A FOOL’S GOLD by Bill Merritt


A Story of Ancient Spanish Treasure, Two Pounds of Pot, and the Young Lawyer Almost Left Holding the Bag
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Merritt’s memoir of his early days as a lawyer in coastal Oregon falls flat.

The book suffers from too many cartoonish, unconvincing characters stuck in a plodding story line. Merritt claims to be recounting a “true” story, but an author’s note cautions that the book is “filled with made-up individuals, composite characters, and descriptions that do not match anything in the real world.” The events and people he recalls are neither terribly believable nor very entertaining. When wily mentor Thaddeus Silk suddenly expires, Merritt inherits client Grady Jackson, a crusty recluse who’s suing the state of Oregon for the right to search for buried treasure on the state-owned Neahkahnie Beach. After finding an antique gold chain in Jackson’s mountaintop cabin, the authorities believe that he has stolen it from state land, and they take legal action. Merritt’s other client is overweight pothead Abby Birdsong, who literally trails marijuana seeds from her handbag while strolling into the courtroom. When Birdsong is busted for stashing four tons of Jamaican weed in a storage locker, she tells Merritt that she pilfered the dope after watching federal drug agents murder three dealers on the beach. The plot takes several turns, with both Songbird and Jackson eventually proving to be not quite the buffoons they appear. But Merritt’s narrative has already provided a little too much buffoonery, courtesy of obtuse characters with names like Ropy Arms, Engine Joe and Tail Pipe.

Merritt’s prose is affable and folksy, but his meandering story lacks grit and wit.

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 2006
ISBN: 1-59691-099-2
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2005