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Who Done It? Law professor Lawrence Friedman Creates Mysteries That Reflect Real Life

Publication Date: 
March 21, 2014
Palo Alto Weekly
Carol Blitzer

Professor Lawrence Friedman is featured in the Palo Alto Weekly article for his writing life outside the law school. 

Frank May is a soft-spoken, congenial lawyer — and the protagonist in half a dozen books in "The Frank May Chronicles" mystery series. He's 44, married and has two teenaged daughters.

Lawrence Friedman is a soft-spoken, congenial Stanford University law professor — and the author of the chronicles, along with more than 30 academic books, plus law-review articles and talks. He's 83, married and has two grown-up daughters.


"If I spend just a bit of time, but on a regular basis, it adds up. ... It isn't my day job. I have fun. It's not a source of tension or grief; it's a source of pleasure," Friedman said in his home.


Friedman said he knows at least five other law professors who write mysteries, pointing to fellow Stanford law professor Paul Goldstein, author of several award-winning thrillers.

"Law professors write, are concerned with the law, so it's not so strange to write mysteries," he said.


Friedman, who has written about the history of mysteries, said his books "are not in the mainstream. ... Today, most successful writers, like Scott Turow, write about courtroom drama, with a lot of sex and violence. It's not me."


"My style has changed, and there are aspects of the plot that I want to change," he said.

Friedman said he wants his books to reflect real life; that's why he made May middle-aged, married with two kids. He was also careful to make his wife a sympathetic character, although more sensible than May.

"Subsidiary characters have affairs, divorces — Frank cannot," he added.

Friedman said he likes to write about what he knows — and that includes a lot of older characters. And he allows May to not be all-knowing, often having him say, "I don't know about that, I'll have to look it up."

His first-person mysteries are conversational in tone, with the dialogue ringing true. He said his role models are 19th-century writers Anthony Trollope and Jane Austen: "She's marvelous. Every sentence is perfect."

His next book, "Who Killed Maggie Swift?," will be released in a couple of months. All of his Quid Pro novels are available on

=="Death of a One-Sided Man" by Lawrence Friedman; Quid Pro Books, New Orleans; 2013; 191 pages; $15.99==