Mark Gimenez

 

The Color of Law

 

Gimenez has taken a bunch of common characters from other books, trimmed off anything that may have made them even slightly distinctive, honed them to crystal stereotype, and thrown them together in the most standard of plots and settings.

 

No really, tell me if you’ve ever seen any of these before:

-          amoral lawyer

-          amoral lawyer

-          amoral lawyer

-          black prostitute junkie

-          greedy corrupt ruthless ambitious politician (going for the presidency, of course)

-          wayward spoiled son of the above

-          trophy cheerleader wife purely into social prestige of money

-          precocious child (who confounds adults with articulate insights clearly written by adults)

-          large muscular black man (I’d add more, but that’s all he is!)

 

I could go on.

 

Actually, no I couldn’t. Somewhere around Dan choosing to listen to his conscience (I didn’t quite get to that bit but, hmmm, I wonder if it was going to happen, duh) I couldn’t handle anymore. Oh, and amaze me by saying the defendant didn’t really do it (wow, what an incredible twist that would have been if I’d ever made it that far).

 

Who are these people? I didn’t enjoy them as fiction – how tired and overused are these types? Why would I want to see them again? And to treat them as anything other than fiction is just offensive and stupid: of course people that fit these descriptions exist, but not too many of them can merely be reduced to a couple of words. Not with any insight anyway: that ruthless politician also has a great sense of humour; that amoral lawyer genuinely loves jazz; that trophy wife is actually smarter than the bread winning husband.

 

No, this was unpleasant reading. I mean, a couple of good lines here and there, and the workable evocation of incredibly clichéd characters and settings – that really doesn’t make a novel. Seriously, Gimenez seems to take pride in getting a scene precisely like something we’ll see three times a week if we watch any of the glossy ‘Law and Order’ genre shows. It’s harder to take because Gimenez doesn’t even seem to realise that he’s writing utterly derivative pulp. I mean, good writers sometimes have to do this sort of thing, they can even have a bit of fun with it, but embarrassingly Gimenez seems to think he’s writing something profound. Get his dedication to:

“Harper Lee, whose great novel inspired me to become a lawyer and to write this story.”

This hackneyed story? This gulf between perception and reality reminds me of the absurd comparisons of Elwood’s appalling Angelwalk to Lewis’ inspired ‘Screwtape Letters’. Or of Goodkind thinking he was clever and incisive (as opposed to ignorantly smug) in calling a book ‘Wizard’s First Rule’ (people are stupid).

 

Maybe I missed a huge turn halfway through, but I’m not putting any more time into that hope.

 

Maybe I didn’t miss a turn at all, and ‘The Color of Law’ will, gasp, turn out to be green, the color of money. Even if this is true, cliché is not insight.

 

February 2008

 

PS: After glancing at a few amazon reviews my interest was piqued, so I read the last few pages and epilogue. Oh my – just as well I didn’t drag myself through the whole thing! I was hardly giving it a rap before, but the ending is a triumph of bad writing.

-          Right handed – left handed: have I used the word ‘cliché’ in this review yet?

-          Yeah, that’s what good lawyers do isn’t it. Isn’t Dan such a sharp operator to just stand in the courtroom shouting totally unsubstantiated accusations at a witness? As he thinks of them on the spot. With neither judge nor prosecution raising a murmur to these wild speculations. And all clearly able to see his guilt by the look in his eyes. Yeah, intelligent realism there. Is Gimenez really a lawyer, or is that some sort of persona??

-          The summation, cause of moaning and rolling the eyes. Wasn’t it good that Gimenez could correct the unhappy ending of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’? What can Harper Lee have been thinking – didn’t she realise that social problems are simply solved?

-          Aaargh, my goodness. The epilogue. Now that’s just plain offensive. The strong good white man just waves his magic wand and everything is good and right again. Wasn’t it nice that the prostitute junkie mother died, that made everything much less messy. Can’t we just see the only black girl in the school being welcomed by her new rich white friends, and of course there’ll never be an ounce of tension in that context with her new white sister. Now we can have our fairy tale future, with new enlightened Dan (still making enough money, mind you, to keep his mansion in an exclusive suburb, drive a merc and employ a full time maid/nanny) the perfect single father (although that isn’t quite mainstream so there’s the promise of a nice new wife). It’s like the ugly message of ‘Jerry Maguire’, where even though it’s supposed to be a revelation that wealth is not as important as character, um, the American writers couldn’t conceive of a poor hero: Jerry just isn’t quite as rich. Ghandi, Jesus … losers. How dumb is this?? If it looks OK it must be OK: Dan can still work his 50-60 hour weeks to support his standard indulgent lifestyle, but if he tucks the girls into bed at night now and then, this is somehow an idyllic family.

 

The shortcomings of this book are so obvious that there should be some legal structure in place to fine the author for offences against common sense. We’re not living in the 50s anymore, there’s not really an excuse for this sort of blind condescending nonsense.

 

And all supposedly in the footsteps of Harper Lee!