Michael Peterson Was An Author Long Before 'The Staircase' Trial

Before the death of Michael Peterson’s wife, Kathleen Peterson, in 2001, he was a published author and local columnist. Long before any of that, he’d fought in the Vietnam War, but rather than returning home and trying to forget about his experiences, he seemed to have used some of them as inspiration for his handful of novels. So, what books did Michael Peterson write?

The novelist has been making headlines for years in more ways than one and, as viewers will see in the upcoming Netflix docuseries The Staircase, those headlines came in the form of information about his murder sentence and eventual release after serving almost eight years in prison. For those who don't remember or are uninformed about the media-driven case of the early 2000’s, Peterson was accused and charged with the murder of his wife after he called 9-1-1 to report finding her in a pool of her own blood at the bottom of the stairs inside their home.

The trial that followed was heavily reported on and although he still maintains his innocence throughout the entirety of the case (and to this day), Peterson was found guilty. In 2011, he was released from prison, according to The News & Observer. In 2017, after spending years trying to get the charges dropped, Peterson enter in an Alford plea to recognize the evidence against him while still maintaining his innocence in the crime. (Romper reached out to Michael Peterson's representatives and Netflix for additional statements.)


As a novelist, Peterson wrote three books, with one of them as just a co-writer, and all three were published in the '90s. His first book, A Time of War, was published in 1990 and tells the story of both American and Vietnamese soldiers during the Vietnam War. With Peterson having been in the war himself, it only made sense for his first novel to be centered around it. Peterson’s second novel, A Bitter Peace, was written in 1996 and is once again about the Vietnam War, only this time there are also CIA agents and lots of politics involved. In 1998, Peterson co-wrote Charlie Two Shoes and the Marines of Love Company with David Perlmutt. In a semi-biographical novel, the two writers tell the story of a Chinese boy during after World War II, who befriended some of the U.S. Marines who were stationed in China at the time.

It’s unclear just how much exposure Peterson got as a novelist, but his final book is still apparently a treasured read among some. In 1999, Charlie Two Shoes himself, or Tsui Chi Hsii, spoke to the WRAL News, local to where Peterson lives in Durham, North Carolina and talked about the real-life story that inspired the book Peterson helped write. "All these guys... We survived the war together and we lived through a lot of disastrous situations," Hsii said of his time as a child with the U.S. Marines. "But we all survived well with the bless of God."


Aside from his previous work as a novelist, Peterson also wrote as a freelancer columnist for the local Durham Herald-Sun newspaper. His writing included political commentary and sometimes criticisms of local government. Now that he’s been free has been given the opportunity to get back to his life and, in a way, start over, he plans to write another book, he told the Associated Press. No word yet on if Peterson’s new book will once again be inspired by his former life as a soldier in Vietnam, or if it will be more non-fiction and detail his experience after the death of his wife, much like The Staircase is set to do.