Sunday, June 18, 2006

Scott Turow's favorite novels set in the legal world

Scott Turow is no stranger to the blog. Earlier this year he recommended a book for our series on what's at stake in the debate over habeas corpus: to see the title and author of his suggestion, click here.

In Opinion Journal this weekend he shared his five favorite modern novels set in the legal world.

Number one:

Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver (1958).

This is the ur-book for much contemporary legal fiction. Traver was the pseudonym for John Voelker, who was sitting as a justice of the Michigan Supreme Court when his novel about a murder trial in the iron-ore country of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan took America by storm. An experienced criminal trial lawyer, Voelker took a new approach to writing about the courtroom, eschewing the melodrama of Perry Mason or the portentousness of the classics in which every case was foremost a symbol for Justice. Voelker contented himself with the workaday details of a trial, believing that the law's very atmosphere of restraint would enhance the essential drama. His narrator, Paul Biegler, is a former prosecutor taking on his first defense. Paul's unsympathetic client is U.S. Army Lt. Frederic Manion, the killer of bar owner Barney Quill, who may or may not have raped Manion's sultry wife. The subject matter was torrid in 1958, but the novel's straightforward approach stands up, and the book still echoes on every page with the authority of a world fully known.

Click here to read about his other selections.

Turow's most recent book, Ordinary Heroes (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), was published in November.

Alan Furst wrote of Ordinary Heroes:

Ordinary Heroes is a beautifully wrought, finely achieved reconstruction of an elusive, a clandestine life--a World War II life, as it happens--by Scott Turow at the very top of his form. So, be warned, a book to start on Friday night."
What are Scott Turow's favorite beach books this summer? Click here to find out.

Everyone I know has an opinion on the death penalty, but Turow seems to have thought about the subject more than most and, unlike many people, has changed his mind about it. To read how he came to terms with capital punishment, click here.

--Marshal Zeringue