Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Courtroom—or the Kitchen?

Writer with Two Big Hats!

The blog posts of prize writer Leslie Budewitz will show you she and I have two mutual loves—mysteries and cats. And the LAW, though she IS THE LAW and I am merely an avid reader…

As a skilled lawyer, a graduate of Notre Dame Law School, Leslie has also become famous as a prize-winning mystery writer! Though she practices part-time as a Montana lawyer, she has won two Agathas for both her fiction and non-fiction.

She is Vice president of SinC—Sisters in Crime—and has been a featured speaker at Bouchercon, Malice Domestic and Left Coast Crime. Her short stories have been published in Ellery Queen, Alfred Hitchcock, as well as other publications, and her novels are gaining popularity:
Death Al Dente, Crime Rib, Butter Off Dead, Assault and Pepper, Books, Crooks and Counselors, Writes of Passage (Ed. by Hank Ryan), The Cozy Cookbook, the MWA Cookbook, among other works.

When I begged her to write more novels about crime and the law, she sent the post for our blog you will now read.

I am delighted to share this astounding person with all you dear readers of Crime Writer's Chronicle today. Please welcome our talented, warm-hearted associate, Leslie Budewitz, of the Law, the World of Crime and Montana!

Thelma Straw

As often happens in the writing world, I’ve been acquainted with my blog host, Thelma Straw, for years, though we’ve never met, and we’ve shared a kinship through our love of mysteries and cats. When she invited me to be her guest, she asked why I didn’t write about lawyers and judges.

One reason I enjoy writing mysteries is that it’s a break from the writing I do as a lawyer. These days, I practice part-time for a small firm doing mainly personal injury and business litigation, although I’ve done my share of criminal and employment law over the years. Most of my work now is research and writing. I like it and I’m good at it.

But it’s not nearly as much fun as making up people and solving their problems to my own satisfaction. Plus I can kill on the page without worrying about prison. (I’ve been to prison. It’s dreadful, even when you know you can leave any time.)

Truth, is, after 30+ years in the field, stories about lawyers don’t interest me the way they did when I was a student and a young lawyer. I imagine long-time chefs aren’t much moved by foodie fic, and PIs don’t read a lot of PI novels. What new is there to say to us?

My first several manuscripts, all unpublished, featured a single woman lawyer in a small town on an Indian reservation in western Montana—guess what my life looked like at the time! That woman appeared in two published short stories, and she’s a good character. I doubt I’ll revisit her, though, except perhaps as a secondary character.

These days, I’m much more interested in the concepts of community and social order that I can explore through a cozy, than in the courtroom or the external order that the legal system serves. Community is the heart of a cozy mystery. Murder disrupts the social order. The amateur sleuth investigates because she has a personal stake in the crime and in making sure the right people are brought to justice. She may think law enforcement officers are on the wrong track, or her role in village life may give her insight and information they lack. The professionals’ job is to restore the external order by making an arrest and prosecuting. Hers is to restore internal order within the community.

But characters with knowledge of the law are useful, and I keep a few close by to help my protagonists with the occasional legal bugaboo. In my Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, Bill the herbalist left the law after a trauma, but he’s willing to offer Erin Murphy a little guidance when needed. In my new Spice Shop Mysteries, debuting this month with ASSAULT AND PEPPER, Pepper Reece owns the Seattle Spice Shop in the Pike Place Market. Thirteen years managing staff HR for a giant law firm prepared her to handle the people aspects of her new business, but not for the shock of discovering a man she knew dead on her shop’s doorstep. In her investigation, she calls on a legal assistant-turned-mystery bookseller, a part-time law librarian, and her BFF’s husband, a corporate lawyer who would really rather Pepper kept her nose in the bay leaves and paprika.

That, alas, isn’t possible. Because Pepper’s career change—like my own—brings her nose-to-nose with trouble every day.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

© 2015 Leslie Budewitz


  1. Thanks, Leslie, for these clear distinctions. I'll shut up and enjoy the new series... but I now understand a little better how you draw the lines here... your titles are so clever! tjs

  2. Thanks, Thelma, for inviting me to the blog today! I'm late sharing as I'm in Seattle visiting friends before a couple of days of book launch events, then heading to Portland for Left Coast Crime. I hope to meet some of you there!

  3. Have a great time at Left Coast Crime. You may run into one of our blog mates, Annamaria Alfieri ( Pat King ) who is on the historical novel panel. BTW, I'll be looking for that early book lady lawyer any year now... tjs

  4. Thelma and Leslie, Thanks for the fascinating post. I am envious of anyone who can do any kind of full time job and find time to write. Love your title, by the way.
    Barbara Bent

  5. Nice of you to stop by, Barbara. You'll enjoy Leslie's books - I think her titles are marvelous - and her knowledge of human nature comes right through the printed pages! tjs

  6. Thanks to you all! Assault & Pepper and Crime Rib are my favorite titles, but this is my favorite cover so far. I hope you all enjoy the trip to Seattle as much as I've enjoyed taking you there!