Another burned-out lawyer desperate for one last chance takes on another impossible case. But from then on in, the pseudonymous Cray (Keeplock, 1995) strikes out for chillier waters than John Grisham ever swam.
Ever since liquor and cocaine put paid to his courtroom success, tailor’s son Sid Kaplan hasn’t exactly been biding his time waiting for a comeback; in fact, if it weren’t for the unstinting support of his secretary Julia Gill and his investigator Caleb Talbot, he would’ve sunk beneath the waves long ago. And his latest case doesn’t exactly sound promising: Priscilla Sweet, already a hardened veteran of drug charges, doesn’t deny that she shot her husband, or even that she was muling coke for him; she maintains only that she shot him in self-defense. Fortunately, there’s plenty of evidence to support her allegations of abuse at the fists of Byron Sweet; unfortunately, he seems to have been sitting down when he was shot, drunk as a skunk and close to death from cirrhosis. As the publicity Sid took the case for begins to mount, so do the obstacles. Bulldog ADA Carlo Buscetta, naturally, wants to lock up Priscilla, who even Sid recognizes is one cold little number, and throw away the key; Byron’s African-American relatives seem poised to file a civil lawsuit of their own; a pair of lowlifes calmly assure Sid that Byron owed them $150,000, and that the debt has passed to Priscilla (broke and in stir), her mother Thelma Barrow (broke and skedaddled), and Sid (just plain broke). And Sid, haunted by family ghosts who’ll soon have company, begins to ask himself just why his client turned down a deep-pockets pro bono defense to seek him out in the first place.
A refreshingly unsentimental reply to all those fairy tales about lawyers whose ideals rise miraculously from the ashes. “Bad lawyer” is right.