A captivating blend of legal suspense and introspective memoir.

ABOVE ALL THINGS

A lawyer’s remembrance of the trial that changed his life. 

When debut author Kussman first became acquainted with the particulars of Theresa Kayne’s legal case, he was both moved and frustrated. She had struggled to become pregnant, so her obstetrician, Fredrick Henley, administered injections of delalutin, a female sex hormone that mimics the effects of progesterone, which is naturally produced by the female body. She later learned that she was actually already in the early stages pregnancy at the time of the injections. Henley assured her that delalutin posed no risk to the fetus; however, her son, Joshua, was born without functioning arms or legs. Kayne intended to sue both Henley and E.R. Squibb & Sons, Inc., the colossal pharmaceutical company that manufactures delalutin, but she couldn’t find a lawyer to take the case, apparently because no one could find an expert witness who would testify that the hormone could cause birth defects. Russell’s firm didn’t want the case either, but he thought, contrary to prudence, that it was winnable. He left his firm and started his own, though he was only a year out of law school and had never tried a case before. The author provides a stirringly dramatic account of the three-month-long trial that eventually garnered national attention as well as a look into the inner machinations of the pharmaceutical industry that successfully stifled the promulgation of scientific findings and warnings that likely would have diminished its profit.  Despite his lack of experience, Russell was uniquely positioned to try the case for the same reason he’s now uniquely positioned to tell its story—before he was a lawyer, he was a practicing physician. Much of the power of his remembrance is a function of his unfiltered candor, which includes self-criticism. He realized that he was outclassed by his legal adversaries and, at one point, in deep trouble: “I could see from the reality of an actual trial courtroom that I was a fish out of water; that it would be impossible for me to do this on my own. I was jeopardizing Josh’s future and my own law license.” Still, even after Russell sought out the help of a much more seasoned attorney, he torpedoed the partnership by hubristically insisting on being the lead lawyer, a self-effacing analysis he unforgivingly supplies. While the memoir focuses on the trial itself and its legal details, Russell also affectingly reflects on his own personal life—certainly one of the reasons he was so moved by Kayne’s plight was that his own wife was pregnant at the time he took her case. Further, he astutely explores his own defiant brand of ambition. He abandoned a promising career as a physician to become a lawyer, only to quickly exit an enviable job at a well-known firm to set out in his own. At different junctures in the story, he seems by turns impressively confident and self-destructively arrogant. 

A captivating blend of legal suspense and introspective memoir. 

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-976038-11-2

Page Count: 420

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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