William Deverell — Novelist

The official website of William Deverell, Winner of the Dashiell Hammett Award for Literary Excellence in North American Crime Writing


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

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