A well-written, informative work that uses transcripts from civil and criminal trials to teach effective methods of...




An attorney offers an intensive look at how to cross-examine witnesses in the courtroom.

In this legal textbook, Read (Turning Points at Trial, 2016, etc.) uses the annotated transcripts from well-known trials (O.J. Simpson’s criminal and civil proceedings; George Zimmerman’s case; Johnson & Johnson product liability litigation; and the challenge to California’s Proposition 8, among others) to explain how to conduct a successful cross-examination. The author—an adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law—begins with the big picture, guiding readers through how to develop and organize a case. He then presents his theory of cross-examination, challenging existing views on the topic, particularly Irving Younger’s “Ten Commandments.” Read uses “CROSS”—“Credibility, Restrict damaging testimony, Outrageous statements, Statements (prior statements), Support your case”—as a mnemonic throughout the text. The transcripts demonstrate the CROSS process in action. The book then goes through dozens of examples of cross-examinations taken from transcripts question by question and shows how they advance an argument, impeach a witness’s testimony, or strengthen a case—for instance, the author notes that a lawyer’s opening is “a good simple leading question with one fact.” The volume explores the work of several noted trial attorneys in detail, using their techniques as guidance for novice litigators and including excerpts from interviews in which they expand on their practices. Call-out boxes featuring succinct advice (“For every hour you spend preparing your case, spend 20 minutes looking for its weaknesses as if you represented your opponent”) are scattered throughout the pages. Read’s website (winningatcross.com) provides additional resources, including videos of some of the cross-examinations discussed. The book is a wealth of well-presented information, accessible and intriguing to those with limited legal knowledge as well as more experienced litigators. The text is well organized, with crucial points made lucidly and restated at the end of each chapter. The author clearly shows how the volume’s many examples can serve as templates for readers’ own work. He does an excellent job of breaking down the cross-examination transcripts into their component parts and explaining how each piece contributes to the lawyer’s overall case and how each question succeeds or fails. The book also steers readers through the substantial preparation involved in delivering a triumphant cross-examination rather than simply focusing on courtroom drama (“To succeed, you must know the facts better than the witness does. It is as simple as that”). Each chapter delivers actionable tips attorneys can incorporate into their own practices. Read is knowledgeable about courtroom techniques and has done substantial research into the cases he addresses, resulting in a trove of topical information. Although he can occasionally veer into self-aggrandizement (as in this passage referring to lawyer Daniel M. Petrocelli and Simpson’s civil case: “In fairness, since I had not created the technique at the time of this trial, that would have been hard for him to do”), the writing is generally strong. (“The admonition to ‘save it for summation’ assumes that jurors are not human but rather data banks that you can just pour information into that will somehow sort out the important information from the unimportant.”) The winning prose makes the book an enjoyable read as well as an instructive one.

A well-written, informative work that uses transcripts from civil and criminal trials to teach effective methods of cross-examination.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9850271-3-1

Page Count: 377

Publisher: Westway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2019

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


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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