Admittedly Dumb Idea, Number Two: The Santa Clara Law Mysteries

My law school doesn’t have a billion-dollar endowment, so I’m always on the lookout for new ways for our institution to raise some money.

A little while back, I hit upon this admittedly dumb idea. After seeing Yale Law School Professor Stephen Carter snag a $4.2 million advance for “The Emperor of Ocean Park,” and fellow YLS Prof. Jed Rubenfeld collect upwards of $1.8 million for “An Interpretation of Murder,” I decided that our faculty should write a series of murder-mystery novels, with each book keyed to the specific author / professor’s principal area of study. I figured that even if this series doesn’t earn quite as much as Carter and Rubenfeld did, we could at least raise enough to buy the “Dig Dug“ coffee-table arcade game that I want for our faculty lounge.

With this plan, we–or more precisely, the super-agent we would hire–would market the novels as the “Santa Clara Law Mysteries.” Within this series, a Torts professor (cough, ahem) could write a mystery novel with a Torts theme; a Tax professor could write a novel with a Tax theme; a Contracts professor, a novel with (wait for it . . ) a Contracts theme, and so forth. I don’t know how we’d pull off the Conflicts murder-mystery novel, but if we ever got that far along, we’d find a way.

Then we would build baskets, or perhaps large nets, to collect the money that would inevitably pour in. I don’t know why law professors get such large advances for their mystery novels, just like I don’t know why Americans like to name motel chains after numbers. But if publishing houses are prepared to throw big money at law professors who dabble in fiction, we’d be foolish to leave this cash on the table.

Yes, I understand that we’re coming a little late to the Law-Professors-Writing-Mystery-Novels Party. But take a gander at the following tentative titles and plot summaries, and I’ll wager that any such concerns will evaporate:

Torts: “Criminal Conversation.” Mississippi playboy Evan Golusty didn’t order bayou water as his last drink, but the three gunshot wounds in his back mean it’ll have to do. Clutched in the water-logged corpse’s fist: a complaint that names Golusty as the defendant in an alienation of affections lawsuit. Who stripped away Golusty’s heartbalm, not to mention his heart? The embittered plaintiff in the civil suit, local district attorney Randolph Dupree? His wife, attorney Violet Dupree, with whom Golusty had just broken off a torrid affair? Or another of the quirky residents of West Magnolia, Mississippi? You’d be negligent to pass this story up.

Corporations:  ”Regulation 10-B-Dead.” Convicted insider trader Martha Deepockett was never a fan of Blue Sky statutes. The law of gravity does her no favors, either, as she plummets 49 stories from her midtown penthouse apartment to the cement sidewalk below. Was it suicide? Or were the true “risk factors” Martha’s old hedge-fund partners, fresh out of prison themselves? And what about the head of the SEC, with whom Deepockett was having a torrid affair? Use your business judgment in solving this mystery without any material omissions .

IP: “The Markman Marked Men.”  The new Powerhouse 2300 dynamo could end our reliance on foreign oil forever–but only if its owner, DynamiCorp, can defeat the patent- invalidity suit brought by global energy giant PowerBiz and its charismatic CEO, Tex Redherring. As the date for the crucial Markman hearing draws near, the lifespans of several top DynamiCorp executives are permanently “infringed.” Suspicions point toward PowerBiz and Redherring, who is having a torrid affair with the Powerhouse 2300. Is the solution to this mystery obvious, or non-obvious?

Accounting for Lawyers: I’m still thinking this one up.

Keep in mind that the actual novels would be much, much better than this. So, let me close with a message to all you literary agents out there: Let the bidding begin!

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