Classic Book Review: Presumed Innocent

Presumed Innocent

By Scott Turow

Book 1987 Movie 1990

Presumed Innocent

Classic book, Presumed Innocent is worth a read or a reread. 

Why do you read? Pure pleasure? Are you writing a book? Writing book reviews? Other?

Those are my three top reasons for reading Presumed Innocent, a classic murder mystery about a Deputy Prosecution Attorney who has a short lusty relationship with another attorney who is later found brutally murdered. I raced through 486 pages to see if my conjectures were correct, and they were, though I didn’t know that until nearly the last page.

The reason I chose this book out of the thousands of books to read is that it was on the list of top books read by attorneys. One of the characters in the book I’m writing, Girls on Fire, is an attorney, and as I develop her character more thoroughly in my third revision, I wanted to read a few of the books other attorneys say that they read. These two sites were helpful for me to compile a list of books that my character might like. https://www.onlineuniversities.com/blog/2010/05/50-best-legal-novels-for-both-lawyers-and-laymenhttp://www.abajournal.com/gallery/10_law_novels/1344

That being said, Presumed Innocent written in 1987 was listed as #12. I chose it for another reason. I figured it would be a book that my character would have read when she was a new attorney.

Creating Clues

It fascinated me how Turow set up his clues starting on the second page of the book.

“No one broke in.”

“No broken windows,” I say, “No forced doors.”

“I think somebody was being clever,” I tell them both. “I think that’s misdirection.”

The deputy prosecuting attorney makes those statements before the tables turned and he found himself on the hook for the murder.

Lies

Writing coaches often tell you to lie in your book. Your reader should guess the truth because they have an inside view of what the protagonist thinks, but other characters in the book might or might not recognize a lie. The first lie I found was on page 13.

“Hey listen, my friend,” he says, “I am one of your true admirers. I mean that.  There are no hard feelings here.” He touches his shirt above the vest. “That is one of the few things that’s going to stay the same when I get there. You’ll still be in the chief deputy’s office.”

The protagonist, Rusty Sabich doesn’t believe him. He knows the speaker’s best friend will replace him.

Descriptions

Descriptions require a lot of hard work to polish them and make them shine. Sometimes I sit for several minutes trying to feel what is happening in my story. I might have written, “I mourned her loss,” which is one step above a first grader writing, “I was sad.” My heart is crying, but no beautiful words pop out of that crushing sorrow to describe it. 

Maybe Turow mastered descriptions. This is how he described his sorrow for the woman whose murder he investigated. I felt every word like a blow to my own emotional spirit.

“ I was still in deep disorder, so ravaged, beaten, that my skin seemed the only thing holding me together, a tender husk.”

A question I ask myself is how excellent authors find the words to describe the indescribable. Turow used about seven hundred words each to describe important people or events starting in the second chapter. He used more like one hundred sixty words to describe the place he works.

“The county building where he works is solid red brick dressed up with a few Doric columns to let everybody know it’s a public place.” …In the summer we labor in jungle humidity.”

Reusing the Description

This description, by the way, gives the defense attorney an excuse for his client’s actions during the trial. A similar description to the building is pried out of a secretary testifying against the defendant on page 274.

“Ms. Martinez, do you remember how warm it was in Kindle County last year around Labor Day?”

…”Past 100 two days.”

“Correct,” Stern says, improperly. “Is the P.A.’s office air-conditioned?”

Eugenia snorts. “Only if you believe what they say.”

… “I take it you try to leave as soon as the day ends when the heat is like that?”

“You got that right.”

“But the prosecutors, when they are in the midst of a trial, do not leave at the end of the day, do they?”

… “Now madam, would you not prefer to work in air conditioning rather than the P.A.’s office on a very warm day?”

… “Sure would.”

And the defense attorney builds a reason for his defendant to work in the home of the murdered woman with whom the prosecution tried to project as him having an affair with her. The way he picked up on that one tiny detail on page nineteen and turned it into an entire cross-examination that practically acquitted the defendant awed me as a writer.

Three Years Later

No wonder they made a movie out of it.  Even if you didn’t read the book, you probably saw the movie. What is your opinion?

Presumed Innocent

About the Author

Scott Turow

Presumed Innocent

“Scott Turow was born in Chicago in 1949. He graduated with high honors from Amherst College in 1970, receiving a fellowship to Stanford University Creative Writing Center which he attended from 1970 to 1972. From 1972 to 1975 Turow taught creative writing at Stanford. In 1975, he entered Harvard Law School, graduating with honors in 1978. From 1978 to 1986, he was an Assistant United States Attorney in Chicago, serving as lead prosecutor in several high-visibility federal trials investigating corruption in the Illinois judiciary. In 1995, in a major pro bono legal effort he won a reversal in the murder conviction of a man who had spent 11 years in prison, many of them on death row, for a crime another man confessed to.” Amazon.com

Link Your Reviews Here

What about you? If you’ve written a review recently that you’d love to link, there’s no charge to post the link to your review in the comment section of Always Write. Since you’ve gone to that much work to write it, and more work to read my review, you might as well get some extra mileage out of it.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

 

Book Review: Searching for Caleb by Anne Tyler

How Do You Find a Good Book to Read?

You don’t need me to tell you Searching for Caleb by Anne Tyler is a good book. If you love Anne Tyler, you already know it’s good.

Image result for Searching for Caleb

But consider a new reader, someone unfamiliar with this author, with only an hour in a three-story, four-block-long sea of books called Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. searching to find a book to read on the plane. If you only had time to read the first sentence, would you buy this book?

“The fortune teller and her grandfather went to New York City on an Amtrak train, racketing along with their identical, peaky white faces set due north.”

I loved it. First of all, starting with occupations and relationships peaks my attention. The occupation is not common and quirky. A young woman and her grandfather is also an interesting combination. Where are mom, grandma, and the rest of the family?

Instead of traveling in a wagon, or even a car, they racketed along to New York City by Amtrak. The mode of transportation seems odd for a fortune teller, at least an old time one, as does the destination. They sat side by side instead of across from each other at a little table, and if they talked, they didn’t look at each other – ever. “Their identical peaky white faces set due north.”

By the way, what young woman would want to have an identical face to her grandfather? I don’t care if her grandfather is George Clooney.

I’m prejudiced, but a million years ago, when I grew up in Portland, Oregon, there were a lot of fortune tellers, most of whom were gypsies, and they traveled with their children, usually to my mother’s fabric store to buy yards and yards of fabric. They were tan-skinned, not in the least peaky and wore long bright skirts.

Based on the curiosity that one sentence whetted, stimulated, and aroused, I bought the book, felt anxious throughout mostly because I can’t figure out how she thinks of such amazing ways to use words. I’ve been wracking/racking (both are correct) my brain to copy her style without even fully understanding what it means to wrack my brain. She makes up her own clichés.

More Quotes

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book.

“…their breaths trailing out of their mouths in white tatters.”

It must have been chilly. “Her gritty bare feet whispered on the floor and her bathrobe sash galloped behind.”

First of all, why did she have gritty bare feet? She’s either getting into or out of bed, right? Secondly, she’s in a hurry, she doesn’t bother to tie her sash, and it is galloping behind her. Third, her bare feet whisper, while my thud. She must be light and works hard not to make a noise as she walks. Is she sneaking up on someone? Is the person she lives with a light sleeper or very grouchy that she doesn’t want to disturb him? Only five percent into the book, this sentence disturbed and thrilled me at the same time. I felt a vague sense of worry or pity for this peaky white young woman with tattery breath.

“Although there was no second floor the dormer window of some attic or storage room bulged out of the roof like an eyelid.”

If you’re an author, do you struggle as you describe buildings? Tyler makes body parts work hard.

“waited for her behind four pairs of blue, blue eyes.”

I didn’t note the reason for the four pairs of blue eyes, but what a better way to say that people were looking at her. Not only that, how do you get four people who all have blue eyes together in one room? That’s pretty unusual. My family of four all had blue eyes – it’s a recessive gene, but getting four pair of them together at the same time all looking at one person, that’s a little ominous.

“the bales of ancient, curly-edged magazines, zipper bags bursting with unfashionable clothes, cardboard boxes marked Clippings, Used Wrapping Paper, Photos, Empty Bottles.”

The fortune teller and her husband were moving and this is what they packed AND MARKED! How funny! We carefully pack and label our valuables, and sometimes stick other stuff in boxes and label them Kitchen, or Bathroom. I don’t know what you do. This also reminded me of my mother-in-law and my grandmother’s homes. They went through the Great Depression. My grandmother moved tons and tons of rolls toilet paper, spices and bed sheets, all white, many with holes in them from having gone through the ringer washing machine so many times. My mother-in-law saved all her used aluminum foil. 

That’s probably enough to give you the idea that this book is either for you or it isn’t, and I didn’t even get past the ten percent point in the book for you and didn’t include all the quotes I marked.

In a Nutshell

This is a story about a large wealthy family who sticks together more than most families I know, almost to the point of excluding anyone else. Except for those who escaped the family bonds. Caleb was one of those. The Grandfather spent the last years of his life looking for his brother who left home at an early age. His granddaughter and his children helped him in his quest to find the Prodigal Brother. There were some other prodigals, but they never disappeared completely as Caleb did.

Goodreads Highlights

I love Goodreads, by the way, because when you read on Kindle, it keeps track of all the highlights you make. I always keep mine secret because I think my comments might seem shallow. Do you think I should make them visible or not? I’ve added to the comments a little bit here, but not much. Let me know what you think.

Additional Books by Anne Tyler

Have you read other books by Anne Tyler? What do you think of her writing?

I wrote about an accidental vacation we took a few years ago. My husband said it reminded him of The Accidental Tourist. That’s how I first learned about Anne Tyler. I’ve been in love with her writing ever since then.

https://tchistorygal.net/2013/09/17/the-accidental-vacation/

How to Escape the Heat – Discover Newport, Oregon

Escape the Heat and Fire

Escape the heatThe worst fire season in California history sent thousands like me fleeing to see relatives and friends in Oregon looking for clean air and cooler temperatures. Disappointment drifted around our plane as we flew into Portland International Airport. The air quality in Portland looked nearly as smoky as it did at home near the Sequoia National Park.

Escape the Heat
Rough Fire near Fresno

Visit the Oregon Coast

Temperatures reaching nearly one hundred degrees in the Pacific Northwest dried grasses along the freeway and turned the surrounding hillsides brown. Traffic thinned by the time we passed Salem, Oregon and we continued south to the Corvallis exit.

Escaping the heat
Newport Bridge

A turn to the west took us onto the direct road to Newport, Oregon. As we continued west, grass and trees greened and by the time we reached our destination, we breathed in the fog instead of smoke or dust. We threw open the door and leaned over the patio to enjoy the bay view.

Embarcadero Resort, Newport, Oregon

We stayed close to our hotel, The Embarcadero Resort because we could walk to everything we needed in the Historic Bayfront District.

Escaping the heat
Embarcadero Resort

The unit came with a separate bedroom, one bath, living area, dining area and a full kitchen for $120 per night.  The bedroom comes with a king sized bed and the living room has a queen size pullout bed, which is less comfortable. The view makes up for it.

Escaping the heatMy brother grabbed the binoculars every time a ship motored by the window.

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Embarcadero Resort Room 252

This morning we awoke to more fog. Donning our coats we walked into Historic Bayfront for breakfast across from  Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

Breakfast Cafe in Historic Bayfront, Newport

Breakfast was more than I could eat, but I couldn’t help sampling it before I took a picture. I give it five stars, but don’t ask me the name today. I’ll tell you in another post, so come back again.

Quaint shops line the road on both sides along with a fish processing plant and several restaurants. We ate at Moe’s for dinner two nights in a row to enjoy a beautiful view and delicious, reasonable meals.  – two dinners including salmon came to only $23.00.

Lincoln City, OR

Lincoln City, OR beach

We drove to Lincoln City and walked along the shore for a short time. On a gray morning, few people joined us. Not even boats ventured out in the choppy waves. Tomorrow we are going on an ocean cruise to hunt for whales. They feed here from July to October.

Historic Bayfront, Newport, OR

Escape the Heat
Pier at Newport, OR

It was too early for lunch after eating the huge breakfast, so we headed back to Newport and visited the three tourist attractions, Ripley’s, the Wax Museum, and the Undersea Gardens.

Undersea Gardens

Escaping the heat
Undersea Gardens, Newport, OR

The Undersea Gardens was actually a once-working ship. A diver spent about fifteen minutes displaying the Garden residents, a Dungeness Crab (pictured in front of Eddy’s face), anemone, starfish, and everyone’s favorite,  a  blue shark, were among the many species named.

Escaping the heat
Undersea Gardens, Newport, OR

Wax Museum

From there we crossed the street to the Wax Museum and cavorted with several stars. Some of them would pose up close and personal with you.

Escaping the heat
Wax Museum, Newport, OR

Others appeared too deadly to approach.

Escaping the heat
Wax Museum, Newport, OR

None of them scared us, even the guy who popped out of the wall. One old wax guy sat in his room and watched you on television watching him.  Randy caught him red-handed.

Escaping the Heat
Wax Museum, Newport, OR

We left these jokers and went over to Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Escaping the Heat
Wax Museum, Newport, OR

At that point, I spent more time reading and watching videos than I did taking pictures. In fact, I didn’t take one picture so you will have to go and take your own and link them to this article.

Escape the heat
Wax Museum, Newport, OR

Tomorrow more explorations. Stay tuned. Where have you been this summer?  Link your articles in the comment section. I look forward to hearing from you.