawyer’s adventures up several notches, and then some. It’s wildly imaginative, delightfully satirical, and irresistibly funny.”
“No one skewers the foibles of lawyers and judges quite as William Deverell does: with deadly aim and delicious wit. And now Canada’s funniest crime fiction writer has penned perhaps the most searing, most hilarious send-up ever of the shenanigans that pass for politics in the nation’s capital.”
“Smart, beautifully written, and really, really funny satire featuring Arthur Beauchamp, one of Canadian crime fiction’s truly original characters. The best novel by Deverell ever.” — Margaret Cannon, Globe and Mail
“Though the story is dead serious at its heart, Deverell has much material that is as funny as anything he’s written.” — Toronto Star
“Fine writing and tongue-in-cheek delivery with acid shots at our political circus, and so close to reality that it seems even funnier. A must-read.” — Hamilton Spectator
“Deverell’s imagination gets high marks for postulating what happens when an obscure country declares war on Canada.” — Quill & Quire
For those interested in the provenance of this work, here’s the author’s note at the end:
At the risk of shaking readers’ confidence in my sanity, let me make confession: I was once an ambitious (though inept) politician. As a young lawyer running for the New Democrats, I’d made two disastrous tries for Parliament and > > one for the BC legislature, in Vancouver Centre, ultimately proving myself so hapless at hustling votes that I was punished by losing a nomination — by a single vote — for the succeeding election. Without me to drag down the ticket, > the NDP went on to win handily and formed a government.
I quit politics, morose with shattered ambition, disenchanted with what the fifteenth Governor-General of Canada, John Buchan, called “the greatest and the most honourable adventure.” (Fact check: he was a fiction writer, his fortés > > espionage and horror.)
In sublime irony, that one-vote loss freed me to pursue a different dream, long held. Had I achieved office, I might never have written anything more entertaining than a sitting member’s cynical memoir of frustration, compromise, and > lost ideals.
So Snow Job is a tribute to Buchan’s great (if not so honourable) adventure, from an incurable political junkie. To the snide, a Canadian political thriller may seem oxymoronic, but I’ll wager there’s more vibrancy and intrigue and fun > > and foolishness on Parliament Hill than in Washington’s Congress of millionaires or in Britain’s bloated Parliament.
Kill All The Judges
This comic thriller was a finalist for the Stephen Leacock award, and it drew widely upon this author’s growing collection of characters, including the ever-introspective Arthur Beauchamp, and the Garibaldi Island oddballs who constantly plague him. Here’s a summary:
Is someone systematically killing the judges of the B.C. bar? At least one has been murdered and several have disappeared. Arthur Beauchamp returns from retirement once again to take on the case, this time defending his former nemesis, backwoods poet Cudworth Brown, and tracking down a mystery novel that Brown’s demented former lawyer has been writing – all this just as his own wife, Margaret, has announced her candidacy for the Green Party in a forthcoming federal by-election.
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“Complex, madcap, and peopled with some of the most delightfully eccentric characters to be found between two covers, Kill All the Judges more than proves William Deverell’s mastery of the hilarious crime novel.”
And a selection of reviews:
” Kill All the Judges is replete with Stephen Leacock–like humour…. I have yet to find a writer who can capture the wit, whimsy and whirlwind pandemonium of her Majesty’s Criminal Courts the way Deverell does.” Globe and Mail
” Kill All the Judges finds [Deverell] at the top of his game. ” Toronto Star
” A master of the laugh-out-loud crime novel. ” Vancouver Sun
” This is one of the funniest books I’ve read in years…. Intelligent, perfectly plotted, cynical and fast moving. Like a runaway train that seems to be headed in all directions at the same time…. Preposterous, dramatic and hilarious. Highly recommended. ” Waterloo Region Record
” There is plenty of humour that threads its way through this novel…. Kill All the Judges provides a delightful, witty and satisfying read. ” BC BookWorld
” Deverell is a writer capable of generating a belly laugh with the turn of a phrase… . But keep your wits about you. Kill All the Judges is a tale within a story; a road map with no signs… . It’s a testament to Deverell’s skill with words, wonderful characters and a plot worth the journey. ” Hamilton Spectator
” Amusing and witty. ” Quill & Quire
” Complex, fascinating, and fun… . Kill All the Judges is a classic crime work, from an author heralded as one of Canada’s best, and with good reason. ” Shelf Life
“Expect crackling wit, laugh-out-loud crime and madcap characters. Retired barrister Arthur Beauchamp’s golden years aren’t as serene as he planned when members of his former profession start turning up dead” Canadian Living Magazine
Winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for best Canadian crime novel…
“Hugely entertaining.” Calgary Herald
“The insular life of isolated places - Bamfield, Garibaldi - expensive law firms and the courtroom are handled with an insider’s knowledge and an iconoclastic sense of humour. Deverell writes breathless prose. Arthur Beauchamp is a lovely guy – spouting Latin, worrying about getting up to speed in the courtroom after such a hiatus, and fearing an inability to get it up when Margaret leaves her perch. He manages to be a scholar, a courtroom wonder and a doofus. April Fool spills over with idiosyncratic characters. The novel blasts out of the starting gate, rockets along, is hugely entertaining. Deverell plays with the blending of good and bad, but one thing is transparent - the fight for the environment, however goofy at times, is essential.” Edmonton Journal
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“A lively courtroom drama with elements of a traditional puzzle mystery, punctuated by periodic returns to the ecological protest and to the loveliness of Nature itself. Deverell got right through my defences this time, especially in the attractive portrait of his ageing protagonist, with his insecurities, his Latin tags, his courtly, unintentional sexism, and his formidable cross-examination skills. His loving descriptions of the natural landscape, based on his own residence on Pender Island, BC, are also delightful. http://www.reviewingtheevidence.com
“Arthur is a wonderful creation. In his robes and suspenders and with his hawk-like nose, he has no par in the courtroom, a real Clarence Darrow. But privately, he is racked with insecurities: about his new wife, whether his legendary legal prowess - indeed his very mind - is fading, not to mention having to deal with all these new-fangled gadgets like cellphones and computers. Then there’s a catastrophic experiment with Viagra … Can Arthur solve the Faloon case by fingering the real killer Perry Mason-style and play knight-in-legal-armour for his bride at the same time? Deverell will have readers smiling and thumbing pages anxiously. The Canadian Press
“A master storyteller with a wonderful sense of humour. The story flows effortlessly, and readers are twigs on the river, along for one hellof a ride.” Quill and Quire.
“Tough, puckishly cynical, with a cunning eye for detail and whippet-like sense of humour, Deverell has ventured into the tumultuous heart of the justice system… with a book chock-full of delightful characters.” Globe and Mail
“The dialogue crackles, the style is sharp and compelling, and it’s a treat to spend another book with Beauchamp.” Vancouver Sun
“This novel is memorable for its nuanced characters. Deverell burrows into Beauchamp’s soul, and we see almost everything unfold through his addled but fascinating perspective.” Vancouver Province
The Laughing Falcon
An adventure thriller layered with humour and startling twists, with a cast of wildly eccentric characters.
All that Maggie Schneider, a shy, awkward romance writer from wintry Saskatoon, wants is a tropical holiday and maybe a real romance to stir her creative juices. What she gets instead, soon after she arrives in Costa Rica, is a nasty surprise. First she is robbed of most of her money by a handsome, smooth-talking Latino. Then she and the wife of a prominent US Senator are kidnapped and held for ransom somewhere in the steamy jungle by self-styled revolutionaries led by a charismatic man with a mysterious background. Enter heavy-drinking Slack Sawchuk, whitewater guide, ex-CIA agent, who is dragged into the thick of things to attempt a daring rescue…
The story is told alternately from the points of view of Maggie (with a playful nod to the romance genre) and Slack (his sections offer a lighthearted send-up of the thriller genre). This author, who has wintered in Costa Rica for the last few decades, drew on actual places in his other home, the trendy, exotic resort town of Manuel Antonio, and actual events in 1996: two women similarly kidnapped, and a resulting and infamous case of Stockholm Syndrome. Curious? Go to a search engine for “nicola fleuchaus costa rica”.) The Australian novelist and feminist Sara Dowse had this to say in her review of Laughing Falcon:
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“What Deverell does so brilliantly - and totally without pretension - is play with the notion of genre, subverting all our programmed expectations while giving us a truly moving story that satisfies on a number of levels. This book is somewhat similar to, and every bit as good as, Kate Grenville’s The Idea of Perfection, which recently won the Orange Prize … he’s an author who keeps improving his vintage. For those who have stayed away or failed to take him seriously, this book should be proof that we have something of a treasure in our midst.” Vancouver Sun
“As with all Deverell novels, the beauty lies in the detail, the lush description and the plots. There are few mystery writers who could carry such an outrageous cast in such far-flung Central American locations. Deverell, some might suggest, is getting away with murder here - murdering the competition, that is.” Ottawa Citizen
“The Laughing Falcon displays the craftsmanship and plot spins of an inventive storyteller successfully trying on a new approach to his work.” Toronto Star
This is a novel inspired by my deep interest in forensic psychiatry – indeed, I was on my way to a career in that field, with a major in psychology, before being diverted to the study and practice of criminal law. But my fascination with the mentally disturbed, the neurotic, the psychotic, the psychopathic, never left me, and was heightened by my thirty years of defending or prosecuting those suffering diseases of the mind.
A synopsis: Dr. Timothy Dare is a young forensic psychiatrist who works in Vancouver’s criminal courts. He is acutely neurotic, but has an uncanny ability to read people: their body language, their Freudian slips. He fears crowds, heights, enclosed spaces - he can’t even get into an elevator without falling apart - and he thinks a sociopathic killer is stalking him: a man just released from a mental hospital who has stabbed to death another psychiatrist. But is he just paranoid, as friends claim?
Tim’s life is disintegrating: his wife, the only woman he has loved, has just left him; his mother is being sued for libel over her portrayal of a serial killer in a horror book; he’s being hauled before a disciplinary committee because his practice is in disarray; a stunning but disturbed female patient is attaching herself to him romantically; someone is sending him notes threatening his life - and he himself is seeing a psychiatrist who, in exploring Tim’s inner turmoil, finds its source: his life has become defined by his unavailing search for the father he has never known. Under the guidance of Freudian psychiatrist Dr. Allison Epstein, Tim Dare gradually learns how to face the demons within – and those in the real world that are really out to get him.
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“William Deverell is well known for his erudite legal thrillers… His best novels combine the insider’s knowledge of the strength and foibles of the justice system with dense, complicated plots, great dialogue, and very human protagonists. In Mind Games, Deverell has turned his attention to psychiatry… Mind Games is an exciting story, well told. The characters are engaging, a sense of impending doom penetrates every page. Which threat is imagined, and which one real? Whose version of the “truth” is to be believed? Are characters deluding others, or just themselves? Mind games, indeed!” The Globe & Mail
“William Deverell has a knack for surprising his readers while giving them exactly what they want. Rather than fall into predictability over the course of his dozen novels (a tempting rut that attracts many genre writers), he has experimented with setting and approach, characterization and theme to such a degree that a new Deverell novel is always genuinely unexpected and unique. What’s common to all his writing is storytelling strength and a deft hand with characterization. His latest novel, Mind Games, is no exception. At its heart, this is a novel of character and growth within the context of violence and fear. The gradual dissolution of Dare’s marriage, for example, is as significant as the identity of the murderer.” Vancouver Sun
“When William Deverell is firing on all cylinders, as he is in Mind Games, he’s as good a crime-thriller writer as anyone on the planet.” Winnipeg Free Press
“Mind Games is a romp of a novel. It revs ever faster and faster. All the characters, even secondary ones, are fully realized, and irreverent humour abounds.” Kingston Whig-Standard
A Life on Trial
My one work of non-fiction. This is the opening paragraph: “The blunt instrument was a champagne bottle. The victim was a rich widow. Her manservant stood to gain several million dollars from her will. His name was Mr. Frisbee, and he was charged with Murder One: first degree. The foul deed had been committed on board an Alaska cruise ship, in an $18,000 penthouse suite. Mr. Frisbee, incidentally, had been her husband’s lover.”
Originally published as Fatal Cruise, it’s the true story of a bizarre murder and a controversial trial that I defended in Victoria, B.C., and which made headlines across Canada and the U.S. It is truly about a life on trial, the life of Robert Frisbee, who, after scarred early years, became the secretary and friend of Philip Barnett, a wealthy developer, and his wife, socialite Muriel. Frisbee’s lover, Dan Kazakes, was a bizarre figure with a mail-order divinity degree. The book tells of the tangled inter-dependency of this strange quartet that ultimately led to Frisbee’s trial for a vicious murder on board the Royal Viking Star. It is also the author’s story, my story the travails of a lawyer fighting for a gentle and entirely likeable client.
“With penetrating insight, William Deverell probes the mind of the accused and explores the legal system that tried him. His superb writing skills combine brilliantly with an insider’s knowledge of the courtroom, and the result is a seamlessly constructed, gripping narrative whose suspense never lets up.”
“This is as good as it gets, the real goods from an ultimate insider.” Jack Batten, Books in Canada.
“It not only works well as an anatomy of a murder trial, but also provides the reader with a rare insight into how the defence was prepared and presented in court,” Vancouver Sun.
“Page by page, it becomes more and more compelling until you find you really can’t put it down.” Toronto Sun.
Though currently out of print, it is soon to be re-released in electronic form, but copies are available from this author at $25. Click on “Contact” or find at
Set in Seattle, Slander stars Elizabeth Finnegan, a feisty young trial lawyer who finds herself locking horns with Hugh Vandergraaf, a handsome, brilliant, and charismatic high court judge.
Outraged by the lenient sentence Vandergraaf has just handed down to a convicted white-collar rapist, Liz Finnegan denounces the jurist, creating a headline-making stir, and she is rewarded with a courtroom tongue-lashing by Vandergraaf. While still nursing her wounds, Liz is visited by a devout Christian woman who claims she was raped by Vandergraaf when they were both university students. Liz’s efforts to seek justice for her client are met by Vandergraaf’s multi-million-dollar suit in slander. Her firm’s senior partners try to persuade Liz to settle and avoid risking the destruction of her career by taking on this popular and ambitious judge, but her determination to nail him is only heightened, and they clash fiercely in a courtroom drama culminating with a series of startling twists.
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As the trial progresses, Elizabeth pieces together a portrait of a man who enjoys wielding power over women; someone seemingly addicted to sex. But all does not go according to plan. There’s a nagging feeling that her client is holding something back, and a key witness is convinced not to testify, but Liz follows her own instincts, until she unexpectedly finds the answer behind her client’s deeply buried secret, bringing about a startling revelation.
Author’s note: Given that Slander is written in the first-person voice of Elizabeth Finnegan, I faced the major challenge of creating a woman protagonist, though in many ways I was able to discover much of Liz Finnegan in my own history as a young, raw, civil rights counsel, and in so doing explored the feminine side of my own psyche. Among the many women writers who vetted the manuscript was Margaret Atwood, who assured me I got Liz Finnegan right. “You didn’t stick any tampons in her ear by mistake,” she drawled.
Said poet and novelist Susan Musgrave: “Deverell gets inside a woman’s head right down to the reinforced toe of her panty-hose. When Elizabeth Finnegan enters the male-dominated arena of the law, even the judge stands naked.” .
“He can move a plot ahead like no one else in this country… Deverell pulls the threads of his plot together in a most surprising way, but it would be criminal to disclose how he does it.” Montreal Gazette
“Deverell is a brilliant craftsman of suspense. Not since Ross MacDonald have I read an ending with such a breathtakingly unpredictable twist.” Kitchener Record
“An engrossing page-turner that kept me up way past my bedtime.” Vancouver Province
“Fans get the full Monty with this compelling tale of high courtroom drama.” Quill and Quire
“The real thrust of Deverell’s book is political… As the courtroom drama is played out, we come to understand that Finnegan is up against more than one man: she’s battling the entire institution of the old boys’ network.” Edmonton Journal
“Ingeniously plotted and well written. More than just another courtroom drama, Slander is an apt commentary on the fraying fabric of modern human relations.” Hamilton Spectator
Trial of Passion
Winner of the Dashiell Hammett award for literary excellence in crime writing in North America, and the Arthur Ellis award for best Canadian crime novel. Arthur Beauchamp, the brilliant lawyer first introduced in The Dance of Shiva, is healing from a marital crisis in the peace of Garibaldi, a Gulf Island off the coast of British Columbia, where his biggest problem is dealing with his gently eccentric island neighbours. But his relative idyll is interrupted when his former law colleagues plead for his return to lead the defence in the trial of Jonathan O’Donnell, the charming acting Dean of Law at the University of British Columbia. O’Donnell has been charged with raping one of his students, Kimberly Martin, a sexy, intelligent woman used to getting her own way. Whether or not O’Donnell is found guilty, he has a world to lose, but so does Martin – her engagement to a wealthy but pathologically jealous boyfriend.
Author’s note: This multi-award-winning novel was winnowed from among a thousand entries from the U.S. and Canada for the Hammett prize – and ultimately selected by a panel of three judges: the editors of the New Yorker, the Nation and the Globe and Mail’s crime book section. Its provenance was a racy and notorious rape trial that I defended involving booze, bed, and bondage in a ritzy Vancouver residence.
“WOW! It was one of the most pleasurable reading experiences of my life. The mystery aspect of this novel is top-notch, but it is easily surpassed by the larger-than-life character of Arthur Beauchamp, a truly memorable person. Perhaps every five years or so I re-read a mystery - it is a rare occasion. I will re-read this book. It was such a delight. It is the best book that I have read in the 1990s. It is the only book in my 13 years of review that I have ever given five stars to.” Geroge Easter, Editor, Deadly Pleasures.
“A distinct departure for Deverell, moving him to a richer and more complex area that retains a thriller’s tension but brings depth of character and complex social issues into the mix.” Vancouver Sun
“Brilliantly realized characters. A complex and surprising novel.” Montreal Gazette
“A masterful job, a terrific book.” Financial Post
“The pithy exchange between lawyers in court is more rivetting than the real thing… Literary suspense fiction which readers will find hard to put down.” Calgary Herald.
“It is about love, passion, and fine lines too easily crossed. Deverell handles his material like the skilled artist he is, deftly keeping the reader in suspense until the astonishing conclusion.” Saint John Telegraph-Journal
This is the novel that brings back the beloved characters of the CBC television series Street Legal, written by the creator of that series. It is set in 1980, when Carrie Barr, Leon Rubinovitch, and Chuck Tchobanian were young, struggling and ambitious, and making a name for themselves.
Carrington Barr, fresh from her successful defence of a drifter charged as the notorious Midnight Strangler, takes on the case of a suave, handsome hit man. Her new client is proving to be far more dangerous - and alluring - than she could have imagined. Soon she finds herself drawn into a web of terror involving a rogue police operation, a ruthless drug lord, and a series of brutal murders that threatens to tear apart the firm of Rubinovitch, Barr, Tchobanian. Meanwhile, the Midnight Strangler is still at large. Has he chosen Carrie as his next victim…?
Author’s note: This proudly Canadian television series ran for something like eight years and was sold to networks throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America, introducing Leon, Carrie, Chuck, and the entire city of Toronto to the world. The pilot for the series, my first endeavour in TV script-writing, was produced under the name “Shell Game,” and provides the framework for the novel, though I set it back in time, to 1980, when the lawyers were young strivers, finding their way in the raw, tough competitions of the criminal and civil courts. Oddly, for reasons I still can’t comprehend, the CBC put up a fierce resistance to the publication of the book under the name I gave to the series, and I had to fight my own legal battle to use the words “Street Legal.” Another untold mystery.
“A rollicking romp of a read.” Edmonton Journal
“Restores the excitement, humor and intelligence portrayed so well on screen.” Quill and Quire
“Deverell injects more electricity into his novels than anyone currently writing in Canada – perhaps anywhere.” London Free Press
Kill All the Lawyers
This novel – as evidenced both by its tongue-in-cheek title and the cover illustration – was my first foray into the humour genre. Peppered with all the ingredients of a classic whodunit – the array of suspects, the red herrings that nibble at the hook, even a parlour-room climax presided over by a roly-poly Poirot-like detective – it’s both a mystery and a send-up of a mystery, replete with a mystery-within-a-mystery being written by a neurotic lawyer/wannabe author.
And it’s newly available as an ebook written, directed, and produced by this author, on Kindle, iBooks, and other electronic platforms. http://www.amazon.com/Kill-All-The-Lawyers-ebook/dp/B005UHIX6G/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1378233402&sr=8-3&keywords=kill+all+the+lawyers.
A snippet from a review by the late Robin Skelton, an iconic figure in Canadian literature: “A lawyer is killed shortly after he has astonished everyone by successfully defending an undoubtedly guilty client. A second lawyer who has a similar success is shot at, and the legal community begins to think that someone out there is attempting to correct undesirable verdicts by sentencing lawyers to death … The social comedy is hilarious. This is a brilliantly wrought novel, ingenious, entertaining, and continually surprising. Deverell deserves an award for this one.”
“Terrific new crime novel.” Toronto Sun
“This is just an all-round great romp of a book, a wonderful and uproarious whodunit with a magnificently convoluted plot and a cast of characters to die for – a bunch of which do – by one of the country’s best (and most irreverently funny) crime and mystery writers.” Ottawa Sun
“As usual, Deverell has whipped up some of the slimiest, scummiest and hilarious characters you’re ever going to find between the covers of a book. It’s a first-rate whodunit, populated by folks you won’t want to forget.” Regina Leader Post
“This is a fast, funny novel, West Coast thriller king William Deverell’s response to the blockbuster legal potboilers of such lesser, wealthier writers as John Grisham and Scott Turow.” Quill and Quire
“A bitingly funny whodunit.” Maclean’s
“Sly, wickedly amusing, … irreverent, refreshing.” Vancouver Sun
“A smart, witty book with great characters and a clever plot.” Toronto Globe and Mail
Oliver Gulliver, a small-town lawyer in northern California, dreams of glory, but he’s slowly going broke. When Elora, his 18-year-old daughter, returns home, dragging a once-famous but now burnt-out rock star, Oliver is dismayed. But a quirky friendship begins, and C.C. Gilley starts writing songs again. Then his love song to Elora is stolen and recorded by highly promoted glitz band, and Oliver finds himself taking on the music barons of Los Angeles.
Graham Nash, of Crosby, Stills and Nash, said, “William Deverell presents a sardonic look at the inner workings of the music industry. The left turn at the end was deliciously unexpected.”
“Hilariously pointed observations on the legal chicanery and artistic hornswoggling that goes on in the record industry.” New York Times
“This is a fast, credible and very funny novel.” London Sunday Times
“A fast-paced, wickedly funny sendup of a rock music industry incestuously bedded down with corporate America.” Publishers Weekly
“Deverell mixes some man curves and off-speed pitches with his trademark fast balls - and comes up with his best book yet.” Kirkus Reviews
“The people who liked Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent will enjoy Platinum Blues. Because it is crammed with real people in real situations that tingle with menace, the people who like anything by Elmore Leonard will enjoy Platinum Blues. That ought to cover just about everyone.” Hamilton Spectator
“The trial scenes are good, the romance believable, and the dialogue as crisp as a new $20 bill – definitely a bullet.” Globe and Mail
“Deverell writes with a snappy pace and a fine sense of humor.” Chicago Tribune
This novel was inspired by the CIA’s infamous MK-ULTRA program, which used electroshock, sleep deprivation, and massive doses of behaviour-altering drugs, primarily LSD, on unsuspecting Canadians in a Montreal clinic to test how to break their wills. Soon after the novel’s release, my screenplay based on the book was shot in Montreal, starring Christopher Plummer as the evil Dr. Sartorius.
The plot: A psychological time bomb is triggered in homicide detective Kellen O’Reilly as he begins to experience disturbing flashbacks of his unresolved and turbulent past. As he searches for answers, he finds himself targeted in a covert op that seeks to destroy not just his memory but his life, O’Reilly is plunged into an ever-widening web of intrigue involving the CIA, the FBI, the Mafia, and his own police force. Events in his past become linked to secret government experiments, unveiled in a startling, explosive climax.
“The reader, glued to the page, has no choice but to discover the outcome. An after having finished, the beDeverelled reader hungers for more of the same.” Ottawa Citizen
“Another high-octane Canadian thriller from Deverell” Kirkus Reviews
“The tension of this clever action-packed adventure builds to a chilling midnight finale.” Toronto Star
“An entertaining and cleverly woven whodunit … many fast-paced, highly visual scenes.” Western Report
“Mindfield is reminiscent of William Goldman’s books, such as heat and magic. A page turner…” Montreal Gazette
The Dance of Shiva
This novel introduces Arthur Beauchamp, the brilliant but self-doubting alcoholic lawyer who ultimately became the mainstay character of my current fiction series. It also marks the first appearance of the rowdy firm of Pomeroy, Macarthur, Brovak and Sage, whose antics, triumphs, and mishaps feature in several later novels. Some are based on lawyers I have known, as is one of the central characters, a brilliant self-styled guru I faithfully represented – until, to my astonishment, he was exposed as a charlatan who fleeced his flock.
The story: in a grisly Canadian echo of Jonestown, twenty members of a cult are found savagely executed in an isolated island on Canada’s West Coast, and their leader, Shiva Ram Acharya, is brought to trial for their murder. After an accident immobilizes his lawyer, Arthur Beauchamp, junior counsel Max Macarthur faces the greatest challenge of his young career when he is thrust into the role of defence counsel. Macarthur gradually becomes convinced of his innocence and embarks on a quest for the true murderer, but he slowly falls under the hypnotic sway of the enigmatic Shiva.
“An absolute delight, at times extremely witty, always urbane and gripping … Read and enjoy!” Victoria Times-Colonist
“The most gripping courtroom drama since Anatomy of a Murder.” Globe and Mail
“A real winner … Deverell has become a national treasure.” Windsor Star
“Written in such an intensely believable and interesting way … it’s impossible to put this book down.” Edmonton Journal
“Truly engrossing.” Winnipeg Free Press
Mecca, an international spy thriller laced with humour, moves from Cuba, to Montreal, New York, Paris, Berlin, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and back. It feature Jacques (Slack) Sawchuk, an unrepentant rebel who is blackmailed into joining the war on terror as an undercover agent of the CIA. He plays his role too well, and becomes a hunted man unable to prove he’s not a murderous terrorist. See also The Laughing Falcon, in which Sawchuk reprises his role as an unwilling spy in Central America.
“Packs a saucy wallop … Here is another world-class thriller, fresh, bright and topical.” Globe and Mail
“A readable thriller that matches the newscasts. Action. Action. Action. Literature in the fast lane. Sit back in your easy chairs, pour yourself a drink, and read about the end of the world.” Toronto Star
“The pace, the twists and thr turns, are worthy of Ludlum,” Calgary Herald.
“William Deverell has confirmed his place in the front rank of thriller writers with Mecca. Great escapist fiction in the bestseller class.” Quill and Quire.
The novel, currently out of print, is soon to to return as an e-book and in a complete audio version. Copies available at
A merry band of Newfoundland smugglers carrying on a grand tradition. A high-powered RCMP inspector obsessed with their capture. A day-dreaming police scientist caught in a dilemma between the call of duty and his infatuation with a voluptuous femme fatale. A multi-million-dollar cargo of pot on a creaky freighter. A merry high-seas romp from Newfoundland to Colombia to Miami and the North Atlantic. Undercover plots, double-dealing, triple betrayal, and murder. The events are drawn from one of this lawyer-author’s celebrated trials.
High Crimes sprang directly from one of my trials, Regina versus Sexton et al, an entrapment case in which the RCMP and DEA supplied unwary Newfie smugglers with the ship, captain, crew, and seventeen tons of low-grade pot. A satellite tracking device hidden aboard stalked them to an inlet north of Tofino, B.C., where contact was lost during the transfer to a pair of fishing vessels when the fog rolled in, despite there being 100 officers on the surrounding hills and in boats. Allegedly, some of the missing pot helped pay my fees.
“This is just a cracking good read…The story has more twists than the TransCanada highway and no less than three trick endings. Deverell is quickly becoming a national treasure.” Toronto Star
“Deverell’s lean mean style gives off sparks. A thriller of the first rank.” Publishers Weekly
“A fast-moving swinging story of intrigue, suspense, action and mayhem … he writes grittily, and all his characters are all colorful rogues.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Brilliantly written, deliciously crafted. Deverell is a master of suspense and fun.” Sacramento Union
“Deverell is a master of the intricate plot that keeps the reader off balance, meanwhile allowing the suspense to build… A first-rate thriller.” Memphis Commercial Apeal
“Every detail meshes like clockwork… Deverell is a great storyteller with a nice sense of timing and a pretty touch for black humor.” Globe and Mail
“High Crimes is a gripping novel of power-mongering, suspense and intrigue, with a thrilling triple-twist conclusion.” Mystery News
Winner of the $50,000 Seal First Novel Award, Needles pits a sharp, tough prosecutor, Foster Cobb - whose struggles with a runaway wife has led him to a crippling heroin habit - against a notorious, psychopathic heroin importer, Dr. Au, known as “the Surgeon,” who goes on a killing spree in Vancouver’s seedy world of prostitutes, pushers, and hit men. With the aid of a corrupt narc, he zeroes in on Cobb, his nemesis, his prosecutor. The action culminates in a riveting courtroom scene and a bloody showdown.
Many of the events and characters are drawn from real life – though altered, for obvious reasons – and are based on my three decades of practice in the criminal courts.
“A find, a find; it must be shouted from the rooftops” London Daily Telegraph
“Deverell has a narrative style so lean that scenes and characters seem to explode on the page. He makes the evil of his plot breathtaking and his surprises like shattering glass.” Philadelphia Bulletin
“Spell-binding, first-rate … A brilliant craftsman of suspense.” Buffalo News
“Masterful. Needles belongs in the top international class.” Hamilton Spectator
“Seamy and steamy, sexy and sassy. A winner all around.” Globe and Mail
“Chillingly suspensful.” Montreal Gazette
“The potting is generous with wicked twists, the cops and lawyers are sweetly-and-sourly unromanticized, and the courtroom banter is thoroughly convincing.” Kirkus Review