July 25, 2005

Lawyer Books

Sometimes when I go to the library, I just want a simple read with a good plot to follow, and that usually leads me to something like John Grisham. I enjoyed his first few books quite a bit, and "The Firm" is even one of my favorite movies. Not all of his books are hits, though.

"King of Torts" is kind of in the middle. It follows the ups and downs of the very-rapid career of a public defender who gets into the class-action mass tort game. Grisham describes the mechanics of this branch of the law very well, and he gives a less sympathetic portrayal of tort lawyers compared to what you might find from Gene Hackman in "Class Action" or John Travolta in "A Civil Action" or the lawyers in "Erin Brockovich". The book was interesting just from an educational standpoint about how this process works from a greedy lawyer's point of view.

The main character himself is surprisingly immature given all of his supposed real-world experience. Unlike the Tom Cruise character in "The Firm", Grisham's lawyer here (Clay Carter) basically allows himself to be carried along by events kind of like Forrest Gump without much of the sweetness. I think Grisham does a good job here portraying good and bad decisions, how the quality of a decision depends on events that follow (i.e. should he hire his friends, should he give them big bonuses, how hard should he negotiate on a given case, should he latch on with other big tort lawyers, should he crash his former girlfriend's wedding, etc). It was a good read, easy to follow, a good summer segment killer.

"The Brethren" is a weaker effort. In this one, three judges are in prison for various offenses, and they decide to run a scam that one of them learned from a defendant he once ruled against. They try to lure in rich guys by pretending to be a good-looking gay drug addict who needs a sugar daddy. Once they have sufficient evidence, they blackmail the victim for as much as they can squeeze out of him, with the threat of revealing everything to his friends and family (learned through the outside help of the judges' lawyer and assorted detectives he hires).

Ultimately, their game ensnares an aspiring politician. Drama ensues. The political components of this felt like a poor imitation of Tom Clancy (who is currently a poor imitation of his very good "Hunt for Red October" self). The rest of it just wasn't that interesting or believeable. It was very hard to sympathize with or care about any of the seedy characters in this novel. I was interested enough in the plot to finish it, but it's hard to give it much of an endorsement beyond that.

Posted by Observer at July 25, 2005 12:52 PM
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