A blow-by-blow account of legal actions taken against the Exxon Corporation in the wake of the March 23, 1989, Exxon Valdez disaster. Reading this book by attorney/novelist Lebedoff (Ward Number Six, 1972) is much like watching one of the new-realism courtroom dramas on network TV: The pace is hectic; the actors are strapping he-men or (as Lebedoff writes of a young prosecutor) doubles for Daryl Hannah, their characters transparently evil or good; and the script is packed with enough technical detail to satisfy the demand for verisimilitude. Thus, you will learn how lawyers bill clients for their time, how legal reputations are made and broken, and even how toxicologists determine hours after the fact how much alcohol a person may have consumed before, say, an arrest for reckless driving. The last issue was key to the notorious Valdez case, in which Captain Joseph Hazelwood, not long after consuming numerous shots of distilled spirits, left the bridge of the oil tanker he commanded, ordering a subordinate to steer it past a dangerous reef off the Alaska coast. The untested subordinate steered the massive ship onto the rocks; millions of gallons of oil spilled into the waters, ruining ecosystems and fisheries. Lebedoff's hero, plaintiff's attorney Brian Boru O'Neill, instantly leaps into action, arguing that Exxon knew Hazelwood was an alcoholic and that the company itself was therefore responsible for the huge environmental disaster. Through twists and turns of argument, which take up most of the book, O'Neill comes to convince a dozen jurors of the justice of his cause—and to extract a $5 billion settlement against the petroleum giant. Why that sum, the largest ever awarded in a class-action suit? Lebedoff explains the calculus down to the last cent, which should make this book of particular interest to budding attorneys. Lebedoff's narrative is far more satisfying than any John Grisham concoction, and it affords an illuminating look at the legal system today.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-83706-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1997

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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