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The Old Devil: Clarence Darrow: the World's Greatest Trial Lawyer Paperback – 7 Jan 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd (7 Jan. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184739020X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847390202
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 386,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Donald McRae is the award-winning author of seven books. He is one of only two authors to have won the prestigious William Hill award twice, for Dark Trade and In Black & White. As a journalist he has twice won Sports Interviewer of the Year - as well as winning Sports Feature Writer of the Year. His next book will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2015. He lives in Hertfordshire.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By pjlsgs13 on 13 April 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved this book. I heard the BBC Radio 4 play on the 'Scopes Monkey Trial' and became interested in this case as a result. The other two cases which are featured in the book are equally absorbing, for different reasons. The Sweet case provided a insightful account of Southern race prejudice while the description of Leopold and Loeb's murder trial reminded me of the disturbed young men whom Capote wrote about in 'In Cold Blood'.
I am not sure how much the coverage of Darrow's realtionship with Mary Field added to the narrative, but I'm sure it not detract from the interest the book generated for me.
A highly readable piece of modern history.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Paul Cooper on 8 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Unlike the two previous reviewers, I enjoyed this book immensely. The coverage of the three cases themselves were riveting and the 'novelesque' approach of the author added some colour to what could be a quite dull read if it had followed traditional biographical styles.

Such was the interest that this book developed in Clarence Darrow, I immediately read 'Honor Killing' - not Clarence Darrow's finest hour, but a great read just the same.

Well done Donald McRae!
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Format: Paperback
I saw the newly made film "Inherit the Wind" in 1961 while working in
Jersey, CI, in the summer of that year. I was 17 and it made a huge
impression on me. It was a courtroom drama based on the USA "Monkey Trial"
of 1925, when the lawyer, Clarence Darrow, stood against the tide of
biblical fundamentalism which insisted on the literal truth of everything
written in the bible, and, as a consequence, enacted a law against the
teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution.

Spencer Tracy played the part of Darrow and it was a magnificent
performance.

That's how I first came across Clarence Darrow and explains why I recently
took out a book about him which I came across while surfing the shelves of
my local library.

It turned out that the book dealt primarily with three landmark trials, between 1924 and 1926,
towards the end of Darrow's career. The author was a white South African illegally teaching in a black township and these particular trials resonated with his own local experience. He had come to Darrow via a stage show where Richard Haines played Darrow.

So I wanted to learn a little more abut the real giant behind the Holywood version.

The book did not disappoint. The author is not a natural narrator and the style is a bit dry, but there is no doubting the author's engagement with his subject and the sheer magnificence of the content.

In all three trials Darrow stands fast in defence of civilised values and agains a raging tide of ignorance and sheer prejudice. The author captures this very well and the reader is conatantly haunted by the realisation that similar scnes are being re-enacted around the world even today.
Read more ›
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By XIII Warrior on 31 Aug. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book revolves around the three last big cases Darrow was involved in & when it gets to them, finally, its rather good. But to get there you have to wade through Mills & Boon mush such as "She and Darrow remained silent as the elevator struggled upward. But, somewhere between the third and fifth floors, thier eyes met in a gaze that needed no words." The book has some good points but the style of writing is not to my realistic taste. Buy this for an intelligent maiden Aunt who remembers the great Spencer Tracey film.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr. S. Ryan on 1 Jan. 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a fine story but disappointingly told.

It's about Clarence Darrow, probably best known now as the character played by Spencer Tracy in the film, "Inherit the Wind". Darrow represented John Scopes, a Tennessee teacher prosecuted for teaching evolution in apparent contravention of a new law.

The Scopes trial is one of three at the centre of this book. The others are his representation of two wealthy young men who killed a boy for fun and the defence of black men who killed a white man in self-defence after the most fearsome intimidation. These are terrific stories and to a point Mr Macrae tells them well, in a style more like a novel than a conventional biography.

But there are a couple of problems. He does give a lot of time to Darrow's relationship with Mary Field without ever showing that it was that important at the time of the trials. For example, the story is interrupted more than once by pages about the relationship between Mary and her 8 year old daughter and the only connection with the main story is that her daughter disliked Darrow.

Secondly the story that comes out of the book isn't the one that Macrae wants to tell. He talks about an old trial of Darrow for bribing a jury and how Darrow survived the case with Mary's help. But he skirts around the very obvious conclusion that Darrow was guilty and let a lot of people down.

On the cases themselves, there is a lot about how he constructed a psychological case for the wealthy young thrill killers. It comes as a let down then to find that the judge dismissed all that element of the defence and spared the killers only on account of their youth. Similarly in the Scopes trial he won but 80 years on many Americans still don't accept evolution. Some people argue that the melodrama of the Scopes trial set back the cause of science in America. The novelistic style means that you get a good story but little analysis of its wider significance.
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