Newspaper article International New York Times

Britta Bohler, from the Courtroom to the Literary Life

Newspaper article International New York Times

Britta Bohler, from the Courtroom to the Literary Life

Article excerpt

After a distinguished 20-year career as a lawyer in the Netherlands and a term in the Dutch Parliament, Britta Bohler abruptly changed course and devoted herself to writing fiction.

The German-born lawyer Britta Bohler is famous in the Netherlands for having defended some of the country's most polarizing figures, from Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the outspoken Somali-born critic of Islam, to Volkert van der Graaf, who in 2002 assassinated the far-right Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn. But in 2010, after a distinguished 20-year career in public life that included a term in the Dutch parliament, Ms. Bohler abruptly changed course and devoted herself to writing fiction.

Under the name Britta Bolt, she and her co-author Rodney Bolt have penned a series of popular crime novels, set in Amsterdam and colored by Ms. Bohler's courtroom experience. The latest, "Lives Lost" (Mulholland), begins with a murder in Amsterdam's Red Light District. Ms. Bohler wrote those potboilers while finishing her first work of literary fiction, "The Decision," about Thomas Mann wrestling with the rise of Nazism. The novel, written in German, has been translated into eight languages and came out in English last month via Haus Publishing. In the following edited interview, Ms. Bohler talks about the connections between her legal and literary lives.

Q. Did you always want to write fiction?

A.When I was young I was convinced I would be a writer. But of course you have to earn money, and I sort of got sidetracked by studying law. For a long time that was satisfying enough because, as a lawyer, in a way you also tell stories. You take a case -- what your client brings to you, the legal context -- and you try to make a story out of it from the point of view of your client.

Q. Was there a common thread or guiding principle through all your legal work?

A.Most of the high-profile cases involved defending individuals against governments. There was often a political side to these cases, where politicians tried to interfere or influence the result. I was always interested in how you, as an individual, can fight legally the abuse of power by a government.

Q. …

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