Sunday, September 27, 2009
This Blogger Loves Grisham
Did it! Finished the recent Grisham novel just before I finished a week's holidays. Back to his excellent multi-layered law office art in "The Associate". This time taking on a top level Yale Law graduate and editor of the Law Journal hired by the biggest firm in the Big Apple.
But Kyle the protagonist did not show up there by choice. A mysterious cloak and dagger meeting with an extorter named "Bennie" brought up a cell-phone video from a drunken fraternity bash five years or so back, confirming the double-rape of a co-ed by two of Kyle's buddies, in the presence of a drunken Kyle and others. The incident led to formal complaint, police investigation, but no fixed charges because of the questionable track record of Elaine, the girl with the snap-button pants.
Kyle is about to complete his final year at Yale and one of his prospects is the targeted New York mega-firm. This Kyle's father, a small-town Pennsylvania general practitioner cannot understand. But Kyle is in the squeeze where even the early stages of charges and pre-trial could ruin him. Accessory to the fact? Coaxing the others on? Questions of the girl's consciousness and therefore consent?
O.K. Bennie. What do you want? Quite straight-forward, Kyle. Finish the year. Say yes to the big billers. Pass the state bar exams. Slip into the litigation department. Look for ways to become attached to an upcoming astronomic law-suit between aircraft manufacturers vying for military contracts to build super-sonic, super-altitude bombers. We already have extensive intelligence. We want you to help us suck dry the virtual library of technical documents and strategies in the top-secret "productions warehouse" of the firm. A lawyers' computer bank, tailor-made like none other, and bringing instant re-call and arrangement to hundreds of thousands of documents and reports.
Enough said. Read the book. Observe the artful slow development of players and issues and problems. Kyle becomes his own sort of counter-spy, trying to outfox Bennie's thugs who tail his movements. Eventually he hires his own counsel, informs his small-town deer hunting Dad, and special FBI departments to bust wide the conspiracy and save Kyle from an extended stay at crowbar hotel and the disbarment pages of the law periodicals.
Along the way Grisham has some real fun with the clock-watching mega-lawyers. Bill, bill, bill. Include lunches. Useless research sessions down blind alleys. End of day limousines. Endless strategy boardroom meetings where associates hope to show off, and where partners crush hopes with vain stories and the unattainable. One wonders if any real work gets down in the firm touting the biggest gross of billable hours in the continent. Do they have a life? Family? Friends? Re creative interests?
How I could delight in the irony. Former small-time lawyer. Never much money. Quickly compromised hope for real justice. Quickly crushed respect for courtesy and decorum in judge's chambers. Little clients with little issues on a first-name basis. Never once a hired para-legal or book-keeper or investigator.
On a side note, Grisham develops one of Kyle's frat buddies, Baxter, a drug and alcohol addict. Rich in trust funds from an ivy-league family. Trying for entertainment fame in Hollywood. Forced by uncle's cheque book into a second spa-rehab venture, but this time released to the supervision of one Brother Manny, a former addict and jail-bird. Now on fire for Jesus and running a hostel, church and perhaps school for burn-outs outside Reno. What will a new-found desire to come clean do to Baxter's outstanding debt of shame to Elaine? Will he attend upon her and her rabid feminist lawyer friend nick-named Mike?
Read Chapter 18 and tell me whether Grisham has a firm hold on rescue for the addict through A.A. and rescue for the sinner through Christ and the Holy Spirit. I think that he does, and I think that here he has released a Gospel burden. (and not just a promising evangelical demographic for sales)
This was also the case in The Street Lawyer, The Last Juror, The Testament and The Appeal.
I love Grisham.
(P.S. to young lawyers or wannabees. Read all these books. Read the Merchant of Venice. Read Paul's letter to the Galatians in scripture. Read Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. View the movie The Verdict starring Paul Newman. View the movie Twelve Angry Men with Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb. Spend real time in the law courts. Watch counsel in the lobbies with their clients. Read the news on cases of interest. Watch house deals close in the Land Registry Office. Enter law because YOU want to weather through the abuse and assaults upon your idealism. Not because of money. Not trusting in somebody else's encouragement that "you would be good at it.")
(Book jacket illustration by Random House, Inc.)