Saturday, September 27, 2008

Legal Thrillers

I used to read legal thrillers insatiably, mostly from John Grisham and Clifford Irving.

My favourite Grisham thriller must be The Chamber, perhaps because I saw Anthony Hopkins' masterful depiction of Sam Crayhall before I read the novel. This, even though movies normally spoil the novel for me. I prefer reading the novel first, working out the screenplay in my mind, then watching the movie. Also, being a bookworm, I generally enjoy reading the book more than I do watching the movie. Anyway, as squeamish as I am, I enjoyed reading Chamber right down to the chilling, nay nauseating, description of Sam's last moments in the Chamber. Nothing personal against Sam, it's just Grisham's hypnotic style.

Clifford writes about the same subject matter; dirty lawyers, dirty politicians, crazy amounts of money to be made by both, and what not, but he just does not weild the same kind of power as John. I do read them still but somehow the craze has worn itself out.

But there is another John (whose middle name, incidentally, is Clifford) that still has a grip on me. It's John Mortimer, the creator of Horace Rumpole. Never heard of Rumpole? So then you might never have heard of She Who Must Be Obeyed. And you wouldn't have heard of the Mad Bull either. How unlucky for you.

Rumpole is one of those geniuses overlooked by history, perhaps because he does not wear the distinguished, handsome lawyer look (of Grisham fame), and perhaps because he works in the shadow of the Mad Bull (Judge Roger Bullingham) whose intellect is not as formidable as his own. Perhaps Rumpole's less than stellar career is his resistance to the grand ambitions of She Who Must Be Obeyed. I don't know. But following Rumpole as he wins (and loses) various cases is a lot of fun and very educational.

Actually, the only Rumpole book I've read is the The Second Rumpole Omnibus, it has 667 pages of 20 different cases. I imagine that the First is similar in the way it is published. I gather from Amazon that there are other Rumpole books, including Rumpole Misbehaves, Rumpole Rests His Case and there is even a Third Rumpole Omnibus.

John Mortimer writes about Rumpole in the same way that A.C. Doyle writes about Sherlock Holmes. Real dectectives read Conan Doyle and real lawyers read Mortimer for the same reason; they go on a virtual field trip. So while his writing does not fit neatly into the genre of legal thriller, John Mortimer does write about the legal profession, and I do find his writing thrilling.

12 comments:

Daisy Soap Girl said...

I have heard the phrase, She Who Must Be Obeyed, but didn't know who to associate it with. I liked Grisham also but like you, the thrill has worn off. Maybe because I worked in the legal system for so long and have moved on.

Ruthibelle said...

Arthur Conan Doyle is the master of mystery!!

(Fortunately or Unfortunately), I am still at the stage where John Grisham, John Case (I recommend Genesis Code to everyone!), Robert Ludlum, James Patterson and the like cast a magical spell over me. Ironically, Danielle Steel and other romance novelists have never held that appeal.

Never heard of Rumpole, but now, of course, I will be looking it up...

Ruthibelle said...

Looking for a blogging book club/society? Check bloggersread.blogspot.com. The group just started, and we're on our first book. All are welcome. Thought you might be interested.

Scripter said...

John Grisham does have an excellent reputation as a writer, and even though I've never read his books, I've seen some movies based on his novels, such as The Rainmaker and A Time To Kill. Both were very well done and had intriguing plot lines. For some reason, I have never gotten into reading legal thrillers though.

Jdid said...

I've never read a Grisham book for some reason, dug the movies though. The John Mortimer stuff sounds interesting I think I must have read something from him before as his name sounds really familiar. There was also a Rumpole tv series I believe which was pretty cool

Jacqueline Smith said...

Thank you guys for passing through, I've had a hectic week, glad to come in here and see I've had guests!

Del,
I've never heard of She Who Must Be Obeyed outside of the text, but it does have that catchy, clever ring to it that would make people want to use it in other contexts. So you worked in the legal system, that's something new I've learnt about you.

Ruth,
I enjoyed reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes, it's one of the many books my nephew and I have read in common (that's a nice thing). I picked up an assortment of tidbits from Sherlock, like I first learnt about the Mormon trek across the desert into Utah in "The Study in Scarlet". The Mormons probably don't like Sir Arthur for that one.

Never heard of John Case, sounds intriguing. Ludlum is creates fantastic, adrenalin pumping stuff, but as for James Patterson, I've only read one novel by him, and I found one particularly macabre scene more than I could bear, so I never read him after that. Don't care for Steele much myself.

I did check out that link through your blog, I'm toying with the idea of joining....

Scripter,
It's great to see you, I've been wondering if you have more work than you can handle, or is there no such thing?

jdid,
Welcome and thanks for your comment. A Rumpole Tv series should be interesting. I wonder if it will ever get to Jamaica... The last tv series I remember we got out of the UK was Desmond - hilarious. Some time ago we got one with a theme song "There are no Boundaries" out of Trinidad, anyone remembers that? All told we get lots of programming out of the US- House, Lost, Law and Order..... Not that I object to stuff from the US, I just like some diversity that's all.

Ruthibelle said...

Oh gosh I remember Desmond.. laugh-out-loud funny. Who didnt set aside time to watch that comedy on, what was it, Saturday nights?

And the nanny. I remember that annoying nasal voice, "oh, Mr. Sheffield!" Lord those were some good comedies. Not too corny or sexual. Now... *sigh*

Ruthibelle said...

I guess the world's sense of humour is evolving into something I find less than funny at times...

Scripter said...

ha! Yes, been busy, and also seeking inspiration. I will be catching up on my blogs a little bit more this week:)

Geoffrey said...

Ahah Jackie...I think I may be falling in love! Will you draw my lustful cravings from the beautiful Hilda Rumpole, she who must be obeyed? LOL I love Rumpole and I have read the three omnibuses...but not Mortimer's most recent books. Rumpole for me is a perfect holiday escape book. They never fail to make me laugh.

I'm not a television fan at all but Rumpole was made into an excellent BBC TV series that does complete justice to the books. He was played by Leo McKern who was truly wonderful in the part.

Hope you're doing good!

Geoffrey

Abeni said...

Never read the Rumpole series but I have heard of them. Have you ever read Elizabeth George?

Jacqueline Smith said...

Hey Geoffery,
That might be quite risky; she who must be obeyed would be quite jealous, and that's a considerable wrath for you to contend with...and I wouldn't let you back to her that easily...

A Bientot!

Abeni,
Didn't know about her until now. I Googled her and I see that she does mystery. I'll look her up the next time I browse the (somewhat limited) shelves of the Old Harbour library.