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Legal Briefs: Short Stories by Today's Best Thriller Writers [Hardcover]

William Bernhardt
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 18 1998
William Bernhardt, author of seven bestselling novels featuring attorney Ben Kincaid, asked ten of his fellow lawyer/authors to contribute their most fiendishly clever short pieces for this anthology, and told them their imaginations were their only guides.  The result is Legal Briefs, a smorgasbord of stories boasting a wonderful variety of themes and styles.  From John Grisham's exploration of a doctor's guilt in "The Birthday" to Richard North Patterson's story of a lawyer's loyalty to his mentor in "The Client," to Grif Stockley's tale of a divorce lawyer who learns the hard way that things are not always what they seem, these pieces showcase the extraordinary depth and breadth of talent among the new breed of legal thriller writers.

Some of these stories feature twisting and inventive plots; some illuminate the moral dilemmas and psychological complexities faced by the modern-day lawyer; some are good, old-fashioned yarns.  But for all their diversity of approaches and characters, these writers understand that the courtrooms and law firms from which they came offer the raw material for the most dramatic, suspenseful stories you can read.

Legal Briefs will be a delight for fans of all these bestselling authors, and a splendid introduction to their talents for readers new to the genre.  

Author proceeds from the sale of this book are being donated to the Children's Defense Fund.

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From Amazon

Anthologies often have a way of dulling the senses. The varying styles of the several authors, despite the theme that ties them together, can have the taste and feel of cotton candy: initially sweet, but ultimately cloying and too insubstantial for lasting value. However, William Bernhardt has put together a collection by best-selling author-attorneys that's more engaging than most and that stands the test of being read from cover to cover. Although the two richest stories (John Grisham's "The Birthday" and Richard North Patterson's "The Client") have been printed previously, the remaining nine can be safely recommended and serve as a solid introductions to each of the writers included.

Bernhardt explains in his introduction that the only limitations set on the contributors were those imposed by their own imaginations, and most took the opportunity to write of an intriguing character or plot twist not found in their longer efforts. Steve Martini's "Poetic Justice," for example, is a witty fantasy pushing the limits of the cliche that cheaters never win, while Philip Friedman envisions a much darker world in which the protagonist, en route to argue against the death penalty, finds himself embroiled in random violence that mirrors the crimes of his defendants and evokes ghosts in his past.

Although the stories are a pleasure to read, Bernhardt's introduction to the collection would have been sufficient: the additional prefaces to each story are unnecessary. And while the authors' postscripts provide insights into their motivations for writing, they are the kind that are best saved for talk-show interviews (Grisham wisely lets his story speak for itself). These are, obviously, minor flaws. On the whole, the collection serves its purpose: a broad and diverting introduction to the genre of legal thrillers and their most skillful authors. --K.A. Crouch

From Publishers Weekly

What makes a good legal thriller tickAthe slow accretion of details, the teasing plot twists, the gradual unveiling of character, the bracing mind gamesAis not, as a rule, the stuff of short stories. For this reason, it comes as no surprise that many of these 11 stories, while diverting, are punchline-driven. Jay Brandon's "Stairwell Justice," for instance, concludes preposterously when a prosecutor flees to a tropical island with a seductive defendant. Even the darker tales end cutely (and is there a reader even casually versed in noir fiction who won't suspect that the sadsack lawyer in Grif Stockley's "The Divorce" is being hoodwinked by his gorgeous "size 5" client?). Two stories are notably subpar: John Grisham's maudlin four-pager about a "good doctor" destroyed by an act of malpractice, and Steven Martini's extremely broad satire about a shady lawyer felled by his evil twin, President Clinton. Martini alternates between unfunny prose and embarrassing doggerel: "Way down in that murky depth/ A serious streak of dishonesty crept"). There are only a few pleasures to be had here: Richard North Patterson's "The Client" is a lovely, hushed character study of an elderly mentor ushering a recent law-school grad into "his world, as rare and special as a daguerreotype"; and Phillip Friedman's "Roads," about a death-row attorney, resonates beyond the (literally) bang-up conclusion.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This review based on the original hardcover - 1998... Though a few years on my shelf, reading a tome of short stories - mysteries in this case, edited by well-known author William Bernhardt - the book titled: LEGAL BRIEFS, gives the avid-reader's mind a change of pace... a slow down to the senses of deep concentration into a longer story or novel.
Advantage number two is the introduction to writers one may not necessarily "pick off the shelf". The short stories in LEGAL BRIEFS introduced me William Bernhardt himself an author (short story in book is "What We're Here For" - a delightful story with a twist and a pat on the back to the attorneys in the story for their humanity.)
Sharing the spotlight are the familiar great writers Phillip M. Margolin; Richard North Patterson; and John Grisham.
An introduction to authors Grif Stockley; Jay Brandon; Michael A. Kahn; Jeremiah Healy; Philip Friedman; and Lisa Scottoline.
My favorite short story in the LEGAL BRIEFS -- "Poetic Justice" by Steve Martini, a story which has that "zing" in the end, and a "gotcha" to the culprit.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother Oct. 22 1999
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Appalling! Abyssmal! The first few stories were so bad that I found myself writing derisive comments in the margins (something I don't generally do). Some of the later stories managed to achieve mediocrity, unremarkableness. But there are no interesting insights into the legal system here, no engrossing courtroom drama, no judicial puzzlers, no treatments of the important legal issues of our time.
The most blameworthy of the stories is a ham-handed political tract, interspersed with awful *poetry* for heaven's sake. You can decide for yourself whether or not you want to be caught dead with a book that contains this:
The President had gotten to Jersey Joe.
Harvey'd been betrayed; a very low blow.
He had many years to think about ethics.
The age-old question: was it social or genetics?
Gag...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Read! March 15 2000
Format:Hardcover
I loved almost every story in this collection, with the exception of John Grisham's "The Birthday". I especially liked "The Divorce," by Grif Stockley, "The Jailhouse Lawyer," by Phillip Margolin, and "Stairwell Justice," by Jay Brandon. I will definitely be buying books by the above-mentioned authors...writers that I would have never considered reading before I read their stories in "Legal Briefs." The nice thing about short story collections is if you're bored with one just skip it and move on to the next. Fortunately, I didn't have to do that with this book.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Could Have Been So Good... Dec 9 1999
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book sounded so promising when I bought it, that I was terribly disappointed when I actually read it. Most of the stories are devoid of any substance whatsoever. I know that they are short stories, but they should be gripping and compelling just like the novels written by the same authors. They weren't. On the upside, it turned me on to several authors of solid legal thrillers like Steve Martini and Jeremiah Healy. If you buy this book, plan on using it more as a reference for future purchases than a good read immediately.
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