Following Clinging to the Wreckage (1982), a bracing and bounteous second helping of the British barrister/writer's life,...

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MURDERERS AND OTHER FRIENDS: Another Part of Life

Following Clinging to the Wreckage (1982), a bracing and bounteous second helping of the British barrister/writer's life, works, and many, many opinions. The paramount lesson he learned from his ""second life"" as a Queen's Counsel defending accused criminals in jury trials, Mortimer says, was the value of suspending judgment on people inside the courtroom and out. Don't believe him for a minute. Though he could coolly defend the merits of books like The Return of the Enema Bag Rapist or or the innocence of a youth who claimed the gent he stabbed to death--a man on his way home from dinner with his fianc‚e--had been assaulting his virtue, Mortimer evidently never lost the habit of passing judgment, as the racy tone of each tart anecdote reveals again and again. His career as a playwright brought him together with Tony Richardson, Robert Graves, Laurence Olivier, and David Niven, each of whom hurtles through this memoir in an acid-tipped cameo. And his convictions as an unrepentant socialist and an ""atheist for Christ"" flavor his stinging remarks on Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Michael Heseltine, and the British passion for locking up people in prisons. Not that this passion for judgment extends to constructing a coherent argument on behalf of his own life. As he spends less and less time in the courtroom and more and more at the typewriter, his stream of reminiscences, always sketchy on dates and sequences, becomes, if anything, still more disjointed. Mortimer finds that Rex Harrison will--no, he won't--be playing his father onstage, invents the inimitable Rumpole of the Bailey, and interviews a passionate defender of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, but never forgets to place his own prickly sensitivity and his fine sense of the absurd at center stage. An endearing ragbag of recollections snapping into focus at warp speed.

Pub Date: March 1, 1995

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1995