April 14, 2014 | Volume XXI, Issue 14

Siegel: Novel Fulfills Lifelong Dream

Published: April 4th, 2005

Category: News

If you were to invent the perfect mystery writer, his resume would probably look a lot like Mike Seigel’s. As a Harvard Law School graduate, Seigel knows a thing or two about putting words together. As a former federal prosecutor, he has an insider’s view of the courtroom drama that is the stuff of hundreds of crime novels. And as a law professor who teaches an evidence class at UF, Seigel has a knowledge of investigative techniques that most mystery writers would, well, kill for.

Now Seigel has put his mystery-writing credentials to the test with Improbable Events: Murder at Ellenton Hall, a mystery novel released in March. Seigel wrote the book, his first work of fiction, during a semester sabbatical.

“To write a novel was always a dream of mine,” Seigel said. “Sometimes you look at some of the books that do get published and you think ‘how hard can it be?’ Sometimes you come across a really great book and you wonder, ‘could I write something like that?’

“A couple of years ago I got tired of wondering,” he continued. “I decided to sit down and just do it.”

Improbable Events follows the adventures of Mark Bolton, an associate dean at the fictitious Tampa Bay University School of Law.

Bolton stumbles across a mystery when a student is found murdered in one of TBU’s classrooms. Against his better judgment, the former prosecutor can’t resist the temptation to get invloved in the investigation — even wangling an appointment as a sheriff’s deputy to improve his access to evidence.

Along the way, Bolton dodges the political pitfalls of life as a law school administrator, from squabbles about parking spaces to accusations that Bolton mishandled security before the murder.

Seigel says none of the colorful characters at TBU are portrayals of individuals at UF — not even Bolton, whose resume looks a lot like Seigel’s.

“Bolton is definitely not me, though we have a lot of things in common,” Seigel said. “They say you should write about what you know, so I write what I know. There are bits of me, and of other people I know from all aspects of my life — along with a large dose of imagination — in all these characters.”

Seigel racked up dozens of rejections before finding a home for his manuscript — a common experience for first-time novelists. He says the experience gave him newfound respect for people who make a career out of writing fiction.

“Publishing fiction is unbelievably difficult,” he said. “Just writing a book is hard enough. My hat is off to anyone who can do this not just once, but multiple times.”

Improbable Events is on sale locally at Wilbert’s and at Goering’s bookstores, where Seigel held a reading and book-signing last week. The author admits he’d like to see the book become a bestseller — but he isn’t keeping a close count of the number of copies sold.

“I’m not losing any sleep over sales,” he said. “If it becomes a bestseller, great. If nobody buys it, fine: I’ve already got a job that I love.”

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