Articles Posted in legal thriller

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the wordThe First Amendment is a mighty shield, protecting all sorts of offensive speech. No matter how disgusting I might find the antics of the Westboro Baptist Church, in 2011, the Supreme Court found a First Amendment protection in its favor allowing the church to spew its hateful ideology in public. In Snyder v. Phelps (yes, Fred Phelps, the late leader of the Westboro cult), the Court held that a speaker on a public sidewalk, speaking about a public issue, cannot be held liable for the tort of emotional distress, even if the speech is ‘outrageous.’ But the Snyder Court also distinguished between hateful speech directed to issues of public importance, like homosexuality and abortion, and speech of a personal nature, like insults and lies, directed to a private person.

Hubert Crouch’s new book, The Word (2015), practically yanks the Westboro headlines from today’s paper. In his sophomore novel, the second installment of the Jace Forman series, Crouch brings together three main characters from his first book (Cries For No One (2013)) for a wild ride through a world where religious zealots hide behind the First Amendment to cover their virulent hate speech, high-powered attorneys hire thugs to intimidate magazine reporters from exposing their misdeeds, and an entire family – the McGuffin, if you will, for the story -– is killed off, one-by-one, until only their lawyer is left standing. Hey, The Word is set in Texas, after all! Continue reading

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recklessdisregard 1Abduction!, the world’s hottest online game from the world’s hottest online game developer, the anonymous shadow figure known to the world only as Poniard (think, an online Banksy), accuses real-life media mogul, William Bishop, known to the world as William the Conqueror (think, Rupert Murdoch) of the abduction and murder of the well-known film starlet Felicity McGrath some years before. What’s a tycoon to do but sue Poniard for libel and defamation? As we all know, though, truth is an absolute defense to libel.

That’s the set-up for Robert Rotstein’s latest legal thriller, Reckless Disregard, (Seventh Street Books, 2014) and what a fun ride this book is. Our hero is Parker Stern, a burned-out trial lawyer with a secret past. Once at the top of the Los Angeles legal heap, Parker has lost his love for the law and is terrified of the courtroom. Now working from a sparsely furnished room the mediation service provides, he’s spending the prime of his legal career as a two-bit mediator, handling the legal dross that none of the other mediators wants, the slip-and-falls, evictions, Worker’s Comp claims. Out of nowhere he gets a chat message from Poniard, asking him for representation in the libel suit. Poniard will not be denied and offers to pay him any fee for the best legal talent available. And we’re off!

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skininthegameThe legal thriller genre owes its current popularity to the ever-prolific John Grisham. But Grisham has overstayed his welcome and now seems to write from rote. Welcome debut novelist R. P. Finch, who – like Grisham and Scott Turrow – writes of a legal world that he knows from the inside. Finch practiced law more than thirty years and his experiences – plus his vivid imagination and sly sense of humor – have prepared him well for his next career as a novelist.

Skin In the Game” (Livingston Press, April 10, 2013) is hilarious  – a rare commodity in legal thrillers – mixing a healthy dose of quantum mechanics with the internecine backstabbing at Big Law to yield a page-turner with wide appeal. Skilfully plotted and richly peopled with a sympathetic protagonist, a whip-smart and well-connected love interest, and an unforgettable supporting cast – including malapropist mobsters and lap-dancing entrepreneurs, squirrelly over-achieving first-year associates and washed-up senior partners – Finch pulls us headlong on a comic romp across a giant swath of corporate America. The humor is often subtle and frequently laugh-out-loud funny, while the taut storytelling, though a bit tech-heavy, twists and turns, keeping the reader wondering where we’re heading, along the way to a tidy – and satisfying – conclusion.

R.P. Finch’s novel is ambitious, literate and delightful. A good read. I couldn’t recommend it higher.