The celebrated trial lawyer and TV commentator (With Justice for None, 1989, etc.) proves that even a shameless...



The celebrated trial lawyer and TV commentator (With Justice for None, 1989, etc.) proves that even a shameless self-publicist can be likeable. This volume recounts the years before Spence gained renown for the Karen Silkwood, Randy Weaver, and other trials. His father, who lived into his 90s, was a lifelong model of decency; Spence's deeply religious mother, however, placed a burden of guilt on the son by committing suicide during his rebellious youth. Like many an autobiographer, Spence finds his childhood more interesting than his readers will, but with adolescence the narrative takes off. That his prose is melodramatic merely seems fitting; Spence's worldview is melodramatic. After a few youthful adventures along brothel-and-merchant-marine lines, he returns to his native Wyoming. While still in college, he meets and marries his first wife. He finds law school easy but the first few years of practicing hard. It will come as a surprise to those familiar with Spence's current social views that he served two terms as a vice-busting county prosecutor and ran for Congress in 1962 as a right-wing Republican; his drubbing in that race turned him to despair, drink, and evidently his famous concern for the ""little guy."" He recalls with pride his record of vastly increasing jury awards to plaintiffs, but describes with shame his inadequacies as husband and father during those years. In the end, he runs off with his second wife, stops drinking with help from Alcoholics Anonymous, and lives happily ever after, more or less. In an age of self-justification, Spence casts a relentlessly cold eye on his bad behavior as family man, lawyer, and sometime politician. Some readers should, however, find inspiration in Spence's ability to level with himself and still get over his self-loathing, and others will at least enjoy his story.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 1996


Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996