Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Legal Fiction

Sometimes you can get into trouble writing about the law. A few weeks ago, my coworker wrote an excellent post about MCPL's many books and online tools for legal research. I thought I'd supplement her post with one about our many legal fiction books. After all, who doesn't love a good John Grisham novel?

But then I ran into a problem. It seems the term "legal fiction" means something very specific to lawyers, and that meaning does not include novels about lawyers.  So instead of writing about legal fiction, I'll use the approved literary term and tell you all about MCPL's great collection of legal thrillers. What makes a book a legal thriller? Generally speaking, these are books in which the main character is a lawyer or works in a law firm.

Book cover for The Gods of GuiltMany of you are probably aware of the well known legal thriller authors, such as John Grisham, Lisa Scottoline, Marcia Clark, and Michael Connelly. These are the mainstay, bread and butter types of fiction focused on the law. They feature corporate malfeasance as found in The Firm, overzealous law suits and domestic violence, as in Save Me, and murder investigations by lawyers desperate to uncover the truth, as in The Gods of Guilt. Legal thrillers cover a lot of ground and easily blend into other types of books such as mysteries and general thrillers. A subject search of legal stories in our catalog will provide a long list of legal thrillers and related works available at MCPL. For a less expansive list, try this Top 10 Legal Thrillers of All Time from the mystery book website Mystery Center.

Legal thrillers aren't the only books that feature lawyers. The late English author John Mortimer wrote a humor series beloved by many lawyers called Rumpole of the Bailey. Rumpole is a stubborn London barrister who doggedly defends his usually poor clients and finds too much pleasure in arguing with judges and poking holes in their pride. In addition to the books, there have been various television and radio iterations of Rumpole of the Bailey as well.

Author Bruce Alexander wrote a historical fiction series. set in the late 18th century London, featuring the the blind magistrate Sir John Fielding, whose 14 year old assistant, Jeremy, helps him investigate cases brought before him. And of course, there's the iconic figure of Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, which in the sometimes nebulous world of book genres, is probably better considered a courtroom drama than a legal thriller.

There's even a series written for children, Theodore Boone by John Grisham. The main character, Theodore Boone, is the son of 2 lawyers. Boone's first adventure begins when a man in his town is accused of murder.  Boone learns there's a witness, an illegal immigrant, who may be able to save the accused, but is too scared to come forward and testify.

Finally, there's one last series about a lawyer I feel obliged to mention. I'm not familiar with the series myself.  I don't know how much there is in it about courtrooms, trials, investigations, etc., but technically, the main character is a lawyer, at least by day. His name is Matt Murdock, but he's better known as Daredevil.

Mark S.

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