Cooperstown Crier - Your Source for Hometown News - Cooperstown, Baseball Hall of Fame

Book Notes

January 2, 2014

Grisham makes civil law dramatic in new book

John Grisham has the unique ability to write well, tell a good story, and educate his readers at the same time. His latest novel, “Sycamore Row,” is a prime example of that. It deals with a contested will and how the legal system works in hashing out the issue. Nothing is ever cut-and-dry and Grisham uses that fact and his experience as a lawyer to provide an intriguing story.

“Sycamore Row” is a loose sequel to his first novel, “A Time to Kill.”  I say “loose” because it can stand alone on its own. Many of the main characters are the same but unless you just read “A Time to Kill” you would not remember any of them. I read the book 15 years ago so I have no recollection of them or their personalities.

By the way, if you like Grisham novels and have not read “A Time to Kill” it is well worth it. It is not only an intense page-turner but says a lot about how hard it is to break into the publishing industry. 

Grisham was turned down by 28 publishers before a small firm agreed to print a limited edition of the novel. Once his second novel, “The Firm,” became a best-seller, “A Time to Kill” was re-issued and deservedly became a best-seller on its own.

I might also add here that if Grisham is your standard-issue American lawyer then the profession reeks of coffee. Every one of his novels seems to include the main character having a fresh pot of coffee every morning, noon, and night. Perhaps the best way to reduce the number of lawyers in this country is to ban the product outright. But I digress.

Back to the novel at hand. 

“Sycamore Row” begins with a man in rural Mississippi who hangs himself because he is dying of cancer and can’t stand the pain anymore. At the last minute he writes a new will to supersede his old one leaving most of his money to his black housekeeper and deliberately cutting out his kids. He mails the will with a handwritten note to the novel’s protagonist, a lawyer named Jake Brigance, explaining he knows what he’s doing and to defend the new will to the hilt.

Text Only
Book Notes
  • Early 'blahs' sometimes hide a gem There are often films that sound rather "blah" when you first notice them and have no interest in seeing. It's usually due to the preview either being really stupid or the producers wanting to avoid giving away too much of the plot. If it's the latter category you must be careful. Sometimes there's a gem of a movie hidden behind the facade.

    July 24, 2014

  • 'Moneyball' author tackles Wall Street with 'Flash Boys' Have you ever read a book that feels like it's in a foreign language? It covers a subject you know is important and figure at some point it will all make sense. What do you do when that doesn't happen? Obviously, the easiest solution is to toss the book aside. But what if the underlying message is something you "get" and don't want to give up on? I faced that dilemma recently.

    July 17, 2014

  • MacNeil reading highlights novels Several weeks ago I had the good fortune to attend a talk by Robert MacNeil at the Guilderland Public Library. MacNeil is best known as the former co-host of the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour on PBS. He retired in 1995 but has continued to write both fiction and non-fiction. His talk at Guilderland focused on two of his novels, "Burden of Desire" written in 1992, and its sequel, "Portrait of Julia," which was published last year.

    July 10, 2014

  • 'The Monuments Men' shows important history World War II continues to hold a special place in the hearts of readers and movie goers. The reasons are many but much of it can be traced to the endless number of storylines from that conflict. There is literally a treasure trove of material that keeps emerging. The latest example is the movie, “The Monuments Men.â€�

    July 3, 2014

  • Authors not afraid to think like freaks Conventional wisdom is something we automatically take for granted. It can be something as simple as assuming there is no cure for the common cold or political polls being a good indicator of who will win an election. Common assumptions of course can be wrong but we usually just accept them as fact. However, in many cases it would be much better to think "outside the box" and consider an alternative way of looking at the world.

    June 26, 2014

  • Book goes further into Armstrong's lies There hasn't been a shortage of elite athletes that have fallen from grace in recent years. Most of them have been baseball players who have been caught using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and then lying about it. Golfer Tiger Woods fell from his pedestal because of extra-marital affairs. He has yet to regain his previous aura and perhaps never will. But the loudest crash of all came from cyclist Lance Armstrong who was not only a liar and a cheat but ruined other people's lives in the process.

    June 19, 2014

  • Documentary proves Butch, Sundance still enchant "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" is one of the most popular films of all-time. The 1969 Western is based on the real life exploits of two infamous outlaws whose specialty was robbing trains. They became folk heroes because they supposedly never shot anyone.

    June 12, 2014

  • Pohl's call-up reminds me of Feinstein book We recently learned that Cooperstown native and professional baseball player Phillip Pohl was promoted to the AAA farm team of the Oakland Athletics where he played for nearly a month. For those that don't know, AAA is the highest minor league before reaching the major leagues.

    June 5, 2014

  • Movie gives clues into real Disney Everyone has heard of Walt Disney. How can you not when Disneyland and Disney World are the most popular family vacation spots around. Add in his historic cartoons and animated features and you have a Hollywood legend. But how many people know what the man himself was like?

    May 29, 2014

  • Wooden bio by Davis feels definitive Any long-time observer of college basketball knows that one school and one coach stand out above all others. In the 1960s and 1970s the John Wooden-led UCLA Bruins won ten championships in twelve seasons. Their level of achievement is so remarkable that it will probably never be equaled. Forty years after his last championship the ghost of John Wooden still reverberates at the university.

    May 22, 2014