Friday, May 18, 2007

A Time To Kill- Notes & Updates

I have finally begun feeding off my reading list for the summer. Reading comes naturally to me but the discipline to finish a 500 plus page book is what I often lack- especially John Grisham. A little background on A Time To Kill (TTK)... this is one of ten Grisham I hold in my 110 fiction & non-fiction collection. However of these ten, I had gotten around to reading three of them, started but never finished another three and yet to get to the remaining four. It is my hope that TTK will be the fourth completed Grisham.

Grishams fascinate me because of their courtroom characters- judges, lawyers, criminals, prisoners, convicts, law enforcement officers and the jury. Lawyers of them all fascinate me the most. This is why The Firm will go down as my best Grisham till date. They are vain liars for the most part who can be ideological in one minute and be plain downright unethical the next. No wonder most politicians are failed lawyers or extremely successful ones! Of course, I love a good debate. Reading how a lawyer weave web of intricate lies in your face as facts and how an innocent detour in a cross examination can change the fate of a guilty defendant is lovable. No one does a better job of placing these characters in the right place and right circumstances than John Grisham. I love me some Jeffrey Archer (Best Among Equals & Fourth Estate deserve special mention) as well as some Tom Clancy, but no one does a better job of throwing light on the legal profession and its characters, human emotion, clash of interests & above all the strength of the law than John Grisham. Well, that is why Amazon got rich off me. Three years (I bought TTK on 4th April 2004) later, I am finally getting around to digesting this Grisham...and I am half way through.

TTK was the first of Grishams. This evidently so because it lacks the sophistication that later Grishams assumed. It was loosely based on a real life experience of the "wet in the ear" newly minted lawyer Grisham was when he ran across a case that made him agonizingly watch a young girl paint the picture of her own rape on the witness stand while envisioning how it feels like to be in her father's shoe. It is a story that precludes the elegance of the Firm, the heart stopping pulse of The Testament or the stomp that the Partner was strewn across the Amazonian jungle.

Will Update..
Update 1: The main characters in the plot is Jake the Ole Miss trained defense lawyer that inherits the practice of Lucien Willbanks, heir to a long line of legal luminary that was brilliant, eccentric and ultimately disbarred. The other main character is Carl Lee father of the girl assaulted by two rednecks whom he later disposed off with M16 he got from his war buddy from his Viet days. Set in Clanton Mississippi, the story has every touch of the south. Issues bothering on racism, the constant struggle to preserve peace & justice while not loosing the folksiness the back country is renowned for. The characters are utterly Southern- if there is any such expression; proud yet lacking in self confidence, warm yet suspicious of foreigners, ignorant yet common sensible, bigoted yet well meaning: these contradictions are best expressed in the way Grisham had them interact. They take the next man as serious as far as he could be kept. Certain lines stand out. The best for me was the one Jake (the lawyer) used when he was seeking loan from his banker & was asked for collateral; he said and I quote:
"My House is a landmark with landmark mortgages, and you've got lien on my car, remember? I'll give you the first mortgage on my daughter, but if you try to foreclose it I will kill you. Now what security do you have in mind?"
Now that is a wicked line. John sure has his ways with words...Page 335 & reading on.

Update 2: I just closed the last page of the book...the best was saved for the last. The courtroom drama was enthralling. Buckley could kiss a good solid case good bye the moment the amputated deputy took the stand. The psychiatrists testimony was perhaps the non-effective tie breaker. As ironic as it sounds, their testimonies amounted to nothing but wash technicalities. It all boiled down to few brave people- Mickey mouse (the klans man mole who paid with his life for snitching good), the jury foreman, and Wanda the girlfriend of the stubborn grand jury man-Mack Lloyd Cromwell(who was going to stall the trial at the grand jury) that somehow walked her way to the jury. How Buckley missed that shows the difference political ambition and raw talent can make. All fluff no action- in all Lucien was egoistic, Harry Rex was vain, & Carla Lee was a free man. Watsup with these southern double names? If you don't have stomach for the "n" word, then TTK is not a must read. In all, it shows the triumph of Southern common sense over legalisms.

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