of THE SMELL OF
MONEY: An Odd Fellows Mystery
Janet Kole graduated
from Bryn Mawr College before going on to receive her master’s from New York
University and law degree from Temple University’s James Beasley School of Law.
She has written many books and articles on legal issues, but has been a fan of
mystery fiction her whole life, especially the works of Agatha Christie and
Robert Parker. She practiced law for 30 years
with both large law firms and, for five years, her own environmental law
boutique. She started writing stories for her family at age 5. As a teenager,
she wrote press releases for the local 4H club. She started publishing her work
in The Bergen Record in the 1960s, as
a feature reporter for the newspaper. She wrote for Ms. magazine, New
Times, Penthouse and Harper’s Bazaar before becoming a
lawyer. For years she had a column on women and the law in Harper’s Bazaar.
She has also written guides for young lawyers, Chasing Paper, Pleading
Your Case, A Brief Guide to Brief
Writing, and Avoiding Bad Depositions,which were published by ABA Publishing. Her first book, Suggestion of Death, was published last year.
Ms. Kole retired as a
lawyer in 2010. Her new career as a writer is keeping her busy, which means
that she doesn’t get out to play golf as much as she thought she would. She
loves her family and boats. She tries to stay warm by spending the winters in
Florida. She lives part time in Pennsylvania and Maryland.
started in the profession, thirty years ago in a large national firm, the
practice of law was a genteel affair, with afternoon breaks for tea served in
china cups and brought around by a uniformed lady wheeling a tea cart, and
evening drinks in a senior partner’s office replete with a well-stocked bar. I
loved the clients, and I loved the cases, all interesting and intellectually
challenging. I even liked many of my colleagues.
But gradually, over the years, lawyering became less a service industry and
much more of a business. Add to that the economic collapse of 2008, and what
was merely more of a business evolved into a cutthroat environment that
rendered practicing law, at least for me, no longer fun. I left the firm where
I had been a partner for years, and retired.
Although being a lawyer had stopped being fun, writing about my experience has
been. I started by writing reality books for young lawyers that, with humor,
gave advice about learning how to practice law. As these kinds of books go,
they were best-sellers. Then I thought—why not let everyone get a sense of what
a lawyer’s life is like?
So I wrote Suggestion of Death, published this year. It’s a murder
mystery with a lawyer narrator. I added a bit of wish fulfillment to my
experiences, having one law partner murder another. The humor is there, because
as one of my colleagues said to me years ago, “if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry.”
As I look at my notes over the years, I realize I have material for many
novels. And because I enjoy reading mysteries, I intend to include murders in
all of my future novels. For some of the more outrageous situations I describe
in my writings, be assured: truth is stranger than fiction. These things have
happened, although not all to me. While my tenure in law firms has included
coping with suicide and murder, no law partners of mine ever murdered other
lawyers. They might have wanted to, but really, lawyers kill with words, not
See the ABC interview with Janet Kole.