A persuasive, thoroughly winning brief.


A vivid re-creation of the three trials that capped the career of America’s most famous attorney.

The 1911 trial of the McNamara brothers for firebombing the headquarters of the Los Angeles Times, memorably recounted in Howard Blum’s American Lightning (2008), ended in an unpopular plea bargain for the union agitators and charges of jury tampering against their celebrated attorney. Though never convicted, Clarence Darrow lost his privilege to practice law in California and the support of the labor movement to whom he’d been a god. More than a decade later, by then in his late 60s and still stinging from the humiliation that had brought him to the brink of suicide, Darrow took on three cases, all worthy of being termed “trials of the century.” McRae (Every Second Counts: The Race to Transplant the First Human Heart, 2006, etc.) takes us through each of the trials in novelistic detail and delivers an intimate portrait of the complicated Darrow. By defending Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two privileged Chicagoans who killed a teenager for sport; John Scopes, who violated Tennessee law by teaching evolution; and Ossian Sweet, a black doctor charged with murder for defending his Detroit home against a white mob, Darrow vaulted once again into the headlines and burnished his reputation as a weaver of courtroom miracles. Even in the unsuccessful Scopes Monkey Trial, Darrow’s devastating cross-examination of William Jennings Bryan remains a model of the art. While the details of at least two of these cases remain widely known, McRae adds extra value with his behind-the-scenes portrait of Darrow, relying heavily on information drawn from the lawyer’s longtime lover and confidante, Mary Field Parton. Largely through her eyes, we come to understand this legal giant, whose admirers compared him to Jesus or Socrates and whose enemies thought him the devil. A genuine humanitarian, Darrow had trouble loving individuals. Deeply insecure, he still managed a courtroom certainty and eloquence that swayed juries and, to a remarkable extent, his era.

A persuasive, thoroughly winning brief.

Pub Date: June 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-116149-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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