A career move to law often means the end of the dream for aspiring writers, a time to trade in drafts for briefs. For Elizabeth Silver, however, the legal world was just the beginning of her life as a novelist.
After getting an MA in creative writing in England, Silver decided to follow it up with a law degree. Her first novel, The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, was born from her legal studies in capitol punishment cases and her subsequent job as a judicial clerk in Austin.
The book explores the complex moral and legal ambiguities of the law’s most life-and-death aspect, but more than that, it traces the human dramas at the heart of a death sentence.
The title character is a 35-year-old woman convicted of murder in Pennsylvania. She’s in prison, just six months from her execution date, when she’s approached by Marlene Dixon, the mother of her victim, who happens to be a high-powered attorney with newfound moral objections to the death penalty. Dixon, along with another lawyer, set about seeking clemency for Singleton.
As the book progresses, we learn more about the two women, the nature of Singleton’s crime, and the strange, intimate connection they share. Silver’s novel unfolds like a mystery, but packs a political and emotional resonance that goes well beyond the average whodunit. The Dallas Morning News applauds Silver for the novel’s nuance and spare, elegant style. You can read an excerpt of the book here, and check out Silver’s blog post about writing it here.
Silver, who grew up in Dallas and credits her legal experiences in Austin for the book’s genesis, will be speaking at BookPeople on Thursday at 7 PM.