Scott Turow is a writer and attorney. He is the author of eight best-selling novels: Innocent (2010), Presumed Innocent (1987), The Burden of Proof (1990), Pleading Guilty (1993), The Laws of Our Fathers (1996), Personal Injuries (1999), Reversible Errors (2002) and Ordinary Heroes (2005). A novella, Limitations, was published as a paperback original in November 2006 by Picador following its serialization in The New York Times Magazine. His works of non-fiction include One L (1977) about his experience as a law student, and Ultimate Punishment (2003), a reflection on the death penalty. He frequently contributes essays and op-ed pieces to publications such as The New York Times, Washington Post, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Playboy and The Atlantic. Mr. Turow's books have won a number of literary awards, including the Heartland Prize in 2003 for Reversible Errors and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 2004 for Ultimate Punishment and Time Magazine's Best Work of Fiction, 1999 for Personal Injuries. His books have been translated into more than 25 languages, sold more than 25 million copies world-wide and have been adapted into one full length film and two television miniseries.
Unlike some of his fellow lawyers-turned-novelists, Turow takes his time with his books: one every three years since Presumed Innocent. This time it has been spectacularly worth the wait. Laws of Our Fathers is a rich, complex and ultimately profoundly moving tale that, like all Turow's work, is quarried from the mysteries of human character rather than simply from the sometimes too-easy drama of the courtroom. It begins in the gritty setting of an inner city slum and in the mind of a soul-dead black gangster. An ambush is being laid and when it is sprung, the wrong person, an elderly white woman, the wife of a state senator, is dead. Was her hapless son somehow involved in the murder plot, and what role did the senator play? The hot-potato case comes into the court of Judge Sonia (Sonny) Klonsky (remembered from The Burden of Proof), and the courtroom soon looks like Old Home Week as it becomes clear that Sonny, black defense lawyer Hopie Tuttle, state senator Loyell Eddgar, and observing newspaper columnist Seth Weissman all knew each other back in the wild student days of the '60s. The courtroom scenes that follow are swift-moving and surprising, especially since Turow has the nerve to depict a "bench trial,'' in which a judge alone hears evidence, so there is no playing to a jury, and the scenes are worked out dramatically person to person. But the legal aspects of his novel, highly dramatic though they are, are not what most interests the author. The book is in fact basically about family relationships: the passionately leftist Eddgar's with his wife and son; Seth's with his austere, penny-pinching father, survivor of a Nazi death camp; and Sonny's with the memories of her wild communist mother and with her own precious, late-in-life young daughter. Most fine novels have a keen sense of the passage of time, and Turow's grasp of the revolutionary fervor of the '60s and how it has later calmed into rueful, if still compassionate, acceptance, is masterly. A fine stroke too, is his use of the funeral eulogies for Seth's father to sum up, touchingly, what these often embattled and misled people have learned with such difficulty in their lives. There are minor flaws: the multiple personal perspectives in the narrative are not always as well differentiated as they might be, and Sonny's on-again, off-again feelings toward Seth become somewhat repetitious. But these are quibbles in the light of Turow's grandly ambitious achievement: to focus the profoundest struggles of two generations through one sordid, emblematic crime. First serial to Playboy; movie rights sold to Universal; author tour. (Oct.)
Turow once again proves that there is more substance in a single page of one of his novels than in the entire works of John Grisham or any other author in the legal thriller genre. In this latest, the mother of a probation officer is shot near a gang-infested housing project, provoking charges that her son orchestrated the killing. The ensuing trial reunites a group of affluent Sixties activists who knew each other in their student days. The courtroom scenes are energetic and intelligent, and Turow never resorts to playing good guys vs. bad guys. Nor does he subject his characters to tearful, revelatory testimony while on the stand. His dialog is snappy and believable‘aside from some awkwardly rendered sections featuring the leader of an urban street gang‘and his insight into his characters' petty motivations and misplaced love is dead on. All public libraries should have a copy of this fine novel.‘Mark Annichiarico, "Library Journal"