Hank Howls For Legal Thrillers


Ever serve on a jury?  I have – twice.  The first time was a civil suit in which the jury had to determine how much in damage should be paid to each of four family members.  We flipped coins to see who was going to be the foreperson of the jury.  I lost so I had to figure out a way to calculate the damages given to each plaintiff.  We did it by having each jury member submit an opinion and averaging them.  The three days of the trial happened to coincide with the last three days of school.  This was a good news, bad news kind of situation.  The good being that I missed three of the toughest days of school, in terms of student behavior.  The bad being that I had to do my report cards in the jury room.

The second was a criminal trial, and I was certain that I wouldn’t be selected for the jury.  I knew the defendant and his father, and the defendant’s sister and brother had both been in my class.

The first twelve names called go right to the jury box, and I was number twelve.  Sitting with a smug look on my face, I watched as the attorneys questioned the other prospective jurors – looking for some bias that might disqualify them.  When it was finally my turn, I proudly announced that I had friends in low places, and one of them was sitting at the defendant’s table. Just to be on the safe side, I informed the court that I also knew the defendant’s sister, brother and father. Then I gathered my things together and waited for my chance to bolt from the courtroom.  The lawyers and the judge whispered for a while and then announced that several jurors had been dismissed. The judge called out the names, but I wasn’t among them. I started to leap up and shout something like, “Did you hear me?  Were you paying attention.”  Fortunately, I was able to control myself.

I spent the next three days learning more than I wanted to know about where to hide crack cocaine and that fecal smells associated with a certain choice of hidey-hole are admissible evidence.  We found the defendant guilty and expected that he would receive a lengthy sentence.  He didn’t, as a few months later he was shot in a drive-by during the wee hours of the morning.  Several years later his name appeared in the obituaries – dead at forty – no cause given.

All of this drivel leads to a selection of legal thrillers that have not yet been approved by the law firm of Dewey, Cheetem and Howe.

Here are four I’ve read and enjoyed:

A Time to Kill by John Grisham     After a ten-year-old African American girl is raped by two drunk white men in 1984 Mississippi, her father takes justice in his own hands.  It is up to small town lawyer Jake Brigance to defend the father in a capital murder case.

Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow     When a woman is found murdered in her apartment, prosecutor Rusty Sabich is assigned the case.  It soon comes to light that Sabich is a former lover of the woman.  Guess who is charged with the murder?  That’s just the first twist.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee     This American classic is set in the depression era South.  The novel, narrated by tomboy Scout Finch,  is excellent in every way.  The description and development of the characters is unsurpassed.

Rumpole of the Bailey by John Mortimer     Often called Sherlock Holmes with a sense of humor, Rumpole takes one hopeless case after another.  Female readers are inevitably thrilled when they find out that Rumpole refers to his wife as “she who must be obeyed.”


Here are some other highly rated legal thrillers:

Defending Jacob by William Landay

The Racketeer by John Grisham

Final Appeal by Lisa Scottoline

The Pardon by James Grippando

The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly

Alone by Lisa Gardner

Absolute Power by David Baldacci

The Tenth Justice by Brad Meltzer

Executive Privilege by Phillip Margolin

Compelling Evidence by Steve Martini

Silent Witness by Richard North Patterson


Marginally Interesting Tidbits:

From The Laugh-a-Day Book of Bloopers, Quotes & Good Clean Jokes by Jim Kraus

1 While sitting down, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles with it.

2 While you’re doing this, draw the the number 6 in the air with your right hand.  Did your right foot start making counter clockwise circles?

From the Rich Hancock Radio Show

* Recycling one glass jar saves enough energy to watch TV for three hours!

* If you were to spell out numbers you would have to count to “one thousand ” before you used an A.

* The only food that doesn’t spoil is honey.

* Clans of long ago that wanted to get rid of people without killing them burned their houses down.  Hence the expression “to get fired.”

* Actor Tommy Lee Jones and former vice-president Al Gore were freshman roommates at Harvard.

* A “jiffy” is 1/100th of a second.

* Pinocchio is Italian for “pine head.”





Author: hank

I am married with two daughters and one grandchild. After teaching in the inner city of South Bend, IN for many years, I now work at the St. Joseph County Public Library. I started keeping track of the books I read when I was sixteen years old, and now have read over 1700 books with a page count of more than 500,000.

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