A delightfully readable tour of a remarkable career among the rich and famous.

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SUMMING UP

A PROFESSIONAL MEMOIR

Fields (Gloriana, 2018, etc.) recalls an eventful life as a lawyer representing celebrities in the film, television, and music industries. 

The author spent his entire professional career as an attorney, and he began by litigating courts-martial in the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps. After he left the military in 1955, he started a practice in Los Angeles and eventually garnered a stellar reputation, representing major stars, including Wayne Rogers (best known as “Trapper” John on the TV series M*A*S*H), Dustin Hoffman, and Michael Jackson. Instead of a historically exhaustive and chronologically linear autobiography, Fields furnishes a collection of anecdotal vignettes that focus on his extraordinary experience as a lawyer, and many consist of only a few pages of impressionistic remembrances. His insider’s look into the world of the famous is sometimes artfully revealing. For example, Fields was already one of Jackson’s lawyers when the singer was accused of sexually abusing a child; he resigned due to what he saw as Elizabeth Taylor’s interference. (He says that he remains convinced that Jackson was innocent of the charges, however.) Other tales are much lighter in tone; for instance, Gore Vidal turned to Fields when a movie studio refused to credit his work on the screenplay for the 1987 film The Sicilian. Fields won his case, but then Vidal, after seeing the movie, exclaimed, “Keep my name off that piece of shit!” The author also fired Donald Trump as a client, he says, because he was disgusted by a deceitful strategy that the real estate mogul employed. The author’s world seems to be full of famous people; he began writing books, he says, after Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather, encouraged him after reading one of his legal briefs. Still, the repeated references to celebrities never feel like gratuitous name-dropping. Overall, Fields’ prose style is wry, lighthearted, and crisply straightforward, and the memoir as a whole is impressively humble given the author’s many accomplishments. His book should appeal broadly to lawyers and nonlawyers alike. 

A delightfully readable tour of a remarkable career among the rich and famous. 

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9998527-5-0

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Marmont Lane Books

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2019

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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