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William J. Coughlin books in order

William Jeremiah Coughlin, better known as William J. Coughlin, was an American defense attorney, judge and author of legal and political thrillers.

As an author he is known for writing books such as The Dividend Was Death (1968), The Twelve Apostles (1984), Her Father's Daughter (1986), and the book series Charley Sloan, and The Cain Thrillers.

He also wrote under the pseudonym Sean A. Key.

Coughlin worked as a defense attorney and judge in Detroit for two decades, where he gained immense experience that went a long way in inspiring his fiction works.

He made his home in Grosse Point Woods, Michigan, where he resided with his wife, Ruth, an author and book critic.

More about William J. Coughlin

Genres: Legal Thriller, Political Thriller, Thriller

Born: 1929 / Died: 1992

United States

Pseudonym: Also known as Sean A. Key

Non Series

  • The Dividend Was Death (1968)
  • The Destruction Committee (1971)
  • The Grinding Mill (1973)
  • The Stalking Man (1979)
  • Day of Wrath (1980)
  • The Twelve Apostles (1984)
  • Her Father's Daughter (1986)
  • Her Honor (1987)
  • In the Presence of Enemies (1989)
  • The Heart of Justice (1995)

Charley Sloan

  1. Shadow of A Doubt (1991)
  2. Death Penalty (1992)
  3. The Judgment (1997)
  4. The Court (1982)
  5. Proof of Intent (2002)

Omnibus Books

  1. Order in Court: Three thrilling courtroom novels (2018)

The Cain Thrillers

  1. The Mark of Cain (1980)
  2. Cain's Chinese Puzzle (1981)

Detailed book overview

Non Series

The Dividend Was Death

Everyone knew what sort of photographs to expect in White Tie magazine, and had their own ideas about the girls who posed for them. So how did beautiful but sheltered young Margo Kobency come to be featured in the magazine’s notorious centre-spread? Her outraged father cried murder … and murder was done to one of the magazine’s executives.

'Stonewall' Jackson Walsh is called in to prove Mr. Kobency's innocence, but soon he finds himself embroiled in a vicious and desperate battle for power between some of the wealthiest and most ruthless men he’s ever known.

Author: William J. Coughlin
First Release: 1968
Ebook: B07RG75C76
Publisher: Lume Books
The Destruction Committee

The President takes his last breaths in a hospital bed. The Vice President, Carlyn Foreman, is poised to take office.

Yet Foreman is both un-elected and unpopular. Almost everybody around him believes him to be a repellent human being, fundamentally unfit for office, and even a Russia sympathiser. Two questions remain. Can Foreman be stopped? Should he be stopped?

In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, few Americans have an appetite for conflict, but there is an exception: The Destruction Committee. Forged in the theatre of war, the Destruction Committee comprises top-grade soldiers, men who know how to kill quickly, ruthlessly and without being caught. Operating well outside the law, they declare themselves dedicated to the greater good. The Destruction Committee believes that Carlyn Foreman is a threat to that greater good.

Author: William J. Coughlin
First Release: 1971
Publisher: Lume Books
The Grinding Mill

A shadow moving across a street at night. Is he coming this way? What's he pulling out of his pocket?

When two security guards are assigned to patrol a district in a Midwestern town, they don't think of the danger it might bring them. They think only of the constant excitement and fulfilment of chasing down criminals.

But after a fatal accident on the job, the two guards realise they've made a mistake that will not only cost them their jobs and reputations, but also one that will cost the city its peace.

As their war wages within the courtroom, another erupts on the streets.

Author: William J. Coughlin
First Release: 1973
Ebook: B01MXZ4F3W
Publisher: Lume Books
The Stalking Man

In a twisted trail of blood, he spelled out his name, The Stalking Man, hunting women in cities across the country the way his father had once taught him to hunt deer. He loved the moment of terror frozen on their faces when the all-too-horrifying realization would hit them-they were going to die a death more violent and ghastly than their worst nightmares...

They had caught him once-he did his time and now he was "cured." But he'd been sloppy then. This time he slithered through the country, striking with cunning and precision, laughing at the law as he outran them again and again. Now two men must piece together his macabre clues and stop a sadistic killer who's about to strike too close to home...

Author: William J. Coughlin
First Release: 1979
ISBN: 978-0417056203
Publisher: Magnum Books
Day of Wrath

The city’s criminal courthouse is an unlikely place to find an ambitious state supreme court justice.

Insiders call it “the Zoo” because it’s full of animals, the dregs of the city’s underbelly. A group of judges hatch a plot to clean out the pens, thinking that their plan will de-clog the system.

But a plan that began as a simple stepping-stone to power savagely backfires and the judges of the criminal court are caught in the middle of an ugly terrorist plot.

A small band of terrorists, calling themselves the World Liberation Army, invades the courthouse during the judges’ monthly meeting, demanding the release of two of their soldiers and threatening everyone who stands in their way.

The judges, prosecutors, probation officers, and countless innocent bystanders are caught up in a ruthless and horrifying vortex of violence, and not everyone will escape unscathed.

Author: William J. Coughlin
First Release: 1980
Ebook: B01MU2PHSO
Publisher: Lume Books
The Twelve Apostles

How far would you go to get the ultimate prize?

Anyone who is anyone in the lofty world of corporate law knows that the vacant senior partner’s chair at the illustrious Manhattan firm of Nelson & Clark is the most fiercely coveted prize in the profession.

Nelson & Clark is so awesome in its influence, so elite in its international prestige that its senior partners are known irreverently as “The Twelve Apostles”.

Beautiful Christina Giles wants the vacant Apostle’s chair, and she has the legal prowess and political savvy the position demands.

But first she must outwit a ruthless, Eurasian tycoon with a maniacal desire to possess her.

He attempts to use her as a pawn in a dangerous corporate takeover which has the potential to destroy the greatest law firm in the world.

And even if she can escape from his clutches, Christina must then defeat — and maybe destroy — her lover, brilliant fellow lawyer Dan Spencer, in a hard-core power struggle only one of them can survive…

Author: William J. Coughlin
First Release: 1984
ISBN: 978-1521518410
Publisher: Independently published
Her Father's Daughter

As president of Van Horn Enterprises, Hunter Van Horn was one of the most powerful men in New York…

But outside of the towering Van Horn Building, he held more power than most could possibly imagine as one of eight members of the Vault: a secretive group of New York power brokers who quietly run the city.

And the support of the Vault became increasingly important as Van Horn realized that his company was in dire straits and in danger of sinking fast…

When Van Horn is killed in a plane crash, everyone assumes that control of his mighty but ailing empire and his seat on the Vault will pass to his feckless son, Junior.

But even in death Van Horn still has a few tricks up his sleeve — it is not his son, but his daughter Victoria, from whom he had been estranged for years, who is his true heir.

Victoria Van Horn, beautiful and rich in her own right, has reservations about taking on her father’s role in the business.

Especially as she has just gambled everything she possesses on a new and risky venture of her own...

As for the all-male bastion of the Vault, she holds no illusions.

Yet she cannot shirk her duties as her father’s heir and soon discovers her father’s enemies are now set on destroying her…

Her brother, Junior, is furious at having been slighted and with his scheming wife Cecelia, he launches a suit to discredit Victoria and throw her out of Van Horn Enterprises for good.

Author: William J. Coughlin
First Release: 1986
ISBN: 978-0330295550
Publisher: Pan
Her Honor

What is the price of honor?

In the hidden chambers in the courts of justice, ambition, greed and corruption reign supreme. Justice is twisted out of shape and anyone will do anything in their thirst for power.

When Kathleen Talbot is assigned her first important case as a circuit court judge, she must confront more than her trial at hand in this dangerous world. The case on the docket - a controversial “mercy killing” of a brain-dead victim by a vengeful officer – is a painful reminder of her own decision to have her terminally ill father’s life-support system cut off.

At first, Kathleen’s sense of honor impels her to proceed, regardless of the consequences. But as the case progresses and the pressure mounts, she soon realizes that she, instead, has been put on trial. Meanwhile, with the position of executive judge up for grabs, political favors and backroom deals sweep through the courtroom, as judges are out to score the most votes.

Author: William J. Coughlin
First Release: 1987
ISBN: 978-1521509173
Publisher: Independently published
In the Presence of Enemies

The death and surprise will of a wealthy father plunges a family into animosity and conspiracy.

Jake Martin has been working at a top city law firm for five years. With his eye on the coveted position of partner, he's looking for a case that could make his career.

He sees his opportunity when a rich client passes away after a year on life support. But the client's shock will places all of the man's wealth into the hands of his new wife, leaving his children with little other than their rage.

Jake finds himself suddenly amid the ruthless greed of influential men and women, buffeted back and forth by currents of power. Ultimately, he realizes that when in the presence of enemies, the only person you can truly count on is himself.

Author: William J. Coughlin
First Release: 1989
ISBN: 978-0312951641
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
The Heart of Justice

Hope Scott...

She's a beautiful New York heiress who will do anything for love, including pulling strings with a ruthless power broker to advance her husband's judicial career. But she doesn't know the hidden price; a blackmail, the rape of her trust fund, and perhaps the ruin of her marriage.

Judge Paul Murray...

He fought his way up from his working-class Irish roots to the Federal bench. Tough and honest, dedicated to the law, he relishes sitting on the case before to rival some of America's biggest corporate takeovers.

The heart of justice..

The outcome is worth billions, the tactics cutthroat, and suddenly, with the threatened exposure of a ruinous secret, everything Paul cares about is on the line--his marriage, his career, his reputation. Now faced with choices he never thought he'd have to make, he must confront what truly lies at the heart of justice...

Author: William J. Coughlin
First Release: 1995
ISBN: 978-0312955519
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks

Charley Sloan

Shadow of A Doubt

Charley Sloan thought it was all behind him — his career, his wives, his drink problem.

The colorful life he had once lived seemed a vague memory; he was now a regular at local AA meetings and was scraping by with work, using an office in a quiet and uneventful probate firm.

There were no glamorous women, no exotic holidays and no flash cars.

There was just Charley, sobriety, a rented studio and an old Ford Escort.

Life was lonely without booze, but it was stable. That is, until the arrival of an expensive looking client in his shabby lawyer’s office…

Robin Harwell — a sweetheart from High School with a favour to ask, and $20,000 to pay for it.

Defend her step-daughter? No easy task when the charge is murder, the victim her husband and the defendant has already confessed …

Angel — the rich little girl with celestial looks and a dead father’s blood on her hands. Innocent child, cool headed killer or completely psychotic? She probably needs a magician more than a lawyer …

Apart from the scandalous case they are facing, Robin and Angel seem to be coping remarkably well without Harrison Harwell. Their primary focus is on selling the shipping empire he left behind and making sure Angel doesn’t wind up in jail.

Why have they chosen Charley and what are they hiding?

Family feuds, secret sexualities and missing records add to the pressure Charley is under — this is the one chance he has to restore his name but he knows he has to take a risk and fight dirty if he wants to win.

With the publicity machine revving, the District Attorney prosecuting and the temptation to reach for the bottle growing, Charley must prove there’s a Shadow of A Doubt or else he’s sunk forever.

Shadow of A Doubt
Director: Brian Dennehy
Cast: Brian Dennehy, Bonnie Bedelia, Fairuza Balk, Mike Nussbaum, Kevin Dunn, Joe Grifasi, Michael MacRae, Ken Pogue, Donnelly Rhodes, Brent Jennings
Author: William J. Coughlin
First Release: 1991
ISBN: 978-0312927455
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Death Penalty

Detroit lawyer Charley Sloan has been around the block once or twice. Down for the count, drinking heavily, a three-time loser in the marriage wars, Charley repairs his tattered career and gets back in the game. Heading his rogues' gallery of clients is the infamous, twisted angel of mercy, Doctor Death, whose patients have a strange habit of dying under very peculiar circumstances.

But now Charley steps into a case with the opportunity to do some good. The high stakes include a literal matter of life and death. And, as he quickly discovers, they also include the sinister stench of corruption that reaches to the highest levels of jurisprudence-including Charley Sloan's respected mentor. Suddenly, a rock and a hard place never looked so good.

Author: William J. Coughlin
First Release: 1992
Ebook: B003J48C3Q
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
The Judgment

The death of innocence

In a rural area outside of Detroit, bodies are being found in the snow. One after another. Neatly washed, wrapped in platic, methodically laid out like sleeping angels. And very, very young.

The birth of evil

Forty miles away and at the other end of the world, an honest cop, the deputy chief chief of police, has been framed for a corruption charge. In a world of big-city politics, he wants ace lawyer Charley Sloan to get him off.

The only hope

Pulled into the two very different cases, Charley faces the heat of a perplexnig serial murder investigation and the heavey hitters of the Motor City's inner circle. Interviewing witnesses, putting together clues, Charley Sloan, a man who has been at the bottom and at the top, is about to uncover the explosive difference between true innocence-and the most dangerous guilt of all...

The Judgement.

Author: William J. Coughlin
First Release: 1997
Ebook: B003H4I5LW
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
The Court

Nine Supreme Court judges will soon decide four history-making cases. Eight of them will split along party lines four to four. The ninth judge, holding the swing vote, will tip the scales of justice. He's a good man, a fine man, and, unknown to nearly everyone, a dying man-barely kept alive by machines in a very private hospital.

High-powered Washington attorney Jerry Green is one of the privileged few who discovers American justice rides on the rise and fall of a respirator. Now he's been called by the President himself to do something about it. It's a hunt for truth that will arouse his darkest suspicions...force him to make a shocking choice...and save the legitimacy of American justice. Or shatter it forever...

Author: William J. Coughlin
First Release: 1982
ISBN: 978-0312970277
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Proof of Intent

Charley Sloan isn't your typical lawyer. But then again, this isn't your typical case. When famous author and hometown hero Miles Dane is arrested for murdering his wife, it seems like an open-and-shut case. With no credible alibi, a mountain of physical evidence, and a motive of millions, it seems the prosecution's case is airtight.

The police suspect that Dane had planned this crime many years ago--and made the mistake of writing it all exact detail. Even Charley begins to question Dane's innocence. But Charley's own investigation gives him reason to believe that his client is being framed and that the real killer is using Dane's own bizarre imagination against him. But why isn't Dane speaking up? What secrets is he hiding?

As the trial begins, it's still unclear where Miles Dane's wild imaginings stop and reality begins. Or whether he is committing the ultimate sacrifice in order to atone for something he did long ago. Only in the crucible of the final, fevered moments of trial will Charley finally put the pieces together and reveal the stunning truth...

NB: Co-authored with Walter Sorrells.

Author: William J. Coughlin
First Release: 2002
Ebook: B003G93Z9U
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Omnibus Books

Order in Court: Three thrilling courtroom novels

The Order in Court collection: three court room thrillers and the drama that happens beyond closed doors.

From corporate takeovers to controversial ‘mercy killings,’ Coughlin’s novels tell of all the twisted shapes justice can take in the court room and what anyone will do in their thirst for power.

Political favors, backroom deals, and corrupt tycoons surround each protagonist as they struggle to thrive in the legal system.

Author: William J. Coughlin
First Release: 2018
Ebook: B07M8RC2CH
Publisher: Lume Books

The Cain Thrillers

The Mark of Cain

The Mark of Cain is the curse of the fugitive.

It began with thirty yachts that vanished into nowhere and the missing heir to America’s largest fortune. It led to a fortress like casino on a terrorized Caribbean island…to a bloody rendezvous with modern-day pirates and a deadly encounter with the biggest narcotics empire in the world.

Cain was the hunter—and the hunted. Who would get to him first? The beautiful woman with feline eyes and hidden claws…the pirates with their trap baited and waiting…the sharks…the Syndicate overlords monitoring his every move?

Once Cain had been a cop. Now he was the hottest gun in town. He had taken on more than a man could handle. Would he survive—to laugh at them all?

Author: William J. Coughlin
First Release: 1980
Ebook: B086X628L8
Publisher: Lume Books
Cain's Chinese Puzzle

His gun was for hire, his life was for sale...

There's been a mysterious murder in New York’s Chinatown; an urgent summons from the ruthless chief of an oil cartel and Cain is speeding across the globe on a hunt that leads from the twisting back alleys of Hong Kong to a secret meeting in Communist China and a violent confrontation with an Asian crime syndicate.

The balance of world power is at stake, and a pack of killers are on his trail. It will take more than luck or guts to find the key to Cain’s Chinese Puzzle…

Author: William J. Coughlin
First Release: 1981
Ebook: B08KW4X8GY
Publisher: Lume Books