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Monday, May 28, 2012


When the Killing's Done: A Novel (Paperback)  is a captivating book, and well written. T.C. Boyle has an uncanny knack for presenting a story that seems entirely factual. He gets you to say "That guy's really done his research. He knows what he is talking about." Boyle had me believing, abandoning my innate skepticism. Then he went a bridge too far and wrote some stuff that happens to be up my professional alley.

Here's the set-up:
Dave is charged with a crime along with Wilson. Wilson cops a plea and gets a very light sentence. No explanation for the deal is provided. It seemed to me the government had a pretty strong case. But why would the government want to give one co-conspirator a light sentence while still having to go to trial on the other guy 'Dave goes to trial' unless you had an agreement for his testimony? Wilson doesn't testify. Not bloody likely, I say, to this plotting. I've been a trial lawyer for more than forty years. I'm not buying one bit of it. So a really important scene in the overall story is flawed. And it affects, or infects everything that follows. I'm not going to be a spoiler. The verdict is irrelevant to my point. Boyle is working his credibility angle with his account of a trial and he lost points with me.

Then Boyle goes off the charts and into an abyss with his account of the eviction of the sheep ranchers. I'm sorry. This kind of verbal, draconian "you've got two weeks to pack up and git" edict might have been credible in the nineteenth century but it is off the charts fanciful for what would have happened in the nineteen eighties or nineties. A real-life el patron swooping down to evict hard-working sheepherders by killing off their lambs! Selling the opportunity to kill your tenants' animals to hunters! My God. This would have been big news. There would have been lawyers up and down the coast vying to take this case pro bono and spin it into a landlord-tenant, farmers versus hunters, end-of-an-era lamenters political outrage du jour.  You can't pass this grossly illegal as well as unjust eviction off as just a circumstance. Not in the context of the way you chose to write this book.

And then Boyle, for no discernible benefit to the story, commits another round of legal mayhem, attempting to convince us that Alma, the government scientist could get arrested on the complaint of the lawyer for Dave LaJoy, that he'd been detained illegally on an island where he was a trespasser, in possession of a dead body to boot. Boyle should know well enough that it requires a charge by a D.A. and a warrant by a judge to make an arrest not committed in the presence of the police, or victim, and no D.A. is going to go after a criminal charge and get an arrest warrant on the facts Boyle presents. Much less would they require Alma to post a bond for her release from custody on Dave LaJoy's complaint! All the good work goes down the drain when Boyle fuels his narrative with crap cloaked in ersatz legalize.

"When The Killing Is Done" presents an opportunity to underscore the fact that even excellent writers should consult real lawyers, who have relevant experience, before they plunge into courtroom scenes or legal plot points. This probably goes for a lot of other kinds of expertise too. Boyle, no doubt, has done some thorough research in this book, but it is interspersed with dubious propositions. He describes a courtroom well. Unfortunately, he is a three-time loser when it comes to legal issues and ought to be put on some kind of writer's probation for lending credence to legal absurdities. Perhaps this sounds extreme, but he is exploiting his credibility in areas where he has no business being left alone unattended and after turning the last page, it is clear that all of these improbable scenes should be redacted.

Boyle writes an enjoyable book. But don't fall for his stories. Especially when he tries to go legal on you. We have enough false assumptions and wrong ideas about how courts work without Boyle's contribution, especially because he is so effective in making himself sound knowledgeable.

Now, I am not going to claim Boyle could have read See You In Court and gotten it right. I didn't foresee this circumstance, but I do recommend running these kinds of scenarios by someone who really knows what they're talking about. Especially if it is an important scene and you are looking for verisimilitude in your writing.  I know most people won't care, and say I'm quibbling, but it  just takes away from the confidence you want to have that you're not being bullshitted.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012



A SHOT IN THE ARM, Part Two of my 1970s Trilogy of mystery/suspense novels is on a virtual book tour this week and next. Pop in to the blogs below and find out more.

MAY 15 - Queen Tutt's World of Escapism (Guest Post ) Queen Tutt

MAY 16 - Zee Monodee's Author's Corner (Book Feature) Zee Monodee

MAY 18 - Murders & Mysteries (Guest Post) Murders & Mysteries

MAY 23 - Elizabeth Morgan's Blog (Guest Post) Elizabeth Morgan's Blog

MAY 24 - Zee Monodee's Author's Corner (Interview) Zee Monodee

In conjunction with the tour, Part One, BURNING QUESTIONS is available at Amazon KDP, and free to Amazon Prime members. Check in to my blog 1970s Trilogy for information about giveaways to come.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Review: May 09, 2012 : FIVE STARS!

Review by: Wendy Laharnar on May 09, 2012 : star star star star star
See You In Court, will be a value resource when I write my courtroom scenes in my Urban Murder Mystery. And, my g'daughter is in 1st Law at Uni so I'll be able to converse with her on an intelligent level. :)
From the table of contents, you'll see this is a very thorough document. The lawyer/author has covered everything, and more, a layman needs to know. I like the clear writing style and entertaining approach to a serious subject. It's nice to have a book that takes you behind the scenes; allows you to be an insider in a closed society. This is a book I will often refer to. Thank you Barry S. Willdorf.

Spring Sale: See You In Court is now $1.00!

SEE YOU IN COURT! “What lawyers know about trials that you should too.”
is now ON SALE for ONE DOLLAR ($1.00)  at:

Get the inside scoop on trials from a trial lawyer with over forty years of in-court experience, with both criminal and civil cases. Written in a language everyone can understand. It will be the best buck you ever spent.

Barry S. Willdorf

Friday, May 4, 2012

Okay, you all know what this is: God creating Adam. But according to today's NY Times, several citizens of  newly "liberated" Tunisia were convicted of crimes because they allowed the public to see a showing of the animated film, Persepolis which has a brief frame of God depicted in it. Some of the religious extremist lawyers who were prosecuting the film's distributor and the legal and moral censors who failed to edit out the picture of God called for the death sentence! Supposedly if the public sees an artistic rendition of God, their morals will be corrupted and public order will go to hell in a hand-basket. So today I decided to join the Pope and the entire Catholic hierarchy by committing the capital offense of publishing a picture of "God." So much for the Arab Spring.