By the time Michael Fredrickson ’82 turned 50, he had taken on many roles: Rhodes scholar, draft resister, English professor, farmer, attorney, lumberjack, auto mechanic, folk singer, and owner and performer in a singing telegram service.
But he hadn’t yet accomplished what he considers his most substantial feat. For years, Fredrickson had dreamed of being an author. So on his 50th birthday in 1995, he started his first novel, A Cinderella Affidavit. Four years later, it was published.
“For at least 30 or 35 years, I fantasized about writing fiction,” he said. “I did not want to turn 70 and not have done it.”
Although he received his bachelor’s degree in English from Macalester College, in St. Paul, Minn., attended Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar, and did graduate work in English literature at the University of Toronto, he is a self-proclaimed “late-bloomer.” Despite some success with the singing telegram business, he realized that it was not a long-term career choice. Still unsure what his dream job would be, Fredrickson reasoned that a law degree would give him the most options. He was 34 when he returned to school, after being out of academic life for 12 years.
Even after establishing a stable career, Fredrickson was still pining for the writing life. He jumped into the challenge undaunted by the fact that he had no previous fiction writing experience. His first few attempts, however, were more than a little rough.
“They were horrible,” he said. “But after a while, it stopped being so terrible. After a while, it actually became like a lover you snuck off to.”
His affair with writing has continued with the publication earlier this year of a new novel, Witness for the Dead (Forge Books). Like his first book, Fredrickson’s latest is based on real events. While A Cinderella Affidavit follows the murder of a Boston policeman and the trial of the man accused of killing him, Witness for the Dead taps into the FBI’s use of South Boston mobsters James “Whitey” Bulger and Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi as informants.
Now writing his newest crime drama at his Watertown, Mass., home, where he lives with wife, Jolly, and 9-year-old son, Zeke, Fredrickson serves as general counsel to the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers. After graduating from HLS, he worked for more than five years as an associate at the Boston law firm Hill & Barlow. There, in a turning point in his law career, Fredrickson represented a homeless elderly couple. “They were living in their car due to a lawyer stealing all their money,” he said.
He took the couple’s case before the Clients’ Security Board, a state agency that distributes funds to people who have sustained a financial loss caused by the dishonest conduct of a member of the bar, and got them their money back.
“I was able to give a check to them, and it was one of my greatest moments as a lawyer,” said Fredrickson. “It was only $25,000, but to them it was everything.”
Today, he is counsel to the Clients’ Security Board in addition to his responsibilities with the Board of Bar Overseers, the lawyer disciplinary agency for Massachusetts. Fredrickson said that the transgressions of only 37 lawyers out of more than 43,000 practicing in the commonwealth led to the awarding of $2.7 million to clients last year.
“It’s the law of human nature that there will be some ethical violations,” he said.
You could write a book about that.