Bowen, Michael 1951- (Michael Anthony Bowen)

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Bowen, Michael 1951- (Michael Anthony Bowen)


Born July 16, 1951, in Fort Monroe, VA; son of Harold (a medical photographer) and Judith (an office worker) Bowen; married Sara Armbruster (a lawyer), August 30, 1975; children: Rebecca, Christopher, John, Marguerite, James. Education: Rockhurst College, A.B. (summa cum laude), 1973; Harvard University, J.D. (cum laude), 1976. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Roman Catholic.


Home—Fox Point, WI. Office—Foley & Lardner, 777 E. Wisconsin Ave., Ste. 3900, Milwaukee, WI 53202-5367. E-mail—[email protected]


Admitted to the Bars of Wisconsin and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits; Foley & Lardner (law firm), Milwaukee, WI, partner, 1976—. Member of Milwaukee Archdiocese Medical Ethics Committee and Wisconsin Right to Life Legal Committee.


St. Thomas More Lawyers' Society, Milwaukee Bar Association, Council for Wisconsin Writers, American Bar Association.


Award for provision of pro bono legal services, Milwaukee Young Lawyers Association.



The Fourth Glorious Mystery, Branden Publishing (Boston, MA), 2000.


Badger Game, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1989.

Fielder's Choice, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1991.

Act of Faith, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1993.


Washington Deceased, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1990.

Faithfully Executed, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1992.

Corruptly Procured, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1994.

Worst Case Scenario: A Washington, D.C. Mystery, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 1996.

Collateral Damage, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1999.


Screenscam, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2001.

Unforced Error: A Rep and Melissa Pennyworth Mystery, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2001.

Putting Lipstick on a Pig, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2006.


(With Gary Marshall and Kay Freeman) Passing By: The United States and Genocide in Burundi (monograph), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (Washington, DC), 1973.

Can't Miss, Harper (New York, NY), 1987.

(With Brian E. Butler) The Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law, State Bar of Wisconsin (Madison, WI), 1988, second edition, 1995, third edition, 2003.

Hillary! How America's First Woman Won the White House (novel), Braden Books (Boston, MA), 2003.

Contributor to law journals, including Harvard Law Review. Also contributor to The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing, University Press (New York, NY), 1999.


Michael Bowen is a practicing lawyer who specializes in commercial litigation and arbitration, and lender liability. In addition to writing legal-related books, he is also the author of a number of mystery novels, many of which draw on his legal and political knowledge. Several novels by Bowen feature Richard Michaelson, a retired Foreign Service diplomat, and his friend Marjorie Randolph. In the first title in the series, Washington Deceased, Richard Michaelson is called upon to assist a senator who is currently in a minimum-security prison in Maryland when it looks like he may not get parole. Wendy Gardner, the senator's daughter, serves as a go-between, but the stakes increase abruptly when one of the senator's fellow inmates is murdered and he is considered the prime suspect. Sybil Steinberg, reviewing for Publishers Weekly, found the solution to the mystery a little too perfect, but ultimately concluded that "the capricious capital ambiance is captured perfectly," adding that "Bowen deserves watching."

Bowen continues the series with Faithfully Executed. The book delves into some of the political questions looming in real life as it questions whether it might be possible to rig the results of an election using computers. Initially the investigation surrounds a man who has been put to death by lethal injection, sparked by a reporter's comment that the man looked unusually surprised and the query that followed into whether or not there were any unusual circumstances surrounding the execution. Ultimately Michaelson becomes involved in the case, heading up the commission set to investigate the incident, and discovers the man was in some way linked to a computer-rigged election. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that "Bowen gives readers a highly satisfying peek at the machinations of bureaucratic Washington."

Corruptly Procured, Bowen's next title featuring Richard Michaelson, kicks off with an explosion during a reception at the Library of Congress and the theft of a Guttenberg Bible by a German terrorist group called Kulturkampf. Despite having been injured in the explosion—or perhaps because he was—Michaelson is called upon by an attorney to look into what sort of work Karla Schuler does for the German Embassy, where the pilfered Bible was delivered. When the Treasury department indicates an interest in the attorney who has hired him, Michaelson begins to suspect that all of the issues are in some way tied together. Wendy Gardner from the first book in the series reappears to give Michaelson a hand. In a review for Publishers Weekly, a reviewer called the book "a sophisticated and attention-commanding tour though a political landscape in which intrigue seems less the exception than the rule."

In the fourth book in the series, Worst Case Scenario: A Washington, D.C. Mystery, Michaelson investigates the murder of Sharon Bedford, a young woman found dead inside a locked hotel room. Initially it is assumed that she killed herself, but when Michaelson learns that the dead woman had mailed a coded list to her fiancé shortly before her death, he swiftly changes his mind. The piece of paper soon turns out to have the potential to cause a major political scandal in Washington, DC. While Dick Lochte, writing in the Los Angeles Times, found the dialogue to be sharp but overwhelming in quantity, he also noted that "Bowen seems to have the real stuff. He's funny and cynical and is capable of conjuring up a credible scenario." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly remarked that "the volatile mixture of politics and government secrets, all of which are deadly, explodes in a tale of innuendo run amok." Booklist contributor Gilbert Taylor found the book to be "a breezy diversion."

Michaelson investigates another case in Collateral Damage. This novel focuses on the sale of a mansion owned by a recently deceased Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent. The agent's daughters, Cindy and Catherine Shepherd, are odd at best and want the house sold quickly. The sale takes an unusual turn because the property itself is at the center of a secret. Michaelson takes charge of the mansion's sale as well as the investigation of the unexpected death of Catherine's fiancé on the property. Budd Arthur praised Bowen's development as a writer in Booklist, acknowledging that "solid research and sharp writing make for an excellent read."

Another series of Bowen's mysteries follows Repper "Rep" Pennyworth, an intellectual property lawyer based in Indianapolis, Indiana. He wants to live a simple, quiet life, spending time with his wife, Melissa, and their family, but he and his wife get caught up in investigations that pull them away from home. One of their adventures, Screenscam, is a book that a Kirkus Review critic called "the first mystery in many a day that should have been longer." In the novel, Pennyworth is assigned the case of Charlotte Buchanan, the author of a poorly written novel and the daughter of one of his firm's wealthy clients. Charlotte believes the idea behind her abysmal novel has been stolen to be made into a movie, and she instructs Pennyworth to take the studio to court. Though they doubt the validity of her claim at first, Pennyworth and his wife come to realize that she might be right. During the course of his investigation, Pennyworth discovers the case is more complicated than it appears; Charlotte herself has sinister intentions. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented: "Bowen writes with knowledge and wit, tongue in cheek or rudely protruding. His cat-and-mouse corporate thriller zips merrily to a high-speed conclusion."

The Pennyworths return in Unforced Error: A Rep and Melissa Pennyworth Mystery. Here the couple travels to Kansas City, Missouri, to participate in a reenactment of a Civil War battle and spend time with a school friend of Melissa's, Laura Damon, and her husband, Peter. Laura works for a publisher that Rep would like for a client. During the battle reenactment, Rep and Melissa end up investigating the death of Laura's coworker and lover, Thomas Quinlan, and the subsequent disappearance of Peter. Unforced Error is "well-crafted" and "well-researched," according to a Publishers Weekly writer, who concluded that "fans of more literate mysteries have good reason to cheer." Jenny McLarin, in a review for Booklist, found that "our minds are distracted from the somewhat implausible plot by the appeal of the heroes," and went on to compare the team of Rep and Melissa Pennyworth to classic sleuths Nick and Nora Charles.

Bowen once told CA: "My readers are elite in the sense that the British Parliament is elite—they are not particularly distinguished, but there are only about 600 of them! I like to think of myself as the last novelist in America who hasn't been ripped off for an Eddie Murphy movie. My two driving ambitions are to make it to the U.S. Supreme Court and to appear on the French television program Apostrophes."



Booklist, May 15, 1999, Budd Arthur, review of Collateral Damage, p. 1672; April 1, 2004, Jenny McLarin, review of Unforced Error: A Rep and Melissa Pennyworth Mystery, p. 1350.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2001, review of Screenscam, p. 1246.

Los Angeles Times, December 15, 1996, Dick Lochte, "Murder, He Wrote," review of Worst Case Scenario: A Washington, D.C. Mystery, p. 3.

Publishers Weekly, September 14, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of Washington Deceased, p. 113; December 20, 1991, review of Faithfully Executed, p. 67; February 14, 1994, review of Corruptly Procured, p. 83; September 9, 1996, review of Worst Case Scenario, p. 67; September 24, 2001, review of Screenscam, p. 70; March 22, 2004, review of Unforced Error, p. 66.


Foley & Lardner LLP Web site, (October 4, 2005), biography of Michael Bowen.