RAPE ONE by Frederick Canavor


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Anatomy of a rape case--with the emphasis on day-by-day courtroom detail that is sometimes grittily convincing, sometimes just tediously mundane. First-novelist Canavor (an ex-D.A.) is weakest in the opening pages, with crude dramatization of three Central Park rapes by a good-looking, threatening yet un-violent young man. But once a suspect is arrested--Dartmouth senior Billy Waterman, son of a big-time consultant/contractor--the narrative becomes more firmly grounded, if slow-paced and largely predictable. Canavor's focus shifts around from young prosecutor Jim Bridges to wily defense attorney ""Big Bob"" Jacobs, from the arresting cop to Billy to the victim in the first of the three scheduled trials: divorced freelance-writer Pamela Metcalfe. Jury selection, the coaching of witnesses, the conferences with the judge, the tangles with inadmissible evidence, nasty cross-examinations and closing arguments--all these and more are filled in with transcript-like density. And, though Billy's defense is merely an outright denial (mistaken identity, supposedly), most of the familiar rape-case issues come up: insinuations about Pamela's sex-life and instability; her own guilt over perhaps not having resisted enough. (Cop Mahoney wonders: ""Why did these broads wilt when some asshole declared he was going to stick it into them?"") But only in the last 100 pages, after the trial ends with a hung jury, does the novel belatedly start to offer the sort of plot twists and character crises that go beyond generalized documentary: prosecutor Jim (alienated from wife Maggie) and victim Pamela (lonely) respond to the hung-jury disappointment with a momentary affair; another prosecutor takes over for the retrial; and Jim himself is called as a witness at the retrial--as Big Bob Jacobs (urged on by Billy's ruthlessly image-conscious father) uses the Jim/Pamela affair to destroy Pamela's credibility. Some persuasive peeks, then, at a few of the ugly realities of criminal procedure and lawyer tactics--but overlong and ill-paced as a novel, with two-dimensional characters and very intermittent suspense.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Madrona