Bumptious John Wilkes, the American Rumpole, is back in another courtroom carnival when the draconian judge who presided over his latest riotous case is stabbed to death. The case that unites Wilkes with Judge Yulburton Abraham Knott (see Wilkes, 1990, written as Winston Schoonover) is classic in its simplicity: pretty, blind Brenda Van Ark provides a detailed description of the man who attacked her outside the Woolworth Building; minutes later, cruising police pick up Lyle Diderot, Field Marshall of the Whiz Kids gang, and Brenda identifies him. Once Wilkes agrees to take on Diderot's defense for $35,000 (an amount some hooligans steal from a bank the next day), he's up against long odds- -the prosecution's built an airtight case; the defendant, who spends the trial manacled and gagged, looks guilty as hell; and Y. Knott would clearly love to have Wilkes's head mounted on the wall of his chambers—but Wilkes manages to find a preposterously successful defense. Next day, when he gets word that Y. Knott is no more, he brushes off accusations of his own involvement and moves without missing a beat into defending catatonic court clerk Alvin Scribner- -pausing only to get bosomy Becky Buttermilk off the hook on a charge of oral sodomy despite her protests that she wasn't just trying to commit the alleged act but had actually succeeded—by enlisting the dubious services of computer expert Jethro Wilmore, the Hacker- Cracker, impugning the testimony of Father Harry Leech, and filing an uproarious brief against the presiding judge. Given his run of bad luck before the bench, you have to wonder who Wilkes wouldn't mind hearing his cases. Forget Perry Mason, counselor. Wilkes really does succeed, repeatedly, in turning this courtroom into a circus.
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