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

3.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (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: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 937,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Donald McRae is the award-winning author of eight 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. He lives in Hertfordshire.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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: 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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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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Format: Paperback
Not so much a biography as a portrait of Darrow viewed through the prism of three of his landmark trials - his defence of Leopold and Loeb, the "Scopes Monkey trial" and his defense of Dr Sweet, a black doctor prosecuted for murder following the killing of a member of a lynch mob that was attacking his home.

This approach leads to a gripping narrative, building considerable tension around the outcomes of the cases. It also allows for the elegant consideration of various aspects of Darrow's character, including his womanising and casual cruelties, and more shameful episodes from his life, such as his trials for jury tampering, alongside his profound commitment to progressive causes and his effectiveness as a human rights lawyer.

The book also, and sadly, feels astonishingly contemporary, as the elements that Darrow seemed to have so comprehensively defeated emerge once again and rally around the causes of ignorance and reaction. History sometimes repeats itself first as farce, and then as farce again!

A timely reminder then of the best and the worst that America can produce.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Fascinating insight into the most famous court cases of Clarence Darrow, and more importantly one learns about the man himself. Great background knowledge gleaned prior to watching the stage play.
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