MacDougal, Bonnie 1953-
MacDOUGAL, Bonnie 1953-
PERSONAL: Born October 8, 1953, in PA; daughter of Robert and Rosemae (Richards) MacDougal; married Robert Kistler, 1979; children: Alison, Jordan. Education: Bryn Mawr College, A.B. (English literature; with honors), 1975; University of Pennsylvania Law School, J.D., 1978. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, reading.
ADDRESSES: Home—PA. Offıce—Xlibris Corporation, 436 Walnut St., 11th Fl, Philadelphia, PA 19106-3703. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Attorney. Hughes, Thorsness, Gant, Powell & Brundin, Anchorage, AK, associate, 1978-79; Wright, Lindsey & Jennings, Little Rock, AR, associate, 1979-82; Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Philadelphia, PA, associate, 1982-88, senior attorney, 1988-94; Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz, Philadelphia, PA, consulting attorney, 1994-95; freelance writer, 1996—.
Breach of Trust (novel), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Angle of Impact (novel), Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Out of Order, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Common Pleas, Earnshaw Press, 2002.
Contributor to Natural Suspect, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2001.
SIDELIGHTS: Former attorney Bonnie MacDougal bases her fiction on her professional experiences. Her first novel, Breach of Trust, centers on Jenny Lodge, a young associate at a prestigious Philadelphia law firm. When Jenny teams up with hotshot Dan Casella, a partner at the firm, to win a complex embezzlement case, the two fall in love and begin an affair. Fearing the impropriety of this office romance, Dan forces Jenny to leave the firm. Outraged, she joins another firm and finds success, but also discovers she is carrying Dan's baby. This is familiar territory, but "happily, MacDougal has supplied these potentially stock characters with enough quirks" to keep them interesting, according to Booklist reviewer Mary Carroll. Moreover, this is all just background for the main legal thriller plot in which Dan and Jenny find that their embezzlement case is part of a web of corruption that reaches deep into Philadelphia's old Main Line families, and Jenny holds the key to unraveling it. For Publishers Weekly reviewer Sybil Steinberg, "the real pleasure here . . . is in experiencing MacDougal's sure grasp of the ups and downs of the legal life."
Angle of Impact, MacDougal's second novel, also focuses on a brilliant young Philadelphia attorney, Dana Svenssen. When Dana witnesses a fatal collision between her client's helicopter and a small plane, she immediately snaps some photos as evidence for the inevitable lawsuit. When her home is burglarized and her estranged husband is kidnapped, Dana takes a closer look and realizes that her photos prove the helicopter was sabotaged; she understands that somebody wants to keep that fact from coming to light. While fending off the victims' attorney and trying to prove her client's innocence, Dana must also discover the identity of the shadowy figures behind her husband's kidnappers. Not every reviewer was pleased with the results of the author's premise. "Wild improbability and cardboard characters mar this legal thriller," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer, for example. Library Journal reviewer Laurel Wilson was also disappointed. Contrasting Angle of Impact with MacDougal's first novel, Wilson felt that here the author "aims straight for the Judith Krantz/Danielle Steel crowd, with gorgeous people and turgid sex. The missing ingredient is danger." Other reviewers were more impressed, however, including another Library Journal contributor, Shirley Havens, who felt that "watching a high-powered attorney at work . . . makes this a winner." And Booklist reviewer Mary Carroll noted that the book "offers the inside scoop on how lawyers prepare for mass tort litigation," adding that Dana Svenssen's "personal and professional challenges are involving."
For her third novel, Out of Order, Bonnie MacDougal adds a touch of political intrigue. Campbell Alexander, a beautiful lawyer with a murky past, fears that her secrets may destroy the promising political career of her new husband, Doug. When Doug is asked to run for a congressional seat by powerful Senator Ash Ramsey, Cam fears for herself and her husband. But it is actually Ramsey who seems to be threatened, when his son Trey is kidnapped. Cam is hired to find the kidnapper, who turns out to be the boy's biological father, Steve, who was manipulated into giving up the boy. Cam soon finds herself caught up in Steve's problems, including a number of murders connected to Trey's missing mother, a woman of many secrets. Cam's own secrets soon come to light, leading to the sort of political skullduggery she had feared. The "ensuing maneuvering and courtroom action are flawlessly nasty, while illicit sexual affairs provide welcome . . . balance to the murderous gore," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
As an established author of legal thrillers, MacDougal was asked to collaborate on Natural Suspect, a round-robin crime novel spearheaded by William Bernhardt, another master of the courtroom drama. The story revolves around the murder of oil mogul Arthur Hightower, and each author, including such luminaries as Leslie Glass, John Katzenbach, and Philip Margolin, as well as MacDougal, contributed an unsigned chapter to the developing story. "The fun for the readers of this team tour de force is not to solve the case but to guess which author penned which chapter," noted Publishers Weekly reviewer Jeff Zaleski, adding that while some of the twists in this game of literary one-upmanship do not quite work, "most of the curveballs are fun."
MacDougal once told CA: "I am a trial lawyer who practiced for sixteen years with major law firms across the country, including a dozen years with a prominent Philadelphia firm. But it was always my strongest desire to write fiction, and I used my experiences as a lawyer as a springboard for my writing. I composed most of my first novel on yellow legal pads while commuting by train in and out of center city Philadelphia. I am now engaged as a full-time novelist and practice law only on an occasional consulting basis."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 1996, Mary Carroll, review of Breach of Trust, p. 322; February 1, 1998, Mary Carroll, review of Angle of Impact, p. 904.
Library Journal, September 1, 1996, Laurel Wilson, review of Breach of Trust, p. 210; January, 1998, Laurel Wilson, review of Angle of Impact, p. 142; November 1, 1998, Shirley Havens, review of Angle of Impact, p. 142.
Publishers Weekly, August 19, 1996, Sybil Steinberg, review of Breach of Trust, p. 53; December 15, 1997, review of Angle of Impact, p. 47; June 28, 1999, review of Out of Order, p. 51; September 10, 2001, Jeff Zaleski, review of Natural Suspect, p. 57.
Page One Literary Newsletter,http://www.pageonelit.com/ (February 16, 2004), interview with Bonnie MacDougal.