Showing posts with label lawyers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lawyers. Show all posts

10 October 2019

The Italian Job


by Eve Fisher

I've been reading mysteries for a long time, and, like everyone, I love a good mystery series so that I can keep on reading, and reading, and reading… And rereading. And maybe watching and watching and watching. (And rewatching - my husband and I, when we run out of new stuff to watch, or it's been a bad day, often just throw on another episode of New Tricks. That or The Great British Baking Show.)

My choice in series is complicated by the fact that I don't like gore, and I want more than just non-stop action. I want complex characters, but I prefer detectives who aren't so damaged they can barely speak.
NOTE: I think detection is like any other job: you can get used to anything. Most morticians I've known are hilarious when you get them in the back room. Most of the people I've known in the judicial / law enforcement world have a good, rich, morbid sense of humor that allows them (among other things) to look at a written death & dismemberment threat and criticize its spelling, grammar, and the fact that the dumb-ass sent it from his prison cell.
But every once in a while I run across a writer whose detective is damaged, who covers crimes that are horrendous, sometimes gory, and I still love it because… Well, welcome to the world of Gianrico Carofiglio.
The Cold Summer (Pietro Fenoglio Book 1) by [Carofiglio, Gianrico]

Mr. Carofiglio lives in Bari, Italy, and given the fact that he's a former anti-Mafia judge, the fact that he's alive at all is a miracle and a mystery to me. And oh, does he have stories to tell. I just finished The Cold Summer, which I gobbled down in 2 sit-downs (I do have work to do). The Mafia is all pervasive, and the central mystery revolves around a series of kidnappings, one of which ends up in the murder of a young boy. It also tells the truth that very few people want to face: you can't tell the criminals from the rest of us. I can assure you that's true.

To paraphrase Pietro Fenoglio, our protagonist, there are:
  • criminals who are children: what they really want is attention, and they will do anything, including burning down the house, to get it;
  • criminals who are adults: they do what they have to do to make a living, that's all, so don't take it personally;
  • criminals who are adults: they enjoy what they do, and while some of their pleasures are truly horrific, they don't look any different than the other hard working adults in the room.
But what really impressed me about Carofiglio is that he understands hierarchy.

This is important, because a lot of life is hierarchy.
  • Judges are God, at least to themselves, their court reporters are their acolytes, and everyone else is their subordinate.
  • Depending on which county of which state you're in, the Sheriff can be just as much God as any judge.
  • I think most people have worked in offices where there's always one supervisor who thinks s/he's God, and is the only reason that the most irritating person in the office (not necessarily the same person) is still working and/or alive. At the same time the person who really runs everything is usually the secretary, a/k/a administrative assistant, who's been there forever and knows exactly where each and every body is buried. When that person turns on you, you are well and truly screwed, no matter how high your rank.
  • When I was a child, families were all about hierarchy. A common saying in AA is "alcoholics don't have families, they take hostages." And everyone keeps silence - omertà - without question. Small towns are the same way. It takes a long time for outsiders to find out what's really going on; who's really in charge. If ever.
Carafiglio is a master of hierarchies, and how people learn how to work with or around them.

The glance that a lower-level carabinieri gives a captain when the captain wants him to bring in a couple who are definitely criminals, i.e., well-connected Mafia:
"When you're the commanding officer of a station on the outskirts of town, you have to find a balance between asserting your own authority and showing cautious respect for people who are prepared to do anything. When you live and work round the corner from the homes and territories of highly dangerous criminals, you have to find a modus vivendi, accept boundaries and limitations that it's hard for those who come in from outside to grasp. Theoretical authority is one thing; the real world, where different rules apply, is another."
Giancarlo Carofiglio
Or when Dotoressa (Judge) D'Angelo demands the right to walk home alone without guards all around her - and everyone has to agree, but at the same time figure out a way to guard her, discreetly, so discreetly that perhaps she doesn't know about it, because a very dangerous man wants her dead. Or worse.

Or the question of why a Captain addresses everyone around him formally, full rank AND surname, when the rule is that's only for people above you. There's a whole back-story about why he does that, and it works.

Or the criminal who finally turns himself in, not because he regrets a damn thing, nor because he finally got religion or morality, nor the fact that his boss killed a friend of his. But - in the process of killing the friend - his boss killed the criminal's dog. Some things are unforgivable.

If you haven't yet, check out Carofiglio. I'm about to pick up another one at the library tomorrow, and I have a feeling my ILL list is about to expand like a balloon.

05 June 2019

Five Red Herrings, Volume 11


by Robert Lopresti 

1. Pictures from a Prosecution. Back in 2017 the Library of Congress held an exhibit of unusual art: drawings by courtroom illustrators. Fascinating stuff including such sinister types as Charles Manson, Bernie Madoff, and (?) J.K. Rowling.

2. Man, that's succubustic. I have mentioned Lowering the Bar before. A wonderful website about all that is ridiculous in the world of law. This entry concerns a California attorney who used (invented, really) the word "succubustic' to describe the behavior of a female judge who refused to grant him the attorney's fees he wanted. (Apparently the lawyer worked very hard on the case, clocking 25 hours in a single day, for instance.) He also referred to the "defendant's pseudohermaphroditic misconduct." Stylish.

3. Write like a girl. Useful for all of us boy author types: Women Share the Biggest Mistakes Male Authors Make with Female Characters. Here's one from jennytrout: "We have never, ever looked in a mirror and silently described our nude bodies to ourselves, especially the size/shape/weight/resemblance to fruit, etc. of our breasts."

4. Write like a cop. From Robin Burcell, Top Ten Stupid Cop Mistakes (in Fiction). "Only some of the bosses are evil or stupid..."

 5. "Dieoramas." Article from Topic Magazine about Abigail Goldman, who  is an investigator for the Public Defender's office in my county. Her hobby is making tiny 3-D "reproductions" of entirely fictional murder scenes. Creepy...

18 April 2018

Five Red Herrings 9


by Robert Lopresti

1. Little gun, big noise.  This weekend saw the announcement of the finalists for the Derringer Awards, presented by the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

Once again, it was a good year for the Notorious SleuthSayers Gang.  In the Flash category Travis Richardson was shortlisted for "Final Testimony," which appeared in Flash Fiction Offensive (ed. Hector Duarte, Jr. and Rob Pierce, July 10, 2017) and Elizabeth Zelvin scored for "Flash Point,"  in A Twist of Noir (ed. Christopher Grant, March 20, 2017).

Paul D. Marks is a finalist for the Novelette zone with "Windward, from Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea  (ed. Andrew McAleer and Paul D. Marks, Down & Out Books, January 2017)

And I made it into the  Short Story category with  "The Cop Who Liked Gilbert and Sullivan"  Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine #23, (ed. Marvin Kaye, Wildside Press, October 2017)

Congrats to all my fellow finalists, SleuthSayers or not!  


2. A Nonfutile, Nonstupid Gesture.  I recently watched the Netflix original movie, A Futile and Stupid Gesture.  Some of you may recognize that title as a line from Animal House.  The movie tells the story of Doug Kenney who (with others) created National Lampoon, Animal House, Caddyshack, and a hilarious little book-length parody called Bored of the Rings.  The flick is narrated by Martin Mull playing an older version of the main character.  ("I'm a narrative device," he explains.)

The reason I bring this flick up is that at one point Mull points out something in the movie that is not true to life and then announces that they are going to provide a list of other inaccuracies.  It rolls up the screen quickly in tiny print but you can go back at the end and read them all.  They range from "Characters A and B met in a party, not in a bar," to: "Everyone was much more racist and sexist."

I loved this.  Whenever I see a movie based on true events I wind up going to the web to see what was real and what wasn't.  (I knew that tube scene in The Darkest Hour  was fake.)  Bravo to the folks who made Gesture, which, by the way, is definitely worth seeing.

3. You call that Justice?  Lowering the Bar is a wonderful blog about the quirks of our legal system.  The most popular piece last year was the true story of a lawyer whose pants literally caught fire while he was summing up the defense of his client, who was accused of arson.  This is the sort of thing that drives fiction writers to despair, because you couldn't put it in fiction.

But I want to tell you about this piece  which has everything for the SleuthSayers audience: a mystery, law, grammar issues, snark, and Sherlock Holmes.  The main topic is this portrait which resides in the Massachusetts Supreme Judiciary Court, but no one knows who it is.  That's the mystery.  The rest comes from the newspaper quoting the Chief Justice urging the public to "put on their Sherlock Holmes’ hats " and try to figure out who is pictured.  Kevin Underhill, who runs the blog, is outraged:

So. “Sherlock Holmes” is not a plural noun—unless you’re talking about several men named “Sherlock Holme.” If such men exist, and they have hats, and you collected the hats of more than one such man, then, my friend, you would have in your possession “the Sherlock Holmes’ hats” (that is, the hats of the men named “Sherlock Holme”). “By Socrates’ beard,” you could say then, “I have here all the Sherlock Holmes’ hats!”

4. Comic Sans and Brimstone.  This is a public service announcement. I just want to warn you do not go to the website Clients From Hell.    It is a hilarious time suck.  Anonymous people (mostly graphic designers)  report on horrifying encounters with horrifying customers. Here are some of the main categories (as judged by me).
The vague: "Make it more modern and traditional."
The clueless: "I can't find the ENTER button on my screen."
The Arrogant: "My friends  at NASA says this is a terrible website design."
The Holy: "We won't pay you but you will be working for God."
The Unholy: "Take out the pictures of Black people.  Our customers are White."
The Crooked: "Just copy it off our competitor's website."
The Greedy: "You're a freelancer.  I thought that meant you worked for free."

Stay away from this page, I beg you.  It will consume many hours of your life.

 5. Stop the Presses!  Do you remember how in newspaper movies they would announce that they had to stop everything and tear out the front page because of breaking news?

I had to throw out the last item I had set up today because it was just announced that my book WHEN WOMEN DIDN'T COUNT has won the Lane/Saunders Memorial Research Award.  That's the big prize for scholarship in government information.  The Government Documents Round Table said a bunch of nice things about the book here.  I would be happy to say some nice things right back.






15 June 2014

Reptilian Florida


Albert and Pogo
Albert and Pogo
by Leigh Lundin

A couple of incidences have caused me to connect again with my first published story, ‘Swamped’.

For one thing, I caught an alligator. Over my dock spreads a marvelous shade tree. I enjoy meals there watching the animals and the birds– herons, anhingas (snake birds), ducks and egrets. An amazing delegation of white pelicans visited, first combing the lake in a straight line and then moving into the canal, tightly bunched, fishing as a coordinated group. Not long ago, a fish eagle, an osprey plunged into the water a few feet from me, carrying off a bream for lunch.

I flip scraps to the fish, especially the minnows, although bigger fish and turtles pull themselves up to the table. Recently, an uninvited visitor began showing up whenever I stepped out on the dock.

It was an alligator, a juvenile a little less than four feet long. A couple of people suggested my neighbor was feeding gators and others said teens flipped them food near the bridge. Someone obviously was feeding the beast because it not only showed no fear, it arrived with a dinner napkin.

Floridians are instructed never to feed gators because they come to associate people with food. An alligator fifteen inches long might seem cute, but when it’s fifteen feet and hungry, that’s another matter. Pets and people have been killed by gators that lost their instinctive fear of humans. Unchallenged backyard gators could cause bigger problems later.

The alligator continued to visit and aggressively shouldered aside turtles to get close to the pier. On Mother’s Day, I carried lunch out to the dock and there he lounged, serviette tucked under his chin ready to celebrate.

East meets West

Setting down my tray, I picked up a rope. I lassoed the guy and pulled him out of the water despite unpleasant protests and naughty words about my ancestry.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of handling alligators, one has to be careful of both ends– the powerful jaws are only half the story. The tail is armored muscle, part whip, part club. In or out of the water, a twist of the tail can roll a gator faster than a person can move. The claws can be nasty too, so one has to act with certainty.

A guy who should have known better.

With the help of the lasso, I grabbed him behind the shoulders, letting him thrash his tail until he tired. Opening a large trash can, I lowered Fuzzy inside. I poured in a couple of litres of water so he wouldn’t dehydrate and phoned Wildlife Services.

Albert
Pausing for a moment, readers of the Dell Magazine Forum may remember my saga with my pet reptile, Albert. When I was a teen, I brought home an alligator and it lived in our living room for twenty-five years. Named after a character in Walt Kelly's Pogo comic strip, he was a good pet and really loved my dad. Albert proved particularly beneficial keeping salesmen away from the door. Over the years, he appeared in ads and our high school play. I hasten to add this was up north and not in Florida.
Actually, I called Animal Control first, the cat and dog people. They said, “You got a what? Really? On purpose? What’s it’s name?”

“Fuzzy,” I said. Apparently their forms have a slot that require a pet’s name.

“Really? How big is he?” she said. “Does he bite? We don’t handle alligators. You’ve got to call Wildlife Services.”

So I phoned Wildlife Services. To my surprise, they sent an earnest, very competent officer on Mother’s Day to pick up Fuzzy. He taped Fuzzy’s mouth shut, which muffled the cursing. He seated Fuzzy in the back of his truck. I like to think Fuzzy is basking in the sun in a secluded marsh with lots of girlie gators to flirt with.

And then… and then about a week later, TWO of Fuzzy’s siblings showed up for breakfast. I’d like to say they wore fedoras and shoulder holsters, but they were about the same size as Fuzzy, a little over a metre long. I spotted a five-footer cruising the middle of the canal although it ignored the local hospitality. He could have been smoking a ‘see-gar’ like Pogo’s Albert. I’m certain I’m in an alligator reality show.

Other Reptiles

If you think Fuzzy might have been a scary creature…

Transcript
Judge: If I had a rock, I would throw it at you right now. Stop pissing me off! Just sit down! I’ll take care of it. I don’t need your help. Sit… down!
P.D. : I’m the public defender, I have the right to be here and I have a right to stand and represent my clients.
Judge: Sit down. If you want to fight, let’s go out back and I’ll just beat your ass.
P.D. : Let’s go right now.[In corridor, judge sucker-punches PD; scuffle]
Judge: You wanna ƒ with me? Do ya?
When I wrote the story ‘Swamped’, I worried readers might not think the mad judge was realistic. He was based on an actual Orange County judge whose bizarre behavior made the news. The actual incidences of citing people in a diner for contempt and ordering a cop who stopped the judge for DUI to appear before him in court actually happened. Throughout, the powers that be seemed powerless to stop him.

Although that situation proved weirder than most, other judges have slipped the rails including one who harangued jurors and threatened them with jail. Often other judges will set matters right after the fact, but it shouldn’t have to be that way. With a state as punitive as Florida, who wants to take chances?

Now another central Florida judge has lost it, swearing at and slugging a lawyer. I hear some of you applauding the judge for pummeling the lawyer, doing what most of us want to do at one time or another, but remember virtually all judges are lawyers. Anyone other than a judge would be arrested for punching and verbally abusing any citizen. But in Florida, at least, judges act as if they're immune from such mundane concerns, merely cajoled to seek treatment for 'anger management'. Ironically, the defendant was in court for assault charges.

I doubt the applause in the courtroom will get defendants very far.

A judge who should have known better.

Reporting from Florida…

Pogo and Albert

22 March 2012

Lawyers and Writers, Oh My!


by Deborah Elliott-Upton

Whether they are prosecutors, defense attorneys, ambulance chasers, or out and out shysters, lawyers have become a major part of the mystery genre. Comedians have made careers from joking about lawyers, but mystery writers with a background as lawyers have been the ones laughing all the way to the bank and to the New York Times bestseller lists.


One of the first American lawyer as sleuth characters was Mr. Ephraim Tutt, created by Arthur Train in 1919. Mr. Tutt, a "wily old lawyer who supported the common man and always had a trick up his sleeve to right the law's injustices", appeared in several volumes of short stories from 1920-1945.

What's the difference between a lawyer and a catfish?
One is a slimy, bottom dwelling scum sucker. The other is a fish..

Erle Stanley Gardner practiced law for two decades before creating the most recognized name of a lawyer in literature, Perry Mason. Mason debuted in 1933 in The Case of the Velvet Claws. More than eighty novels, a series of movies in the 1930's, a radio show and the acclaimed television series, "Perry Mason" starring Raymond Burr which ran from September 1957-May 1966 followed. As the dapper lawyer whose skilled examination of cross address, Mason deduced the real culprit when the police could not and practically compelled the guilty party to confess on the witness stand. Burr became the quintessential Perry Mason and reprised the rolein a series of made-for-TV movies in the 1980's.

If you are stranded on a desert island with Adolph Hitler, Atilla the Hun and a lawyer, and you have a gun with only two bullets, what do you do?
Shoot the lawyer twice.

Scott Turow was a former assistant United States attorney before he became a successful writer. His first legal thriller published in 1987 was Presumed Innocent featuring Rozat "Rusty" Sabich accused of murdering his colleague, prosecutor Carolyn Polhemus.


D. R. Meredith worked as a legal secretary for her lawyer husband. Her first mystery concerned a body discovered beneath a large barbecue pit during a city celebration in The Sheriff and the Panhandle Murders published in 1984. Meredith writes the John Lloyd Branson mystery series from her home in the Texas panhandle, beginning with Murder by Impulse, published in 1988.

How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb?
How many can you afford?


Linda Fairstein is a former prosecutor specializing in crimes against women and children and served as head of the Sex Crimes Unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's office from 1976-2002. Her mystery series feature Manhattan prosecutor Alexandra Cooper.

Richard North Patterson was a trial lawyer who won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his first legal thriller, The Lasko Tangent, with his character, U. S. Attorney, Christopher Paget.

What's the difference between a dead dog in the road and a dead lawyer in the road?
There are skid marks in front of the dog.


William Manchee is a Dallas attorney who writes a series about a Dallas attorney, Stan Turner.

William Bernhardt is a Tulsa former attorney who writes the Ben Kincaid legal thrillers.

Southerner John Grisham is a handsome former lawyer who writes tales about (sometimes) Southern lawyers who invariably are portrayed by handsome actors with or without Southern accents. (But the stories are always accented by backgrounds of knowing the laws and how people break them and try to get away with it.)

Whether you are interested in reading about a lawyer who is out to right the injustices of the world or simply one trying to do the best job he can for his client to one who will take any case he can get just to pay the bills, the mystery world has something out there just for you. And often, one of those lawyer-types are the ones writing them. Thank God for lawyers. Without them, comedians would have to find someone else to make fun of and the readers everywhere wouldn't have half as much fun in the bookstores finding a great thriller to curl up with on the couch.

*** Many thanks to comedian Jason Love for authorized use of his great cartoons. Find him at jasonlove.com and doing a terrific standup comedy routine when he isn't writing his own brand of lawyers jokes and cartoons.