Monday, April 03, 2006

Scott Turow's habeas-inflected thriller

I asked best-selling author Scott Turow to recommend a novel that might help us better understand what's at stake in the debate over habeas corpus. His suggestion:
My novel Reversible Errors centers on a habeas proceeding for a man on death row, brought when another man confesses to the crime.
Wendy Lesser raved about Turow and Reversible Errors in a New York Times review:
IT must be frustrating to be Scott Turow. Since 1987, when he published Presumed Innocent, he has been hailed as a master of the courtroom thriller, a best-selling author, a Time magazine cover boy--all of which has managed to suggest, backhandedly, that serious readers needn't buy his books. But serious readers should be reading Turow, because he is not just one of our best crime novelists; he is also one of our better novelists. Like John le Carré, his British equivalent, he has been made to suffer for his choice of the thriller genre. Yet this genre is one of the few in which the old-fashioned virtues of the novel (suspense, rich characterization, satisfying conclusions) can still be practiced without seeming out-of-date. What Turow has done, in book after book, is to give us page turners that are also pleasing literary artifacts, mysteries that are also investigations into complicated social questions and complex human emotions.

Nothing he has written in the 15 intervening years has beaten the suspense quotient of Presumed Innocent; that was a perfectly constructed mystery, or as close to it as we are likely to get. But in each novel since then, Turow has deepened the psychological and social atmosphere that surrounds and inflects his plots.... Reversible Errors...may well offer us the richest blend yet.
Michiko Kakatuni wrote:

the real appeal of Mr. Turow's legal thrillers has always resided in his ability to create complex, conflicted characters, and to make palpable the world of the law: how the system works and doesn't work, how lawyers use and abuse it. And in Reversible Errors, he gives us a highly sympathetic if unlikely hero, an engaging supporting cast and an intimate sense of the incestuous and highly competitive world that these people all inhabit. ....

Mr. Turow is able to show how time and age and the vagaries of fate have affected each of his principal characters, and he uses his own firsthand knowledge of the legal system to lend the world they inhabit a piercing verisimilitude.

Thanks to Scott for weighing in. He's now in the running for a free copy of The Body and the State: Habeas Corpus and American Jurisprudence (SUNY Press, 2006). Know a novel that illuminates the issues around habeas corpus? Let me know: see details here.

--Marshal Zeringue