THE DEFENSE IS READY

LIFE IN THE TRENCHES OF CRIMINAL LAW

Erik Menendez's defense attorney proves why she's one of the best in the business. For 20 years predating her controversial representation of the younger Menendez brother, Abramson worked on behalf of accused baby-killers, bank robbers, and hit men, both in private practice and for the public defender's office in L.A. More than a collection of war stories, this book shows how the attitudes and tactics evident in the Menendez defense informed Abramson's work from the beginning. Her willingness to withhold judgment, to become immersed in the life of her client, and to argue like hell—not necessarily for exoneration but for a ``fair verdict''—are trademark Abramson strengths. Writing (with the aid of New York Times editor Flaste) in the frank, street-smart style familiar to those who watched her TV commentary during the Simpson trial, Abramson shows how she's been staring down bullies since her turbulent childhood in Queens, NY. Seven years as a public defender exposed her to an ``astonishing number . . . of remarkably stupid, totally crazy or deplorably lazy'' judges whom she charmed and dominated (``No one had to tell me how to take over a courtroom''). In 1981, four years into her private practice, she represented one of the killers in the Bob's Big Boy massacre, that year's ``crime of the century.'' Despite her ferocious defense, she lost the case—``all the way to the death penalty.'' But from then on she was on the shortlist for high-profile capital cases. Abramson clearly relishes describing her courtroom tactics and behind-the-scenes maneuvers, so it is disappointing that she confines her commentary on the Menendez trial to a summary of the facts of that case, a few choice words for Judge Stanley Weisberg, and a plea to ``pull the plug'' on cameras in the courtroom. Despite the surprisingly short shrift given to the Menendez trial, a terrific introduction to criminal defense by a master practitioner. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) (First printing of 150,000)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-81403-X

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996

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

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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