Mystery-suspense author Scott Turow will be the commencement speaker for The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Commencement is 10 a.m., Saturday, May 3 next to Lumbee Hall.
Turow is a Chicago-based writer and attorney and author of seven best-selling novels: “Presumed Innocent” (1987), “The Burden of Proof” (1990), “Pleading Guilty” (1993), “The Laws of Our Fathers” (1996), “Personal Injuries” (1999), “Reversible Errors” (2002) and “Ordinary Heroes” (2005).
His novella, “Limitations,” was published as a paperback original in November 2006 by Picador following its serialization in The New York Times Magazine. His works of non-fiction include “One L” (1977) about his experience as a law student, and “Ultimate Punishment” (2003), a reflection on the death penalty.
He frequently contributes essays and op-ed pieces to publications such as The New York Times, Washington Post, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Playboy and The Atlantic.
Turow, a practioner of the legal-thriller novel, is a staunch defender of the mystery genre.
“One of the ironies is that this poor genre, the mystery, is so looked down upon, yet it enthralls people,” he said in a recent interview. “Just because it’s a mystery, it doesn’t have to be mindless.
“Only in the mystery novel are we delivered final and unquestionable solutions,” he continued. “The joke to me is that fiction gives you a truth that reality can't deliver.”
The author cites authors Charles Dickens and Saul Bellow as inspirations.
“I think Dickens is a profound influence on me,” Turow said. “But as a younger person I didn't necessarily appreciate Dickens.
“The most enthralling American writer to me when I was much younger was Saul Bellow,” he said. “He’s from Chicago as I am. He has a good sense of the vernacular. He's interested in ideas.”
Turow’s books have won a number of literary awards, including the Heartland Prize in 2003 for “Reversible Errors” and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 2004 for “Ultimate Punishment” and Time Magazine's Best Work of Fiction, 1999 for “Personal Injuries.” His books have been translated into more than 25 languages, sold more than 25 million copies world-wide and have been adapted into one full length film and two television miniseries.
Turow continues to work as an attorney. He has been a partner in the Chicago office of Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal, a national law firm, since 1986, concentrating on white collar criminal defense, while also devoting a substantial amount of time to pro bono matters. In one such case, he represented Alejandro Hernandez in the successful appeal that preceded Hernandez’s release after nearly twelve years in prison, including five on death row, for a murder he did not commit.
Turow was born in Chicago in 1949. He graduated with high honors from Amherst College in 1970. That year, he received an Edith Mirrielees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which he attended from 1970-72.
From 1972-75, Turow taught creative writing at Stanford, as E.H. Jones Lecturer. In 1975, he entered Harvard Law School, graduating with honors in 1978.
From 1978-86, he was an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago. He was a prosecutor in the trial of Illinois Attorney General William J. Scott, who was convicted of tax fraud. Turow was also lead government counsel in a number of the trials connected to Operation Greylord, a federal investigation of corruption into the Illinois judiciary.
Turow has been active in a number of charitable causes including organizations that promote literacy, education and legal rights. In 1997-98, he served as president of the Authors Guild, which is the national membership organization for professional writers, and continues to serve on its governing board. He is also a trustee of Amherst College. Additionally, he performs with the Rock Bottom Remainders, a musical group of best seller authors raising funds for various literacy charities.
An appointed member to a number of public bodies, Turow is currently a member of Illinois' Executive Ethics Commission. From 2002-04, he served as chair of the Illinois State Appellate Defender’s Commission, which oversees the state agency that represents indigent criminal defendants in their appeals.
He served as one of the 14 members of the commission appointed in March 2000 by Illinois Governor George Ryan to consider reform of the capital punishment system. From 2000-02, Turow was a member of the Illinois State Police Merit Board, which determines matters of hiring, promotion and discipline for members of the Illinois State Police. He also has served in 1997-98 on the U.S. Senate Nominations Commission for the Northern District of Illinois, which recommends appointments of federal judges.