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The Old Devil: Clarence Darrow: The World's Greatest Trial Lawyer Paperback – 7 Jan 2010
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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!
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Brilliant biography about the latter stages of the career of America's most famous and capable trial lawyers covering his three final "trial of century" cases.Published 16 months ago by saul comish
The delivery and price were fine, however the book was a duplicate of another Clarence Darrow book purchased at the same time, but with a different title and cover.Published on 30 April 2013 by James F Strong
A good piece of work, the case of snow brothers was very touching and sad. US version of Barrister Marshal HallPublished on 14 Oct. 2011 by Mr. Umer Akbar
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. Read more
Great book marvelously written. But the delivery by Super SAving by Amazon went dreadfully wrong. Book was received more than a month after purchase.Published on 26 July 2010 by EM