McGeorge School of Law

Wood Talks Books, Movies, Crime and the Law

March 16, 2012

William P. Wood

William P. Wood

William P. Wood, '76, the author of eight novels and one nonfiction book, delivered the annual Lou Ashe Symposium lecture on March 14 as the Center for Advocacy & Dispute Resolution's author/advocate.

Wood began his legal career as a prosecutor in the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office. His nonfiction work, The Bone Garden, is an account of serial killer Dorothea Puente (aka "The Midnight Gardener"), who was the subject of a nationwide hunt after nine bodies were dug up from her Sacramento backyard. Wood earlier had sent Puente to prison for drugging elderly victims and robbing them. On her release from prison, she began killing her victims.

Most of Wood's novels have been optioned for motion pictures and two were produced. Rampage was filmed by Academy Award winning director William Friedkin ("The French Connection," "The Exorcist") for theatrical release. His novel Court of Honor was converted into a film, "Broken Trust," starring Tom Selleck and Marsha Mason that was the most-watched cable TV movie of the 1995-96 season. The Entertainment Law Association sponsored an on-campus screening of the later movie in the days before Wood's appearance.

Wood spoke to students and faculty on "Books, Movies, Crime and the Law," recounting his experiences with his works being recast as screenplays. "You write a book trying to keep your portrayal of the law accurate at all times," he said. "When it moves to visual vehicles such as TV and movies, you try to make the transition without distorting the law, but there's a severe contraction of time, elimination of subplots, and often changes in the key characters."

In answer to a question, "Were you thinking about being a writer when you were at McGeorge?" Wood replied emphatically, "No, I was just thinking about getting through law school."

Wood, who serves as legal counsel for the state agency, had praise for his legal alma mater. "A McGeorge education gives you a tremendous sense of confidence when you enter the legal profession. You can do anything in the law."

The Lou Ashe Symposium is named for the late Lou Ashe, a partner in the San Francisco law firm of Belli, Ashe & Choulos whose pioneering work in the 1956 Cutter polio vaccine case set the precedent for strict liability in defective drug cases. In 1972, Ashe founded the symposium at McGeorge and guided it over a 10-year period until his death. His friends and colleagues established a memorial fund to help underwrite expenses of an annual lecture in his honor.