The painstaking preparation.
The surprise witness.
The powerful closing argument.
There's a reason why so many television shows culminate in a dramatic courtroom scene rather than, say, an editorial meeting for a literary magazine. there are authors for whom the courtroom showdown is their stock in trade--John Grisham and scott turow chief among them. Also enjoying wide readerships are James scott Bell, William Bernhardt, James Patterson, Richard north Patterson, Marianne Wesson, Kate Wilhelm, and stuart Woods, to name a few. We'll leave you to track those down; below, we've offered our own list of nonfiction and fiction courtroom dramas--some familiar classics, others off the beaten track--to give lovers of legal thrillers even more to consider.
A Civil Action
By Jonathan Harr (1995)
* NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD
In 1962, families of eight leukemia victims sued two large corporations, W. R. Grace and Beatrice Foods, for dumping carcinogenic toxins into the local water supply in Woburn, Massachusetts. This book, which chronicles the case of Anne Anderson, et al., v. Cryovac, Inc., et al., reads like a novel, in part because the characters jump off the page, especially the showy, obsessive prosecutor, Jan Schlichtmann. A Civil Action--a dramatic record of litigation--explores not only how intangible justice can be but also how hubris and pride can cost a case.
Reversal of Fortune
Inside the von Bulow Case
By Alan M. Dershowitz (1985)
Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor, delves inside an alleged attempted murder case to depict the ins and outs of a defense strategy and provide an overview of the appellate process. In 1982, Claus von Bulow, a Danish socialite, was charged with attempting to kill his wealthy American wife. Many courtroom dramas reveal how justice eludes victims and their families; indeed, a first verdict declared von Bulow guilty. But then von Bulow hired Dershowitz, and Dershowitz, convinced of the man's innocence, won him an appeal that led to a retrial and acquittal. This retelling of the trial is clear, concise, and educational.
The True Story of the Manson Murders
By Vincent Bugliosi, with Curt Gentry (1974)
* EDGAR AWARD - BEST FACT CRIME BOOK
Helter Skelter, a true crime classic by then Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Bugliosi, chronicles one of the nation's highest-profile murder cases: that of serial killer and cult leader Charles Manson. Bugliosi, who prosecuted Manson and his "family" of followers, focuses on the August 1969 murder of actress Sharon Tate and six others during a short, bloody rampage and delves deep inside the killers' psyches to understand why seemingly "normal" young men and women obeyed Manson. It's a compelling story.
Summer for the Gods
The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate...