The ShortRead of 22 July
Author: John Grisham
What's the story: Walk into any book shop in the Western world (there are some left, honest), navigate your way to the Legal Thriller section and we'd bet our collective body parts that you'll find this man's name on the majority of the spines. John Grisham is a publishing dream, shifting close to 280 million books and amassing a considerable number of cinema-filling adaptations.
His latest work, Rogue Lawyer, follows street lawyer Sebastian Rudd. He works out of a customized bulletproof van, complete with Wi-Fi, a bar, a small fridge, fine leather chairs, a hidden gun compartment, and a heavily armed driver. He defends clients that other lawyers wouldn't go near - a drug-addled, tattooed kid rumored to be in a satanic cult, who is accused of molesting and murdering two little girls; a vicious crime lord on death row; a homeowner arrested for shooting at a SWAT team that mistakenly invaded his house. Why these clients? Because he believes everyone is entitled to a fair trial.
Having checked out the cover reveal above, get a taste of Rudd's world with the exclusive extract below.
Release date: 20 October
My name is Sebastian Rudd, and though I am a well-known street lawyer, you will not see my name on billboards, bus benches, or screaming at you from the yellow pages. I don’t pay to be seen on television, though I am often there. My name is not listed in any phone book. I do not maintain a traditional office. I carry a gun, legally, because my name and face tend to attract attention from the type of people who also carry guns and don’t mind using them. I live alone, usually sleep alone, and do not possess the patience and understanding necessary to maintain friendships. The law is my life, always consuming and occasionally fulfilling. I wouldn’t call it a “jealous mistress” as some forgotten person once so famously did. It’s more like an overbearing wife who controls the checkbook. There’s no way out.
These nights I find myself sleeping in cheap motel rooms that change each week. I’m not trying to save money; rather, I’m just trying to stay alive. There are plenty of people who’d like to kill me right now, and a few of them have been quite vocal. They don’t tell you in law school that one day you may find yourself defending a person charged with a crime so heinous that otherwise peaceful citizens feel driven to take up arms and threaten to kill the accused, his lawyer, and even the judge.
But I’ve been threatened before. It’s part of being a rogue lawyer, a sub-specialty of the profession that I more or less fell into ten years ago. When I finished law school, jobs were scarce. I reluctantly took a part-time position in the City’s public defender’s office. From there I landed in a small, unprofitable firm that handled only criminal defense. After a few years, that firm blew up and I was on my own, out on the street with plenty of others, scrambling to make a buck.
One case put me on the map. I can’t say it made me famous because, seriously, how can you say a lawyer is famous in a city of a million people? Plenty of local hacks think they’re famous. They smile from billboards as they beg for your bankruptcy and swagger in television ads as they seem deeply concerned about your personal injuries, but they’re forced to pay for their own publicity. Not me.
The cheap motels change each week. I’m in the middle of a trial in a dismal, backwater, redneck town called Milo, two hours from where I live in the City. I am defending a brain-damaged eighteen year-old dropout who’s charged with killing two little girls in one of the most evil crimes I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen plenty. My clients are almost always guilty, so I don’t waste a lot of time wringing my hands about whether they get what they deserve. In this case, though, Gardy is not guilty, not that it matters. It does not. What’s important in Milo these days is that Gardy gets convicted and sentenced to death and executed as soon as possible so that the town can feel better about itself and move on. Move on to where, exactly? Hell if I know, nor do I care. This place has been moving backwards for fifty years, and one lousy verdict will not change its course. I’ve read and heard it said that Milo needs “closure,” whatever that means. You’d have to be an idiot to believe this town will somehow grow and prosper and become more tolerant as soon as Gardy gets the needle.
My job is layered and complicated, and at the same time it’s quite simple. I’m being paid by the State to provide a first class defense to a defendant charged with capital murder, and this requires me to fight and claw and raise hell in a courtroom where no one is listening. Gardy was essentially convicted the day he was arrested, and his trial is only a formality. The dumb and desperate cops trumped up the charges and fabricated the evidence. The prosecutor knows this but has no spine and is up for re-election next year. The judge is asleep. The jurors are basically nice, simple people, wide-eyed at the process and ever so anxious to believe the lies their proud authorities are producing on the witness stand.
Milo has its share of cheap motels but I can’t stay there. I would be lynched or flayed or burned at the stake, or if I’m lucky a sniper would hit me between the eyes and it would be over in a flash. The state police are providing protection during the trial, but I get the clear impression these guys are just not into it. They view me the same way most people do. I’m a long-haired roguish zealot sick enough to fight for the rights of child-killers and the like.
My current motel is a Hampton Inn located twenty-five minutes from Milo. It costs $60 a night and the State will reimburse me. Next door is my Partner, a hulking heavily armed guy who wears black suits and takes me everywhere. Partner is my driver, bodyguard, confidant, paralegal, caddie, and only friend. I earned his loyalty when a jury found him not guilty of killing an undercover narcotics officer. We walked out of the courtroom arm in arm and have been inseparable ever since. On at least two occasions, off-duty cops have tried to kill him. On one occasion they came after me.
We’re still standing. Or perhaps I should say we’re still ducking.
For more excellent reads, check out our previous choices below - just click on the link:
(Images: Flickr/Kate Hiscock; Rex)