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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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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