JUSTICE LION by Robert Newton Peek


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Town dweller Muncie Bolt, 15 in 1923, admires his ""uproad"" (backwoods) friend Hem Lion and feels honored to know Hem's rough father Justice, proud owner of the Vermont mountain land deeded to his family by George Rex himself. Justice and Muncie's lawyer father Jess respect each other. Muncie and Hem's sister Blessing Lion have longing eyes for each other--and, on one heady occasion in the woods, Muncie gets an eyeful. Then Jess Bolt is appointed district attorney, a job he's wanted, just when a federal agent comes to town and has Justice arrested for moonshining--an activity the local law enforcers have chosen to overlook. Muncie is torn between fondness for the Lions and loyalty to his father, who reluctantly prosecutes Justice in the trial that takes up the last half of the novel. Except that the moral issues are insufficiently compelling, it's a tolerable imitation of the popular courtroom drama, with much ""countrysome"" eloquence from the new judge and general obeisance to red-white-and-blue abstractions, along with corny chuckles from the folks on and off the jury. (We are spared Peck's usual low-grade slapstick in this more serious serving of nostalgic Americana.) In between sessions, Muncie engages in mushy conversations celebrating young love or simple living, while his grave father spouts such nuggets of wisdom as ""our human condition is not a recipe of absolutes."" Like the speeches at a 4th-of-July town picnic, it's likely to be taken for the real thing by a goodly portion of the audience.

Pub Date: March 31st, 1981
Publisher: Little, Brown