They Pass the Bar of Reader Interest

Lawyers in literature. They file suits. They wear suits. They’re good. They’re bad. They’re honest. They’re crooked. They seek justice. They seek money. They appear in this blog post. They will not be paid for doing so.

But attorneys often give “zing” to fiction. We love them if they fight for social justice, and dislike them if they’re highly paid legal shills for big corporations. Plus many take part in courtroom scenes, which have plenty of dramatic potential.

Perhaps the most famous fictional attorney of them all is To Kill a Mockingbird‘s Atticus Finch — smart, compassionate, courageous, realistic, low-key. He was said to have been based on author Harper Lee’s admirable lawyer dad.

In the 55 years since Lee’s novel was published — and particularly in the past quarter century — there has thankfully been a huge rise in the number of female attorneys in literature. A big reason for this, of course, is the huge rise in the number of real-live women becoming lawyers; statistics show that they now comprise 34% of the profession and 47% of law-school enrollment.

So it’s no surprise to meet two female attorneys — Helen Sullivan and Tracy Edmonds — in the first 46 pages of Lee Child’s Never Go Back, one of the novels starring the feminist-leaning scourge of evildoers Jack Reacher. Then there’s Annika Giannini, whose defense of Lisbeth Salander makes for riveting reading in Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest; and Reggie Love, who emerges from an abusive marriage to practice law with brilliance and empathy in John Grisham’s The Client.

There are also unsavory attorneys, and few novels have more of them than Grisham’s The Firm. That book’s law office (well, it’s sort of a law office) has an all-male roster of corrupt legal guys — of whom some are viciously evil and others sold out for the money and because they feared for their safety. But Grisham provides one (flawed) legal hero — the new attorney, Mitch McDeere, who weighs a very risky FBI request to take down the firm in The Firm.

Other hard-to-like lawyers (greedy, nasty, corrupt, etc.) include Mr. Tulkinghorn in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, Guillaumin in Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Luzhin in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and Daniel Palmer in Margaret Drabble’s The Witch of Exmoor.

Also, many politicians in literature (and in real life) began their careers as attorneys, and we know how unadmirable many elected officials are.

Of course, there are male lawyers other than Atticus Finch who are very or somewhat ethical and impressive. They include the unprejudiced attorney Boris Max who defends Bigger Thomas in Richard Wright’s Native Son, fingerprint expert David Wilson in Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson, environmentalist Walter Berglund in Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, the ultra-skilled Perry Mason in the Erle Stanley Gardner novels, and the Clarence Darrow-like Henry Drummond in the Inherit the Wind play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee.

In a related matter, there are a number of novelists who are/were lawyers — including the aforementioned Erle Stanley Gardner and John Grisham as well as Lisa Scottoline, Meg Gardiner, Scott Turow, Louis Auchincloss, Sir Walter Scott, Henry Fielding, and Goethe, among others.

Which fictional attorney characters have you found the most memorable?

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else. Also, please feel free to read through comments and reply to anyone you want; I love not only being in conversations, but also reading conversations in which I’m not involved!)

For three years of my Huffington Post literature blog, click here.

I’m also writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in New York City and Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

111 thoughts on “They Pass the Bar of Reader Interest

    • Ha ha — I don’t sue even after writing a blog post about lawyers. 🙂

      Thanks, Donny, for the very kind birthday wishes!

      (I’ll still be posting a new piece tonight, but probably a little later in the evening than usual.)

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  1. All good choices, Dave, to which I’d like to add Meyer Levin’s novel “Compulsion,” the story of Leopold and Loeb’s (Steiner and Strauss in the movie) killing of an innocent boy just for the thrill of it. It was then considered “the crime of the century,” as was almost every other killing of note, such as Harry K. Thaw’s public killing of his wife’s (Evelyn Nesbitt) onetime lover, famed architect Sanford White; O.J. Simpson’s “alleged” killing of his ex-wife’s perceived lover; and the Lindbugh Baby Kidnapping. Leopold & Loeb’s lawyer, Clarence Darrow (Jonathan Wilk in the film, played by Orson Welles) was opposed to the death penalty and fought with all his skill to keep his clients from the hangman’s noose. And he succeeded. Loeb was later murdered in prison by another inmate, while Leopold died in prison of natural causes at the age of 66. If you want to hear Darrow’s actual final argument before the judge, as spoken by Orson Welles from the film, go to: https://www.awesomestories.com/asset/view/Leopold-and-Loeb-Darrow-s-Final-Argument

    My favorite lawyer, dare I say it?, up there with Atticus Finch, was the fictional Paul Biegler, notably as portrayed by James Stewart in “Anatomy of a Murder,” based on Robert Traver’s novel of the same name, the story of a soldier claiming irresistible impulse as the reason he killed the man who raped his wife. Biegler’s seemingly bumbling country defense lawyer up against city slicker prosecutor is equally admirable to Finch, though lacking as noble a cause.

    My vote for worst literary lawyers would be Arthur Fleming and Harrison Smith, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock’s defense team from Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood,” since they were unable to get the killers off — both were hanged in prison. Still, it was a great book.

    Or maybe a lawyer even worse than those two would be Anne Boleyn’s.*

    *(Actually, she was unassisted and made no attempt at what would have been a futile request for counsel.)

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    • Glad you liked the post, thepatterer, and thanks for your terrific/wide-ranging comment!

      Great “crime of the century” list. It is indeed interesting that a “crime of the century” happens every few years. I guess “crime of the half-decade” doesn’t have quite the same ring. 🙂

      I’ve never seen or read “Anatomy of a Murder”; will have to rectify the second part of that, at least. I did read “In Cold Blood,” but so long ago I can’t remember a darn thing. Thanks for the refresher paragraph.

      Anne Boleyn! Yes, she never had a chance. “Justice” (as in lack of) indeed favors the rich and powerful.

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  2. Hi Dave … I’m so glad you liked “The Firm”! If you ever watch the movie, which is very well done, you will understand why some of us who read the book were a little perturbed at the comparatively upbeat ending. You gave some great examples of literary lawyers in your post, including my all-time favorite literary lawyer and literary father, Atticus Finch. Another lawyer that comes to mind is Willie Stark, from Robert Penn Warren’s “All the King’s Men”. Willie started out as a poor country lawyer who wanted to do good things for his community, which was why he ran for local office in the first place, but with each accomplishment he became more power hungry and corruptible; by the time he made it to the governor’s mansion he was bad to the bone. The only movie version I’ve seen is the one with Broderick Crawford from the 1950s; it touched on Willie’s law background but not as much as the book.

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    • Thanks again for recommending “The Firm,” Pat! Certainly a novel with many “cinematic” elements. I’m glad the movie was mostly good, but a shame it had a more upbeat conclusion than the terrific book. As you know, Hollywood often does that. 😦 I thought the novel’s sort of a relief yet sort of melancholy ending made sense.

      Great point about Atticus Finch not only being a memorable lawyer but a memorable father! It IS hard to think of a better dad in literature. Maybe I should write a post about fiction’s best parents? If so, I’ll give you a credit for inspiring that idea! A few that immediately come to mind include “Marmee” of “Little Women,” Ma Joad of “The Grapes of Wrath,” Silas Marner, Matthew Cuthbert of “Anne of Green Gables,” and Molly and Arthur Weasley of “Harry Potter.”

      Willie Stark — definitely a lawyer-turned-politician who became “bad to the bone.” Love that colorful phrase!

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  3. Rather than write about lawyers who are characters, I would like to contribute these thoughts on the character of law.

    From Stendahl’s The Red and The Black:

    “As I’ve become less deceived by mere appearances” he told himself, “I’ve learned that Paris drawing rooms are inhabited by respectable people just like my father, or by clever rogues like these old convicts. They’re right: society people will never wake up, in the morning, with this agonizing thought: ’How am I going to eat?’ And they boast about how honest they are! And when they serve on juries, they fiercely condemn a man who stole a set of silver
    tableware because he thought he’d die of hunger. But whether it’s a courtroom, or the question of getting or losing a ministerial appointment, my honest society folk fall into crimes strictly parallel to the ones, inspired by the necessity of eating, that these two convicts have committed….“There is no such thing as natural law. Such terms are nothing more than ancient twaddle, worthy of the public prosecutor who was hunting me, the other day: his grandfather’s wealth came from a forfeiture in the days of Louis XIV. There are no rights, unless there’s a law forbidding you to do this or that, or else you’ll be punished. Before there’s a law, there’s nothing natural except a lion’s strength, or the needs of someone who’s hungry, who’s cold—who, in short, needs …No, those we honor are simply rascals who’ve been lucky enough not to get caught with their hands in the cookie jar. The prosecutor who society hurled at me was made wealthy by a disgraceful act…I tried to kill, and I have been justly condemned, but if you put aside this one thing, the Valenod who condemned me is a hundred times more harmful to society.”

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    • Powerful excerpt, jhNY. In Stendhal’s time and now, the legal system that lawyers participate in is heavily warped in favor of the rich and connected and against those who are not those two things.

      Stendhal made that pretty clear in not only “The Red and the Black” but also in “The Charterhouse of Parma.”

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      • What StendahI says above about the law goes some distance to where I’ve landed regarding political argument.

        I was, at the Huffington Post, for a while (2005 or 6-till the facebook requirement), a too-tireless (over 10,000 comments, as I remember) poster on political issues of the day, and imagined I might be, from time to time, waking up somebody, and even more occasionally changing hearts.

        But I have come to believe that, my capacity to write persuasively notwithstanding, that I was most of all entertaining myself. Because argument, politics as it plays out publicly, is but a courtesy power provides to onlookers generally, and the relatively powerless specifically.

        Freedom of the press is enjoyed almost exclusively by the owners of presses, whose opinions, and those of their friends, are most likely to wind up under several bylines on the editorial pages they pay for.

        Money is power. Those without it prefer to believe there might be some other sort of power by which they might prevail, but over time, if not sooner, the power of money makes all other sorts of power look weak.

        Obviously, at this point, our mid-East policies are demonstrably incoherent. Obviously, the financing of municipal government is in too many places an assault on the poor by those who cannot be re-elected by raising local taxes. Obviously, climate change is upon us, sooner than we might have thought, and more intensely.

        Yet the power of money will not allow us to move in any direction except that which it charts for itself. There are always glib and able tongues to argue on its behalf, no matter how threadbare or ridiculous the argument they put forward, because the pay is good and their employment demands it. And because those among the less powerful who believe argument is purposeful and a means must have it, so as to provide counter-argument, which, however logical and convincing, will not be allowed to reduce the bottom line.

        The security-military state has made many millionaires, who mean to make many more millions. We will have war because they want war. The power of money zealously guards itself, and will not stand aside when taxes might be raised, lest that power be reduced. The fossil fuel industry stands astride politics and the corporatist press to sow confusion where clarity might abound, and too many of us are left to wonder whether or not the crisis is even a crisis, as the clock ticks off more time we no longer have to waste on argument.

        Discuss. Till you’re blue in the face. Power will do as power does while you talk.

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        • Can’t disagree with your exceptionally well-thought-out take on things, jhNY. Americans are given the illusion of freedom of speech — we often can say what we want. But what “the powers that be” want “the powers that be” usually get (even if most citizens are against it). They’ve got the money and the clout to manipulate things every which way.

          One of countless examples was in near-to-me Newark, N.J., last year — when a mayoral candidate who opposed state-sanctioned education “reform” handily won the race despite being greatly outspent by his “big money”-backed opponent who favored such “reform.” The people had spoken! But nothing changed. “Reform” — in part driven by hedge-fund types who want to make lots of dough via charter schools — continues as if the election never happened.

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  4. Lawyers ,also known as everyone’s favorite punching bag right after politicians and the Media when assessing blame for the ills of modern public life and discourse. I’ve never quite been down with that and still hold to romantic notions of advocates for justice ,I’ve met and admired a few brilliant members of the bar and in fiction find the Perry Masons and Atticus Finches more memorable than say the sleazebag defense lawyers that make everyone miserable on Law and Order. Oddly enough when thinking on an example or topic I came up with one who though popular for centuries I’ve always loathed. Problem is I’ll need a ruling if said character is admissible as she actually played a cross dressing lawyer in a play but was not legally a mouthpiece. Of course I’m referring to Portia in The Merchant of Venice with her beloved “quality of mercy ” speech in defense of Antonio. Here’s the thing ,it was pure bullshit, first of all ‘strained or constrained is exactly what mercy is in any system of justice. It’s balanced against damages, the good of society, and the sanctity of the law. More important I can’t believe anyone reads the play not thinking Shylock gets royally screwed ,he has not just his wealth but his only daughter snatched from him and his faith all on a technicality . His crime was trying to collect on a contract that had been freely entered into and adding insult to injury Portia’s real motive isn’t justice but to secure a pretty much lame worthless husband for herself.

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    • Great comment, Donny!

      Some lawyers deserve to be punching bags, while some are pretty admirable. Same with politicians and media people. But I wish there was a higher percentage of admirable people in all three professions. 🙂

      I’ve somehow never read or seen “The Merchant of Venice,” so what you said about it was new and fascinating to me. Loved reading your thoughts. Thanks!

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      • I have read The Merchant of Venice and have completely forgotten the story. In my school years there was a travelling group called “Shakespeare Wallah” go from school to school on demand and perform all the plays. I have seen all of then in my school years. We were so young in junior high we mostly giggled and laughed at the actors instead of taking them seriously ( huge regrets 🙂 ) Then there was a movie from Merchant Ivory Productions film, I have not seen that, now I should look for it. Just now searching, the whole movie is available in utubes, but i don’t want to sit in front of my computer to watch a movie.

        As Kat Lib and Donny said..Perry Mason my favorite TV lawyer.have not seen any of the early ones but all are available at the Public Libraries , the series re-started in 1985 again ..I have seen all of those those later ones.

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  5. Howdy, Dave!

    — Which fictional attorney characters have you found the most memorable? —

    Whereas I originally read Stephen Vincent Benet’s “The Devil and Daniel Webster” about half a century ago and its titular legal adversaries subsequently were the first to come to mind while reading your blog post, I hereby affirm they must perforce be the most memorable characters of their ilk I have come across in fiction, including but not limited to the short-story form, possibly because they may have been based on nonfictional types, although, to the best of my knowledge at this point in time, neither party has filed a complaint about it in either federal or state court, indicating in each case an appropriate appropriation of likeness, so help me Dog.

    Meanwhile, I love your lede!

    J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

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    • I remember reading “The Devil and Daniel Webster” in high school! A memorable short story of the Faustian kind, with quite a court trial.

      You appear to be right about the two titular personages never suing over being used as characters by Stephen Vincent Benet. 🙂

      Thanks, J.J., for the excellent comment — and for your kind words about my lead paragraph!

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  6. Dave great that you are into John Grisham legal thrillers and you finished The Firm. I still recommend one of the later books ” The Racketeer” which is different from the rest with a lot of twists and turns and the protagonist Malcolm Bannister, a former United States Marine, who had been an attorney in a modest Virginia small-town law firm.

    Michael Connelly and his legal thrillers and there the protagonist is Mickey Haller is a Lincoln Lawyer, a criminal defense attorney who operates out of the backseat of his Lincoln Town Car. I have read a few of them and there was a movie ” The Lincoln Lawyer ” starring Matthew McConaughey , now the actor does a commercial on Lincoln Town Car you might have seen. Although I haven’t seen the movie.

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    • Thanks for the excellent comment, bebe!

      So many John Grisham books to get to. 🙂 I greatly look forward to eventually reading “The Racketeer,” “Gray Mountain,” “A Painted House,” and others.

      You’re the third person who has recommended Michael Connelly during the past week, so I definitely want to try his work, too. The premise of “The Lincoln Lawyer” sounds so interesting!

      By the way, I just started “The Lowland” this morning. Just a few pages in, but I’m already impressed with Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing. (No surprise there, from my experience with her “The Namesake” and “Interpreter of Maladies.”) Thanks again for suggesting “The Lowland”!

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      • I have read most of Grisham’s early novels and the later ones.
        Dave as you say Jhumpa’s writings I find to be so poetic…it will be a different experience for you reading Low Land..enjoy.

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      • Atticus Finch is my favorite lawyer in books and Gregory Peck acted in innumerable movies still he is The Atticus Finch to me.

        In television Perry Mason will always be my favorite TV lawyer and Raymond Barr played the endearing character with Della Street as his sidekick..Barabara Hale played the character.

        Here is Gregory Peck reciting Audrey Hepburn`s favorite poem in her memorial

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        • What a fantastic clip, bebe, including Peck’s recital of that wonderful Tagore poem. Thanks for linking to it.

          Atticus Finch in literature and on the movie screen, and the book-created Perry Mason on TV — those are two attorney icons!

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        • As you may know, there were other Perry Masons who played in movies made from Gardner’s novels in the late 1930’s into the 1940’s.

          Raymond Burr is the Jeremy Brett of Perry Masons.

          Della Street remains one of my favorite females ever to grace a teevee screen, as played of course, by the lovely Barbara Hale.

          Lucky for me, and possibly for you too, depending on your cable provider, Perry Mason is broadcast at 11:30PM Eastern Monday through Friday on MeTV. I watch every night it’s on, unless social obligations wrest me away. I actually feel adrift, without a moral compass, on those long weekend nights when there is no Perry.

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          • jhNY, I did not know that actors other than Raymond Burr also played Perry Mason! I guess it makes sense — many iconic fictional characters (Jane Eyre, Jo March, Lady Macbeth, Anna Karenina, Hester Prynne, Captain Ahab, Gatsby, Willy Loman, Superman, Batman, Dick Tracy, etc.) have each been played by several people.

            Nice that you’re still watching Perry (for entertainment and moral-compass purposes. 🙂 ).

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          • I was not aware of any other Perry Mason…..you are so right…Jeremy Brett is the Sherlock, and Raymond Barr is the Perry Mason…and what a chemistry he had with Barbara Hale and so good for the second time around she was available for the series. Her Son William Katt was Paul Drake in the later series..which was super awesome.
            I`ll certainly look at my TV schedule..only that is too late for me. Wish it was early on to watch every night My favorite Raymond Burr as Perry.
            Nothing I like these days…Thursdays now have Doc Martin on PBS.

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            • Oh, Bebe, I adored the series about Doc Martin, and I thought Martin Clunes did a great job in portraying this not always likeable character as someone you would still root for.

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              • Hi Kat Lib absolutely..and I have seen only a few…but all are available from 2004 and is still going strong as I see…yes, Doc..lacks social graces but one could count on him, so honest and a no nonsense sort of man.
                Another one I am liking now Ian McNeice as Bert Large not the best looking man on the face on earth but absolutely lovable.

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  7. BTW, nice mention of Boris Max, or as Bigger called him, Mr. Max. I don’t know why, but I always felt his character was overshadowed even though he had a prominent role in Part Three in the book. Maybe it was because the reader knew that Bigger was not going to get a fair trial and would be sentenced to death in spite of Max’s passionate defence.

    I guess I felt that his strong defence was a waste of time since Bigger was going to be executed anyway. Trying to find someone who would even defend Bigger was a miracle, and I certainly don’t want to diminish Max’s role. I don’t know…his character almost felt insignificant to me.

    And sorry about mentioning Pudd’nhead Wilson again. In going back to re-read your post, I saw that it was mentioned at the end. Have a good day.

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    • I hear you about “Mr. Max.” He had an almost impossible legal task in that more racist time, but he was certainly an interesting character — and, as you know, a vehicle for expressing some of the views Richard Wright held around the time “Native Son” was published (1940).

      Have a good day, too, Ana!

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      • Ana, I finished “Sula.” Very impressive novel; also quite painful. The relationship between the title character and Nel is one of the more original and interesting pairings I’ve read in quite a while.

        I love Toni Morrison’s writing — which, as you know, mixes literary flourishes with some very direct stuff.

        Thanks again for recommending “Sula”!

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        • Sula was born into an empty existence, lived an empty existence, and endured an empty existence during her death. Toni Morrison is a genius. She didn’t create a typical love-hate predictable relationship that is common in literature. I can’t even describe that unique dynamic she created between Sula and Nel.

          This is such a great book, and I’m glad you finally found it in your library. This is not one of her more popular titles.

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          • Well said, Ana! Sula and Nel were sort of opposites (mostly unconventional vs. mostly conventional, etc.). But there were also sort of like two halves of one person. Toni Morrison gave readers a lot to think about in this not-happy novel.

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      • I’ve seen both film versions of Native Son. The first one was released in 1951, and the second one in 1986. The ’51 version completely omitted the Boris Max character; the ’86 version did not. I always thought that was odd.

        Since the ’51 version was stripped down to appease a mass audience, I’m guessing Boris Max was omitted because he was a Communist and Jewish. Maybe that’s one of the many reasons why I dislike the ’51 release…it left out so many of the details. Although he didn’t have a very prominent role, Mr. Max was still crucial because he was the first and only person that made Bigger feel human.

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  8. I’m currently in the eastern Cascades for work-related purposes and must be brief this week. In Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson, David Wilson, aka Pudd’nhead Wilson, wore many hats. He was an accountant, fingerprint collector, and attorney. His expertise in fingerprint collection and the law came into play when he successfully defended a pair of twins during a murder trial. They were accused of killing a prominent citizen, but Pudd’nhead Wilson used forensics to prove that the twins were innocent.

    In the Joy Luck Club, the Jong family had one daughter (Waverly Jong) who grew up to be a successful tax attorney. She was a child genius, and frequently bumped heads with her mother in the battle of tradition/culture – vs – assimilation in American culture.

    This was not based on a book, but I’ve always been a big fan of the film Philadelphia. Tom Hanks’ character named Andrew Beckett was a high-profile lawyer who had AIDS. He sued his firm for discrimination after he was fired from his job. The justification that the firm partners used to fire him was low job performance, but the true reason behind the firing was Beckett’s health status and sexual orientation.

    This film was released on the heels of the HIV epidemic of the 80s, and was one of the first (if not the first) movies to address HIV/AIDS politics.

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    • Ana, I’ve read somewhere (or maybe I heard it from you!) that the inclusion of fingerprinting in Twain’s book was the first time, or one of the first times, that happened in literature. It certainly helped make for a riveting trial!

      Thanks for mentioning “The Joy Luck Club,” which I read a LONG time ago. Long enough to have forgotten that one of the characters is an attorney. 🙂

      “Philadelphia” was a memorable film, and, as you allude to, kind of groundbreaking for that more homophobic time. Great Bruce Springsteen soundtrack song, too!

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      • Dave, I also didn’t remember that a character from “The Joy Luck Club” was an attorney, as I read it many years ago. I still do remember going to see “Philadelphia” in the theater, in Philadelphia, which made it somehow more compelling to me (although it shouldn’t matter at all). I absolutely love “The Streets of Philadelphia,” by Bruce Springsteen, which won many awards. I’m a huge fan of Bruce, and his wife Patti Scialfa, not the least of which was his album, “The Rising,” which is the best post 9/11 album ever recorded. It’s almost funny that Ted Cruz is out there today saying he switched from classic rock to country music because of 9/11. I have to believe that he is either pandering to his base, or he is just plain nuts.

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        • Kat Lib, I think it’s a twofer — Ted Cruz is pandering to his base AND is just plain nuts. 🙂 That thing about switching music after 9/11; I was rolling my eyes when I read that.

          There’s some country music I like, but I consider that genre more right-wing and sexist than “patriotic.” Real “patriotic” of all those country-music stations to ban songs by the great Dixie Chicks after their lead singer mildly (and deservedly) criticized George W. Bush in relation to The Iraq War. I guess those station directors believe more in the Second Amendment than the First Amendment.

          Seeing “Philadelphia” in Philadelphia — nice! And Springsteen IS terrific, including his “The Streets of Philadelphia” song.

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          • Yes, there are those that I really enjoy, most notably, Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris. One of my favorite singers is Nanci Griffith, who is usually considered as a folk singer, but is sometimes as a country singer. Both Nanci and Emmylou are great friends, so their music overlaps, and I have a DVD concert where they sing together (actually a few). I am sick over the news today that the co-pilot of the German flight caused the deaths of himself and the others who died in that crash. So sad!

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            • You named some great musicians, Kat Lib! I’m also a fan of Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris; unfortunately, I haven’t listened to much of Nanci Griffith. It’s great when musicians cross genres.

              That news IS awful. I know people in that state of despair don’t think logically, but if someone is going to commit suicide why oh why do they have to take others with them?

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              • I know it is all awful news today. I’d like to recommend Nanci Griffith, not only from her own songwriting, but from her two most well-known CD’s, the Emmy-winning CD “Other Voices, Other Rooms,” and the sequel to that. It may be a question that there is a reason for a question. Good luck with that.

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                  • The album “Other Voices Other Rooms,” is named after the book by Truman Capote, and is covering other songwriters, though her songwriter skills are quite good enough. One of her covers is a quite wonderful version of “Spanish Boots of Spanish Leather.” (Bob Dylan plays the harmonica in the background. ). Another is Nanci singing “Tecumseh Valley'” with Arlo Guthrie. Then there is the finale song “Wimoweh,” with
                    Odetta and others

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                    • I just randomly listened to her singing “Flyer” in 2012 and “Love at the Five and Dime” in 1988. Very nice! Definitely a country flavor, and quite an interesting voice!

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          • I am a fan of country music– right up till about the mid-1960s. My favorite of all time is Ernest Tubb, the so-called Daddy of ‘Em All. He was a New deal Texas Democrat who never ceased to remind his fellow entertainers, more than a few of whom seemed to have forgotten, that the Democrats saved a lot of poor families in the Depression. He also toured Korea, and wrote letters by hand to all the parents of boys he’d met there.

            He sang a lot of honky-tonk, hard-living music, and lived a lot of what he sang about. “Walking the Floor Over You” is his most famous hit, but there are gems, major and minor, throughout his opus. I’m particularly fond of “Last Night I Dreamed”, “Half A Heart”, “Let’s Say Goodbye Like We Said Hello”, and his covers of “A Guy Named Joe” and “When Two Worlds Collide”. During the Second World War, among US Army personnel, he was voted most popular singer– over Sinatra(!).

            He also had one of the best bands ever to tour, The Texas Troubadours– with Buddy Emmons on steel and Leon Rhodes on guitar.

            He was also funny, and self-aware. He used to say he made records that fellow with his girl might hear on the jukebox and say: ‘heck, I can sing as good as that guy.’ Then Tubb would smile. “And you know, he’s right!”

            But perhaps his greatest contribution to his own posterity, though it came late, might be what he told producer Pete Drake, when Drake suggested they might sweeten up his record with strings and a singing group: “Let’s don’t.”

            The mallbillies of today can’t compare.

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      • See, there you go mentioning The Boss and movie soundtracks. I will not have a side conversation on music, Dave…not gonna happen, so stop trying to tempt me. I’m gonna take the high road and stay on topic for once.

        Ok, now that my righteous indignation is out of the way, let’s do this. Philadelphia ends with Andrew Beckett’s family, friends, and his attorney who overcame his homophobia coming together to celebrate Andrew’s life after he died.

        The song that’s playing during this emotional scene is “Philadelphia” by Neil Young. One of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard. His song was nominated for the Oscar, but Bruce won it instead. That song is what made me a Neil Young fan and the reason why I went through my father’s album/LP/cassette tape collection when I was little to dig out ever piece of Neil Young music I could find.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks for the comment and humor, Ana! Interesting how that was when you became a Neil Young fan. Young’s music is tremendous — dozens and dozens of great songs. Perhaps my favorite is “Like a Hurricane”; when Young is in electric guitar mode with the backing of Crazy Horse, it’s amazing. Of course, he does beautiful stuff, too, as you mentioned.

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          • Neil Young is a god. I saw him in Kelowna, I believe in 2009/2010. He can still put on an amazing show. I forget which song it was, but at one point, he played a stripped down, acoustic version of that song. I’m sure there’s still a video of that floating around somewhere on Youtube because I definitely recorded and uploaded it.

            And I don’t care what you say Dave, I will NOT go on ticketmaster.com to see if Neil and the boys are performing this year.

            *checks ticketmaster on Twitter* I didn’t say I wouldn’t check Twitter for Neil Young concerts; I said I wouldn’t check ticketmaster.com. See, I can get away with that hypocrisy. It’s called having my cake and eating it too.

            LOL. Weekend is here, so have a good one.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Great that you saw him in concert relatively recently, Ana! I’ve seen him, too, but that was WAY back in the early 1980s. I’ve also watched recent clips of him on YouTube and — you’re right — he’s still terrific, whether in electric or acoustic mode.

              Funny stuff about Ticketmaster and Twitter. 🙂

              Have a good weekend, too!

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  9. Hi Dave, I think the first lawyer I recall reading about was Nancy Drew’s father, Carson. One didn’t actually see him doing much lawyering, but he was definitely one of the good guys, as well as being quite the loving (but very permissive!) father. I did read many of the Erle Stanley Gardner books, but I must say I preferred the great Perry Mason television series to the novels. It was so well cast, especially Raymond Burr as Mason. Of course, you’re right that no one can probably top Atticus Finch as both a father and as a lawyer. I also agree with lulabelle’s comment about Reggie Love being the best of Grisham’s lawyers, and Susan Sarandon was a great choice to play her in the film version. I read most of Grisham’s early works, and enjoyed them very much. “The Firm” was definitely a page-turner, although many people I knew preferred his first book, “A Time to Kill.” It’s been a while since I’ve read them, and I’ve watched most of them on DVD many times, so they get a bit confused in my mind (not hard to do these days!). I also read the first several novels by Scott Turow, which were very good, but I really liked best his nonfiction book “One L,” which recounts his first year at Harvard Law School. It was very interesting and I read it several times, but I wonder if things might have changed since it was written in 1977.

    You may remember that I binged-read all of Lisa Scottoline’s legal thrillers a few months ago, and I loved all of her women defense lawyers in her series about an all-female law firm in Philly. Last week I was looking for something similar to get into, and I decided to try the first book in Linda Fairstein’s series about Alexandra Cooper, an ADA in New York’s sex crimes unit. I’m in the middle of the fourth book, and didn’t realize until today that Fairstein, herself a former ADA in the sex crimes unit, had some very controversial cases. Her office was the one that prosecuted the Central Park Jogger case, which railroaded five young men into making false confessions, later thrown out when the actual perpetrator was found. This, along with a couple of other cases, were somewhat disturbing to read about. I’d like to think that it was her passionate zeal for prosecuting those who commit sex crimes and domestic violence, which comes across in her writing (and she is still involved in domestic violence issues today). But I still have a somewhat bad taste in my mouth over her crossing some boundaries, at least if Wikipedia is to be believed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Kat Lib! I’ve never read the Nancy Drew books, but it makes sense that she had a lawyer parent. 🙂

      I watched quite a few of the “Perry Mason” episodes many years ago (I think they were in reruns by then), and loved them. They were unreal — trials aren’t that dramatic and linear — but I guess there was some wish-fulfillment going on that the American “justice” system really was fair.

      The only John Grisham books I’ve read are “The Client,” “The Firm,” and his baseball novel “Calico Joe,” so I have much catching up to do with his work. I will keep “A Time to Kill” in mind! bebe has also mentioned several Grisham books I want to get to — including “Gray Mountain” and “A Painted House.”

      I might have asked you this before, but which Lisa Scottoline novels would you most recommend?

      Thanks for the great comment (including the interesting thoughts about Linda Fairstein)!

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      • Dave, another fun fact that I learned from reading the Wiki page of the Perry Mason TV show, was that most or many of the courtroom scenes were actually preliminary hearings before a judge, because that way the producers were spared the expense of paying for 12 jurors. Makes sense if you think about it. As you know, I’m somewhat leery about recommending books that aren’t exactly considered to be great literature. As far as Lisa Scottoline, the four novels that first came to mind were: “Everywhere Where Mary Went,” which was the first in the Rosato & Associates series and won an Edgar Award, but takes place before Mary D’Anunzio goes to work for Bennie Rosato, who first appears in the second book before she starts up her all-female law firm (whew, got that?); “The Vendetta Defense,” which is the sixth in the series and features Judy Carrier (this could have been in last week’s blog post about going in reverse, since the opening sentence makes it clear that the client killed someone and contains flashbacks to Fascist Italy before WWII); the standalone “Daddy’s Girl,” that features a female law professor; and “Keep Quiet,” which is the only book that is told more from a male perspective (who’s not a lawyer, but a financial planner).

        I also meant to mention in my first comment about books which feature judges, most notably “Rumpole of the Bailey” by John Mortimer. Who can forget his wife, or “She Who Must Be Obeyed.” 🙂 There’s also a very good mystery series written about Judge Deborah Knott by Margaret Maron, the first of which is “The Bootlegger’s Daughter.”

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        • Oops, that should of course be “Everywhere That Mary Went.” BTW, I guess you heard about the sleazy Harvard Law School graduate who just announced his run for president? Although I’ve known many decent lawyers, it’s disconcerting to see so many of that profession who are currently serving in our do-nothing congress.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Ah, yes, Ted Cruz. 😦 Sleazy indeed! Too many members of our pathetic Congress give the legal profession a bad name. Most of the people who go into national politics do so for ego and power reasons, so I suppose it’s the least admirable of lawyers who run for office. The more admirable lawyers are of course interested in justice more than ego and power.

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            • It also seems to affect those who have medical degrees, who seem unable to understand anything that is scientific; case in point, Sen. Inhofe, who brings a snowball into the Senate in order to disprove “Climate Change.” And he is the chair of the Senate’s Environmental Committee! Good grief!

              Liked by 1 person

              • Good grief, indeed — a classic example of “the fox guarding the hen house,” or whatever the cliche is. That snowball stunt was so stupid.

                I think a lot of climate-change-denying politicians believe in climate change in their secret hearts, but, as you know, they are beholden financially to the oil industry, the coal industry, and other corporate interests. The Koch brothers own some of those polluting companies!

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                  • So you know Dave..these sort of videos were floating around for a long time..not only personality but resembles Haney a lot. Long ago someone posted in Puff po when we were there 😉

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                    • Well, that video only improves with age, bebe. 🙂 (And I’m still enjoying that “Puff po” name you came up with.)

                      I’m now about 50 pages into “The Lowland,” and am very impressed! I really admire novels that combine sociopolitical stuff with compelling characters — sort of like what authors such as Steinbeck, Kingsolver, and Atwood often wrote/write.

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                    • I love well-researched historical novels, bebe! Definitely a different feel to “The Lowland” than the also-great “The Namesake.” The ’60s were a tumultuous time in many places, as people tried to change things for the better. Until reading “The Lowland” (and hearing you talk about it in recent months), I hadn’t realized a lot of the things that were going on in that part of the world at that time.

                      Liked by 1 person

              • Inhofe points up the tragic myopia and intellectual stultification which afflicts those studying one area of human knowledge exclusively. And that’s if he actually believes what he says. It is no accident he he’s from a petro-rich locale.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Great point, jhNY. One wonders whether these seemingly stupid politicians believe what they say, or are not dumb and make believe they believe what they say to further the interests of powerful corporations.

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        • Wow, that is indeed an interesting fact about the “Perry Mason” show! I guess the urge to save money has always been with us. 🙂

          Thanks for the recommendations of those four Lisa Scottoline novels, and the excellent brief summaries of each! Surely my local library will have at least one of them. No worries, Kat Lib, about the recommendations. I like to read “mass-audience”/”popular”/”thriller” literature here and there. I’ve certainly been enjoying Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series!

          I probably mentioned this to you before, but I saw Ms. Scottoline speak at a columnist conference in Philadelphia in 2007, and she sounded very down-to-earth.

          Judges are indeed another category of interesting characters. One I liked a lot was Harry Roosevelt, an African-American judge in John Grisham’s “The Client.”

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  10. Inherit The Wind. Two lawyers debating the theory of evolution. I was quite fortunate to have seen the Broadway play with Christopher Plummer and Brian Dennehey. I was actually on stage as part of the jury. The ticket I bought gave me this privilege which was a once in a lifetime experience. I will never forget when Christopher Plummer made his stage entrance between the two jury boxes, the audience gave him a standing ovation that seemed to go on for a few minutes till he graciously pushed his hand down. When he came to view under the lights it was as if the red sea parted. An exemplary play based on a classic in literature.

    Liked by 2 people

      • While “Inherit The Wind” was a great play, it did an injustice to William Jennings Bryan. The man was anything but an retrograde reactionary. He firmly, and correctly, believed that Social Darwinism was the most dangerous force of his time.

        Quoting from wikipedia…

        Bryan was heavily influenced by Vernon Kellogg’s 1917 book, Headquarters Nights: A Record of Conversations and Experiences at the Headquarters of the German Army in Belgium and France, which asserted (on the basis of a conversation with a reserve officer he called “Professor von Flussen”) that German intellectuals were totally committed to might-makes-right due to “whole-hearted acceptance of the worst of Neo-Darwinism, the Allmacht of natural selection applied to human life and society and Kultur.”[54]

        Least we not forget, eugenics was at the height of its popularity at the time and seven years after the trial, Adolph Hitler came to power in Germany.

        The play also failed to mention that the trial was a setup, organized by community leaders to garner publicity for the town. Scopes wasn’t even sure whether he taught evolution or not.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks for that perspective, Almost Iowa! Historical fiction often deliberately or unintentionally “revises” facts, events, and/or what real people were like. And, as you allude to, some beliefs we now find repellant were sort of accepted in their time.

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        • I LOVE “Inherit the Wind”, and am envious of Michele, who was able to see this performed with those two great actors. However, I agree with Almost Iowa that the play does not give a full account of William Jennings Bryan. I recently read a fascinating biography of Bryan, titled “A Godly Hero” by Michael Kazin. He was much more complex than the caricature portrayed in the play. Granted, he was a Fundamentalist Christian, but many of his political beliefs were anathema to the political beliefs of most political Fundamentalists today. He consistently stood against the moneyed interests (railroads, banks, oil) that he feared had a dangerous control of the government, and he tended towards socialism. He certainly had his faults – he was an implicit racist, and did not believe that black Americans were the equal of whites, but was a long-time proponent of women’s suffrage. One of the most interesting facts I learned in the biography was his close association with Leo Tolstoy. Bryan visited Tolstoy during the author’s later years, and they kept up a warm correspondence. Tolstoy was a hero to Bryan, and Tolstoy even supported Bryan in one of his presidential campaigns. Interesting observation – several years ago, there was a movie about Tolstoy’s latter years titled “The Last Station” starring Christopher Plummer as Tolstoy. This must have been released about the same time he was playing Bryan’s (or Brady – Bryan’s fictionalized name in the play) nemesis in “Inherent the Wind”.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks, drb19810! I remember you discussing that Bryan biography, and — from your terrific summary — it does sound exceptional. Glad you mentioned that book again. And the Bryan/Tolstoy/Christopher Plummer intersection you cited…I love coincidences like that!

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  11. Great blog, Dave! Atticus Finch is my all-time favorite lawyer, but I imagine that you know that! Of all of Grisham’s lawyers, I think I like Reggie Love the best. She and Atticus Finch share many character traits. She took a case for $1 and Atticus took cases for a bag of hickory nuts and a mess of collards. The important thing for both was the pursuit of truth, no matter how unpopular that might make them.

    I THINK “The Client” was the first Grisham novel that I ever read, so I don’t remember most of the plot details, but I think I found the ending unsettling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the kind and terrific comment, lulabelleharris! I do know about your regard for Atticus Finch, and I wholeheartedly share it — in both Harper Lee’s book and as played by Gregory Peck in the movie. 🙂

      I agree that Reggie Love is worthy of being compared to Atticus Finch. A VERY good person who’s much more interested in justice than “the big bucks.”

      There are many John Grisham novels I haven’t read, so I have many lawyers to “meet” in the future!

      When I was writing the column, I couldn’t remember the profession of Ruth’s abusive husband in “Fried Green Tomatoes…” Was that vile man a lawyer, or something else?

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      • I cannot remember if Frank Bennett’s profession was mentioned. If he WAS a lawyer, that reminds me of an old joke. Why don’t sharks eat lawyers? Professional courtesy 🙂 Which makes what the judge said about what happened to Frank Bennett ironic, doesn’t it? The judge said “Frank Bennett drove himself into the river and was eaten up by fishes………..”

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve never read anything by John Grisham but I have read three by Scott Turow–‘Presumed Innocent’, ‘The Burden of Proof’ and the ‘Presumed Innocent’ sequel, taking place over 30 years later than the events of its predecessor, ‘Innocent’. The first two were quite readable and the third was good although the seams were showing a bit, plus it seemed to depend on much of its impact by deriving much of its narrative device from the first one, although that could be justified in that history does repeat itself and many characters are forced to re-enact their behavior cycles until they learn their lessons. Either way, the effect was more ‘been there done that’ than that it was fresh and earned its existence on its own merits. I read ‘Innocent’ just before Turow came to speak at our annual library fund-raiser. He started out promisingly enough until it dawned on me that his entire talk was about his relationship with Hollywood and their adaptations of his work. What made Turow think that Huntsville, Alabama was a ‘movie town’? I would have been much more interested if he had talked about how lawyers are treated in fiction and how they resemble or differ from real-life lawyers, a subject about which he is personally qualified to speak. The seating at this event was interesting. There were seats facing the left of the stage as well as seats facing the right. He would turn to face these sides to make particular points and the scene resembled a movie or TV courtroom scene, as if he was giving his final summation to ‘the gentlemen and women of the jury’ and then facing the spectators to make broader points. I think Scott must have been so enamored with his talk about Hollywood’s treatment of his work that he was fantasizing that he was Perry Mason. The best of the three that I have read I’d have to say is ‘Presumed Innocent,’ which deals with themes of crime and punishment in very provocative ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve never read Scott Turow; not sure why. Thanks, Brian, for your thoughts on three of his books!

      Interesting that Turow misread what the far-from-Hollywood audience you were in might have wanted to hear. Surely not a smart thing for a lawyer to do!

      You mentioned how fictional attorneys might differ from real-life ones. Like a lot of other professions depicted in the “heightened reality” of literature, made-up lawyers of course tend to have much more dramatic work lives than actual lawyers.

      I put “Presumed Innocent” on my to-read list!

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