If you recognize the Scandinavian blonde hair of Larchmont’s Lis Wiehl, it may be from her weekly stint hosting the “Is It Legal?” segment on FOX’s O’Reilly Factor. Or perhaps it’s from the 50-year-old law professor’s time doing commentary on MSNBC and CNN, her work on the radio, her New York Times articles, or her legal guides. Or maybe it’s from the former federal prosecutor’s bestselling mystery novels set right here in Westchester.
Lis Wiehl grew up in a law-enforcement family. Her paternal grandfather was also a federal prosecutor, and Wiehl’s father was an FBI agent who became a federal prosecutor when he left the Bureau.
“I got an amazing sense of what the law could do,” Wiehl says. After earning her JD at Harvard, she went into litigation in Seattle, but she soon moved into the family business, taking a job at the US Attorney’s office where her specialty was prosecuting hired killers. Sometimes, the danger came even closer than the courtroom. “One of the prosecutors in my office was murdered, and two people went to jail for threatening me. That’s part of the job. And any prosecutor who says they’re not bothered by that is fibbing, or stronger than I am.”
Eventually, wanting “to see a little bit of a brighter side of life” and work on her teaching and writing, Wiehl left the prosecutor’s office. She had written for the New York Times since law school and worked as a legal correspondent for NPR’s All Things Considered. In 1998, after working as counsel for the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee while it debated the Clinton impeachment, news networks including MSNBC, CNN, and FOX got in touch. The move led to her seven years as Bill O’Reilly’s sparring partner on the nationally syndicated Radio Factor.
“I was locked in a small radio studio with Bill O’Reilly for two hours a day,” she says. And, although things got so heated during a few debates that the controversial pundit ordered producers to turn off Wiehl’s microphone, she insists that it was “an absolutely amazing experience. Whatever you think of him, he’s one of the brightest people and most loyal friends I’ve ever met.” In addition to her commentary and reporting, Wiehl had always had an interest in fiction. Her Triple Threat trilogy, written with April Henry, mirrored their authors’ personal life, following three women—a TV reporter, a federal prosecutor, and an FBI agent—investigating crimes. The books all came out within a year and a half of one another and put Wiehl on the New York Times bestselling author list. Now, she’s followed them up with the more ghostly Waking Hours, which takes place in East Salem, a thinly veiled reference to our own South Salem.
“There’s a real clash: good versus evil and angel versus demons,” Wiehl says. “I wanted to add that layer, because we have that clash in our day-to-day lives. It’s just not supernatural.” Despite all her other work, Wiehl plans to expand Waking Hours into a trilogy.