ALJ uses U of M campus as setting for first novel

By Jo Mathis

Legal News

A U.S. administrative law judge says her years at the University of Michigan were so memorable, she used the Ann Arbor campus as the setting for her first novel.

"People have asked, 'Why not set it in law school?'" said U.S. Administrative Law Judge Debra H. Goldstein of Birmingham, Ala. "But to have a series, I thought they should go to undergrad first. And there's no better one than my own."

Goldstein traveled to Ann Arbor this past weekend, where the Michigan grad signed copies of "Maze in Blue," a murder mystery set on the U-M campus in the 1970s.

Goldstein attended U-M from 1970 to 1973, and included such familiar haunts as the Diag, her dormitory, and the Michigan Law School in her whodunit.

How did Goldstein -- a judge, author, litigator, wife, stepmom, mother of twins, and a civic volunteer -- find find time to write a book?

About 10 years ago, she was invited to use a friend's beach condo for a weekend with the sole purpose of starting the book she had in her head.

By the time she went home, she had a beginning, a middle and an end. She wrote on vacation and late at night, and many rewrites later, she also had a publisher.

The main character of her book finds her carefree college life shattered when she discovers her best friend Helen dead. While trying to solve the murder, she realizes her own life is in danger.

The book came together and found a publisher only after some difficult editing.

"I had to figure out how to kill someone without waiting to page 88," she said, referring to an early draft. "I'm a much better writer now than I was 10 years ago."

To add Ann Arbor color to the book, she wrote mostly from memory. But she also visited Ann Arbor twice in recent years when her daughter was considering attending school at U-M. Standing on the Diag on a frigid cold day, she told her mother she was sorry, but she would not be attending U-M.

Goldstein said she doesn't miss the snow, either. A graduate of Emory University School of Law, she had worked as a corporate international tax law for General Motors when she realized two things: She didn't like snow. And she didn't like being a tax attorney.

She moved south and never looked back.

When Goldstein was appointed to the bench in 1990 at the age of 36, she became one of the youngest attorneys to fill that post.

Maze in Blue, the first of a series of Denney Silber mysteries published by Chalet Publishers, LLC, is available in independent bookstores.

E-book and book versions also are available from, Barnes and Noble and other online sources.

Published: Mon, Nov 14, 2011

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