ASHWORTH & PALMER by Thomas Hauser

ASHWORTH & PALMER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The exact same territory as Osborn's The Associates (1979)--a decent young law-school grad's first year at a high-pressure Wall Street firm--is given a mildly engaging, terribly predictable first-novel runthrough by the author of The Execution of Charles Horman and The Trial of Patrolman Thomas Shea. Narrator Tom Henderson is a top student from U. of Nebraska who gutsily gets himself taken on as a rare non-Ivy associate at legendary, huge, stuffy Ashworth & Palmer--where he's immediately submerged in work as one of the several attorneys assisting partner Lonnie Hunker (""a revolting excuse for a human being"") on an interminable antitrust case involving the sewage-treatment market. Dull stuff. But unlike buddy Ed Hardesty, Tom is soon acclimating himself to the A & P ethos: the amoral lawyering, the yearning to ""make partner,"" the kowtowing and yes-manning. And his work is being widely admired (also unlike poor Ed). Then, however, two complications arise that will make it difficult for Tom to steer the straight-ahead-to-partner route: hideous Hunker compels Ed and Tom to help sue a penniless subway worker who (says Hunker) was responsible for getting paint on Hunker's suit; and, more significantly, Tom falls in love with gorgeous, bright secretary Beth (a liaison that's completely against unwritten A & P rules)--who disapproves of Tom's workaholic ways. Tom and Beth argue a lot, she moves in, then (after a law-firm-or-me ultimatum) moves out. And finally rom quits, partly because of the firm's tunnel-visioned ways but mostly because he wants Beth back so badly. A simon-simple scenario, then, enlivened somewhat by the semi-convincing portrait of uptight lawfirm life (dinners and picnics as well as everyday business) and by the modest comedy; the lovers'-quarrel texturing is, on the other hand, mostly drab and whiny. All in all: less vivid or amusing than The Associates, but a good deal more plainspoken and likable; in any case--primarily for those on their way into (or out of) the legal corridors.

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 1980
Publisher: Morrow