An engrossing legal tale woven with impressive intelligence.

BAD LIES

A courtroom thriller dramatizes the battle between journalistic freedom and protections against libel. 

Eddie Bennison’s rise from obscurity to fame as a professional golfer is as late as it is meteoric. Failing to make his high school team, he didn’t play seriously until he was in his 30s and working as a salesman for a container company. By the time he decided to make a career out of the sport, he was on the other side of 50 years old and eligible to play on the Senior PGA Golf Tour. But his first two seasons are as remarkable as his early life is inauspicious—he wins more than a dozen tournaments in two years, collecting millions in prize earnings and endorsements. Both his career and his reputation are threatened, though, when the leading golf magazine, Tee Time, runs a series of articles discussing rumors of Bennison’s reliance on performance-enhancing drugs and unfair tinkering with his golf clubs. As a result, he loses major endorsements, and the psychological strain of public mortification kills his game. Jacklin (Jacklin: My Autobiography, 2007, etc.) and Yastrow (Vision to Legacy, 2013, etc.) devote most of the novel to Bennison’s lawsuit for defamation against Tee Time and its publisher, brilliantly conducted by his lawyer, Charlie Mayfield, a man as talented as he is intimidating. But Mayfield has to contend with an unpleasant surprise—a woman accuses Bennison of sexually assaulting and beating her, testimony that could wreak havoc on the golfer’s popular appeal as a sports hero and “stereotypical” matinee idol. The authors thoughtfully raise and wrestle with several serious issues: the legitimacy of performance-enhancing drugs in a professional sports world increasingly dominated by technology; the tension between a robust interpretation of the First Amendment and the damage done by recklessly sensationalist media; and the possibility that an accusation of a sexual crime is mendaciously driven by ulterior motives. Impressively, all of these matters are treated with delicacy and nuance, and none of them are considered at the expense of the tale’s dramatic power. The authors push the plot forward relentlessly, and the courtroom contest—especially Mayfield’s blistering interrogation of the reporter, Max Reed, who wrote the articles about Bennison—is captivating. In fact, the attorney becomes the most compelling character in the book—deviously smart but morally principled, he makes the case a referendum on journalistic malfeasance, encouraging the jury to make an example of Tee Time the industry can’t afford to ignore: “What amount of punitive damages would get their attention? What amount would they take seriously, and not shrug off as a nuisance?” If there’s one fictional failing, it’s the characterization of Reed. He’s too easy a target for Mayfield—the reporter’s boss calls him the “biggest boob since Humpty Dumpty”—since he’s astonishingly unprofessional, morally wayward, and easily disoriented under cross-examination. The lawyer’s gifts would shine even brighter if used against a more formidable opponent. 

An engrossing legal tale woven with impressive intelligence. 

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68401-602-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Mascot Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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