Everett attorney feeds love of history by writing novel

Before he became an Everett attorney, James Shipman had to choose. He always loved history, his college major.

“I had two career paths, but only got to pick one,” he said Thursday. “There’s a history teacher in there waiting to get out.”

Shipman, 43, found a way to keep his day job while indulging his first academic love. Studying at the University of Washington, where he graduated in 1995, his favorite historical times were World War II and the Medieval period.

In his new novel “Constantinopolis,” Shipman has written a page-turning tale based on a pivotal event of the Middle Ages. The 1453 fall of Constantinople, a game-changer in human history, was the conquest of the eastern capital of the Roman Empire by the Ottoman Turks.

It was a victory of Islam over Christianity in what is now the Turkish city of Istanbul. In Shipman’s book, it is also a human story pitting two very different men against each other.

Barely out of his teens, Mehmet II was sultan of the Ottoman Turks. “He has all the resources in the world, but no power. He is very young and passionate, but badly emotionally scarred,” Shipman said.

His foe was Emperor Constantine XI, ruler of the Eastern Roman Empire. “Constantine XI is 48, mature and sophisticated, a brilliant administrator loved by his people. But he has no resources and outside pressures,” said the author, who lives in the Snohomish area.

Over coffee Thursday, Shipman talked about those men from nearly 600 years ago as though he knows them. In a way, he does.

To write “Constantinopolis,” which he self-published earlier this year, Shipman spent hundreds of hours on research. He read definitive histories, including the six volumes of “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” by Edward Gibbon, “1453” by Roger Crowley, and “The Fall of Constantinople 1453” by Steven Runciman.

“And I went to Istanbul. That was fantastic for understanding the geography,” Shipman said. Areas he imagined as miles apart are much shorter distances. “Asia is right across the water,” he said.

Shipman said his book is as historically accurate as he could make it, but it’s also rich with character. In the opening pages, Mehmet commits two grisly murders during a midnight walk.

The book has generated good online traffic. Shipman said “Constantinopolis” has been as high as No. 14 on an Amazon bestselling list of war fiction. He hopes to attract a major publisher’s attention.

Although we are centuries past the story told in “Constantinopolis,” the author sees similarities to today’s struggle between Islamic extremism and the West. “The clash of two religions continues,” he said. More than battles of faith, Shipman sees in the conflicts — then and now — a mix of religion, ethnicity, power and politics.

Shipman is a graduate of Gonzaga University School of Law. His firm Shipman &Uberti focuses on family law and mediation. He is also on the Everett Community College board of trustees.

His bent for history is inherited. His father Jim Shipman, a retired funeral home director, has been involved in Civil War re-enactments and worked to replace grave markers for Civil War veterans buried at Everett’s Evergreen Cemetery, which he once managed.

Through his research, Jim Shipman also discovered that President Barack Obama’s great-great-great grandmother, Rachel Wolfley, is buried at Evergreen Cemetery.

“Growing up with my dad, I always had an interest in history,” James Shipman said.

His latest literary effort is a Civil War book he expects to finish next year. The main character is based on his great-great grandfather. The man came from Ireland to Quebec as an indentured servant in the 1840s. After escaping servitude, he was in the Civil War as part of a New York regiment.

“I really enjoy creating strong characters and teaching some history,” Shipman said.

He doesn’t expect his fact-filled fiction to turn him into the next Tom Clancy. And he doesn’t regret his career choice.

“I don’t think I’d want to give up my legal career,” he said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

More in Local News

Former Monroe cop loses appeal on sex crimes conviction

Once a highly respected officer, he was found guilty of secretly videotaping his kids’ babysitter.

Suspect sought in two Everett bank robberies

He’s described as 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-1, with dark hair and a goatee, and may have a neck tattoo.

Video shows man suspected of attacking a woman in Edmonds

The man allegedly threw her on the ground, then ran away after the she began kicking and screaming.

Two missing men found, one alive and one dead

The man found alive was found in an apartment across the hallway and taken to a hospital.

Darrington School Board dealing with upheavals

The crux of the controversy seems to be the superintendent’s job.

Alaska Airlines has selected destinations for new service from Paine Field. (Alaska Airlines)
Alaska Airlines will fly from Everett to 8 West Coast cities

Two destinations that didn’t make the list were Spokane and Hawaii.

Three teens arrested for Marysville school vandalism

Windows were broken and a trash bin was on fire Sunday night at a Marysville middle school.

Langley mayor threatens newspaper with lawsuit

The mayor threatened to sue the paper over claims he withheld public records disclosure information.

Divers called to recover body after train hits pedestrian

The accident was reported by a BNSF crew near Woods Creek in Monroe.

Most Read