by Laurence Leamer ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 7, 2013
An eye-opening story about the relations among politics, business and justice.
A well-constructed nonfiction legal thriller from prizewinning journalist Leamer (Madness Under the Royal Palms: Love and Death Behind the Gates of Palm Beach, 2009, etc.).
In 1998, Harman Coal Company, owned by Hugh Caperton, was destroyed in what was proven through the court system to have been a fraudulent declaration of “force majeure” by Donald Blankenship, then chairman of the massive coal company Massey Energy, one of the largest employers in West Virginia. Leamer uses the more than 14 years of court battles, organized by Dave Fawcett and Bruce Stanley, Caperton’s Pittsburgh lawyers, as the scaffold on which he unfolds this amazing account of contemporary political corruption, skulduggery and mayhem, a situation compared by the New York Times to John Grisham's courtroom drama The Appeal. When, in 2002, Blankenship was defeated and Caperton awarded $50 million in damages, the coal king proceeded to buy his way through West Virginia's elected Supreme Court of Appeals to overthrow the verdict. According to Leamer, Blankenship gave “more money, by far [$3 million plus], than any other group or individual in any one judicial contest.” The refusal of a corrupt judge to recuse himself was successfully pursued all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declared that “a fair trial in a fair tribunal is a fundamental constitutional right.” This, however, was not enough to secure financial redress for Caperton, whose appeals in West Virginia were rejected for a third time in 2009. The vote, his lawyers believed, “was not just a defeat but also an insult and attempt to silence them.” The case proceeded against a background of blackmail, negligence and mining disasters, which eventually combined to precipitate Blankenship's ouster.An eye-opening story about the relations among politics, business and justice.
Pub Date: May 7, 2013
Page Count: 448
Publisher: Times/Henry Holt
Review Posted Online: March 27, 2013
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013
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by Truman Capote ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 7, 1965
"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.
Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965
Page Count: 343
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965
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A quirky wonder of a book.
A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.
Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.A quirky wonder of a book.
Pub Date: April 14, 2020
Page Count: 224
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Jan. 1, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020
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