I’m sicka more, yo

time to kill

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SYNOPSIS : A TIME TO KILL (1989)

(PREQUEL)

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Timeline : 1984 (thereabouts)

Location : Clanton, Ford County, Mississippi (run-down hick town with black Sheriff, cotton fields and saw mills and the Ku Klux Klan’s backyard)

Filmography : 1995 film of same name, with Matthew McConaughey, Ashley Judd, Sandra Bullock, Kevin Spacey and Donald Sutherland. Tell me you saw it. If you didn’t, you must be Martian. Get off your bony butt and see it. Bony butt sounds far more civil than Fat tush. Don’t make me say it.

A 10 year old black girl is brutally raped by two white racists in a secluded area outside town. Her father, Carl Lee Hailey, a construction worker, comes to the courthouse with an M16 assault rifle and mows both men down in revenge. He also injures a deputy inadvertently and the poor guy has to get his leg amputated. There is a trial. Even though the NCAAP offers to pay for an expensive big-city attorney, Hailey picks a young white rookie Clanton lawyer, Jake Brigance, to represent him instead.

The KKK try to kill Brigance, they assault his secretary’s husband and tie his own assistant to a tree and nearly rape her and finally they burn down his house. The story ends with Jake Brigance and his wife leading a precariously scary existence, amid hatred from his own kind.

As to whether Jake Brigance wins an acquittal or not, a reviewer never reveals the ending. Even though he itches to. Okay, I can’t take it any more. He wins, Hailey goes free………. No, actually he doesn’t. Hailey goes to the electric chair……. I’m really kidding. Carl Lee walks out of the courthouse a free man, runs for US Pres and wins…… Wait, I lied. Jake Brigance is executed by mistake, by a color-blind jailor……

Actually I don’t remember what happens in the end. At 59, you won’t remember many things, okay? Now stop busting my ass.

john grisham

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SYNOPSIS : SYCAMORE ROW (2013)

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Timeline : 1988

Location : Same hick town and the threat from the Ku Klux Klan very much alive. Brigance and his wife, Carla, are now living in a rented ramshackle home, with a squad car stationed almost permanently outside.

Filmography :  It isn’t a movie yet, silly.

Seth Hubbard is a wealthy man dying of lung cancer who decides to commit suicide before the pain gets unmanageable. He is a loner and does not socialize with anybody. He is twice divorced and his two grown-up children have very little contact with him. They know Hubbard is reasonably well-off but he plays his cards close to his chest and they have no idea he actually is a multimillionaire many times over, his many businesses and assets well hidden elsewhere, outside of town.

Before he hangs himself from a sycamore tree in his property, Hubbard mails a new, handwritten, will to Jake Brigance, the now famous ex-rookie lawyer, for probate. His handwritten will (termed a holographic will) is perfectly legal but drastically different from the well-organized and type-written will that he had got made by a big legal firm a year back.

The new document leaves 90% of his assets to his black maid, 5% to a long lost brother whose whereabouts are unknown and 5% to a local church. The new will raises far more questions than it answers. Why would Hubbard leave nearly all of his fortune to his maid? Had cancer treatment affected his ability to think clearly? And what does it all have to do with a piece of land once known as Sycamore Row? I’ll leave that for you to find out. Besides, I haven’t read the whole book yet. Yeah, I start writing reviews even before I have finished reading the book till the end. That’s why no media outlet wants to publish my reviews. Who cares? They can sit on my middle finger. Its knobby and calloused, they’ll love it.

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John Grisham is a prolific writer and an immensely rich man. His fortune has been built over numerous legal thrillers and a smattering of other genres that he has written over the past 30 years, all runaway best sellers. A John Grisham work is gold standard, like a Frederick Forsyth or a Jeffery Archer or a Steven Spielberg or a Satyajit Ray. Or a Paul McCartney or an Elton John. You don’t wait for a review to come out before you decide whether to read, see or listen to them.

Grisham and I share the same birth date and year, by the way. I have been way more successful of course, but this is not about me.

John Grisham specializes in legal thrillers and courtroom dramas because he was once a highly-paid criminal lawyer himself. Criminal lawyers and cops invariably have a lot of interesting stories to tell. When they sit down to write a book they don’t have to spend months on research. They are the research. They see things that you and I don’t. When an ex-cop or an ex-lawyer writes a book, you can be sure its plot will be very original and very meaty.

Of course, having been a lawyer or a cop does not mean you’ll be great writer. My neighbor, Ross, had been a Sureté de Quebec Narcotics and Vice Squad officer for 36 years. He sometimes mentions particularly gruesome happenings on his watch but it is tedious listening to him. He is an atrocious story teller. Story telling is a gift and like me, John Grisham has it.

There are however certain things about Grisham’s style that I find a bit unreal and repetitive, though I’m not sure if I approve of them or I don’t, so damned good a writer that he is. One is the manic need to tie up all the loose ends, complete with an elaborate epilogue-type chapter at the end that details what happens to each character, thus leaving nothing for the reader to imagine. Sometimes this loose-end tying spree leaves some of the characters looking strange.

John Grisham legal thrillers have stabilized into a certain stereotype. The main character is always a bright young lawyer, a rookie struggling to survive or a rookie disgruntled, working in a big city firm. He wants to make a difference, his conscience pinging away like a flight data recorder in the deep. He is inexperienced but he inexplicably transforms into a brilliant litigator and wins against a massive big city law firm with 10 smartly dressed associates sitting on either side of a tall, white-haired veteran who flew in the previous evening in his Gulfstream-600.

Then there is the court clerk insider bleeding heart, the cop insider bleeding heart and the drunken, previously brilliant much older lawyer-cum-father-figure bleeding heart, the pretty stay-at-home wife doormat and the sexy assistant Miss Shtuppity whom he won’t screw because it isn’t right. Bringing up the rear are page-filling folks who appear out of the woodwork, to work free for our Mr. Rookie of the year. The good guys are dripping sugar syrup and the bad guys are really evil.

Then there is the surrealism of the main story-line itself. If I were a lawyer and I had got a black man acquitted after he had killed two white guys with links to the KKK and seriously wounded a white sheriff’s deputy, in broad daylight in Mississippi, I’d skip town and hole up somewhere folk were not likely to find me. Instead, I stay back in the same hick town and depend upon the local police (a colleague of whom my client had shot and injured) to protect me from the Ku Klux Klan, who have murdered many abolitionist whites in their time.

Besides, no police force, even an emancipated one and especially no small town police department, has the resources to keep one family under protective surveillance 24/7, for years. But hey, the sheriff just happens to be black and his deputies are bleeding heart whites, so maybe they can stop the hoodies from whacking our baby-face attorney-poo after all.

Stranger things have been known to have happened. Like, I don’t crave sex anymore.

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