While working his way through two degrees at the University of Saskatchewan, Bill Deverell was a journalist for seven years, graduating in law in 1963. He was a member of the bars of British Columbia, Alberta, and the Yukon, his criminal practice involved work for both prosecution and defence, and he worked in civil rights, labour, and environmental law. He is a founding director, former president, now honourary director of the B. C. Civil Liberties Association.
As a lawyer, he was counsel in more than a thousand criminal cases, including thirty murder trials, either as defender or prosecutor.
His first novel, Needles, won the $50,000 Seal Prize in l979 and the Book of the Year Award in l98l. His subsequent novels include High Crimes, Mecca, The Dance of Shiva, Platinum Blues, Mindfield, Kill All the Lawyers, Street Legal, Trial of Passion, Slander, The Laughing Falcon, Mind Games, April Fool, Kill All the Judges, Snow Job, and, his latest, I'll See You in My Dreams. He is author of the true crime book A Life on Trial – the Case of Robert Frisbee, based on a celebrated murder trial which he defended. His novels have been translated into fourteen languages and sold worldwide. All but two continue in print.
Trial of Passion won the 1997 Dashiell Hammett award, for literary excellence in crime writing in North America, as well as the Arthur Ellis prize in crime writing in Canada. It featured the classically trained, self-doubting Arthur Beauchamp, a trial lawyer who became Deverell’s first series protagonist, in April Fool (also an Ellis winner), Kill All the Judges (shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Prize in humour), and Snow Job, a political novel set in Ottawa, which has been similarly shortlisted. He has been referred to as a national Treasurer by the Toronto Star and received the Best Canadian Crime Writer award at the Scene of the Crime Festival in Ontario. In October, 2011, he was awarded an honourary doctor of letters from Simon Fraser University.
He wrote the screenplay Shellgame for CBC-TV drama, which served as the pilot for CBC's long-running series Street Legal, and he is the creator of that series, which has run internationally in more than 50 countries. In 1991-92, he served as Visiting Professor in the Creative Writing Department, University of Victoria. In 1994 he served as Chair of the Writers' Union of Canada, and again in 1999. He lives on Pender Island, British Columbia, and in Costa Rica.