Judge Ponsor covers Judge Norcross at Jacob Edwards Library

By Helen Boyle & Shaun Moriarty
Citizen Chronicle Contributors

SOUTHBRIDGE — A bestselling author out of Springfield was on hand at the local library on Thursday evening to share a book set in western Massachusetts.

Michael A. Ponsor read from his second novel, “The One-Eyed Judge,” in a free and public event at the Jacob Edwards Library. The event was sponsored by the Friends of Jacob Edwards Library. Mr. Ponsor is a semi-retired United States District Judge, serving in Springfield.

Mr. Ponsor told those assembled at the library that whatever difficulties one faces while writing, the successes are rewarding.

“A good day of writing is kind of like falling in love,” he said.

“The One-Eyed Judge” is a fictional account of a complicated and emotional child pornography case. Set in western Massachusetts, the plot emerges through the eyes of the arresting police officer, the judge’s law clerks, the defense attorney, the prosecutor, the witnesses, and the defendant himself. Most importantly, the book presents the viewpoint of the judge on the bench, caught up in the cross currents of his personal life, and facing the nearly impossible task of giving both the defense and the prosecution an impartial and unbiased trial.

The novel has received high praise.

“Here again, as in ‘The Hanging Judge,’ Ponsor brings his rare combination of experience on the bench and flair for storytelling to a timely topic,” award-winning author Joseph J. Ellis has said.

According to the Friends of Jacob Edwards Library, when Mr. Ponsor transitioned into semi-retirement after three decades on the bench, he started to enjoy two privileges of part-time work, selecting the cases he would oversee, and having more time for fiction writing. His first novel, “The Hanging Judge,” reached the New York Times bestseller list. That first book, published in 2013, is set in Holyoke. Mr. Ponsor told those in attendance on Thursday night that it took seven years to write “The Hanging Judge.” His new book, “The One-Eyed Judge,” took about 30 months to write.

“The One-Eyed Judge” features the same main character, Judge David Norcross, who Mr. Ponsor insists is only loosely based on himself.

Mr. Ponsor graduated from Harvard, received a Rhodes Scholarship, and studied for two years at Pembroke College, Oxford. As an undergraduate, he spent a year teaching in Kabete, Kenya, just outside Nairobi. After taking his law degree from Yale and clerking in federal court in Boston, he began his legal career, specializing in criminal defense. He moved to Amherst in 1978, where he practiced as a trial attorney in his own firm until his appointment in 1984 as a U.S. magistrate judge in Springfield. In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed him a life-tenured U.S. district judge. From 2000 to 2001, he presided over a five-month death penalty trial, the first in Massachusetts in over fifty years.

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