The Devil Amongst the Lawyers: A Ballad Novel (Ballad Novels)
In 1935, when Erma Morton, a beautiful young woman with a teaching degree, is charged with the murder of her father in a remote Virginia mountain community, the case becomes a cause célèbre for the national press.
Eager for a case to replace the Lindbergh trial in the public’s imagination, the journalists descend on the mountain county intent on infusing their stories with quaint local color: horse-drawn buggies, rundown shacks, children in threadbare clothes. They need tales of rural poverty to give their Depression-era readers people whom they can feel superior to. The untruth of these cultural stereotypes did not deter the big-city reporters, but a local journalist, Carl Jennings, fresh out of college and covering his first major story, reports what he sees: an ordinary town and a defendant who is probably guilty.
This journey to a distant time and place summons up ghosts from the reporters’ pasts: Henry Jernigan’s sojourn in Japan that ended in tragedy, Shade Baker’s hardscrabble childhood on the Iowa prairie, and Rose Hanelon’s brittle sophistication, a shield for her hopeless love affair. While they spin their manufactured tales of squalor, Carl tries to discover the truth in the Morton trial with the help of his young cousin Nora, who has the Sight. But who will believe a local cub reporter whose stories contradict the nation’s star journalists? For the reader, the novel resonates with the present: an economic depression, a deadly flu epidemic, a world contending with the rise of political fanatics, and a media culture determined to turn news stories into soap operas for the diversion of the masses.
A stunning return to the lands, ballads, and characters upon which she made her name, The Devil Amongst the Lawyers is a testament to Sharyn McCrumb’s lyrical and evocative writing.
In 1935, the case of an Appalachian schoolteacher arrested for murdering her father becomes a national news story, seized on by the press for its sensationalism and the opportunity to mock the rural inhabitants involved. Competing with a brigade of city journalists is novice Tennessee newspaperman Carl Jenkins, whose obsession with the truth leads him to call in his cousin Nora, gifted with second sight—but what, exactly, can he report with no concrete evidence? The latest in McCrumb’s Appalachian Ballad series (after 2003’s Ghost Riders) is decidedly mixed; McCrumb’s grasp of setting and character instantly immerses readers in the worlds of both the sympathetic locals and the cynical city press. Her plot, part mystery and part cautionary tale, is passable, but leaves nothing for readers to work out on their own. Dialogue, which stretches for authentic, often feels awkward and stilted; though fans will be familiar with the style, new readers will likely be frustrated. (June)
Author: McCrumb, Sharyn.
- Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
- Pages: 336
- Publication Date: 2010-06-22T00:00:01Z
- Edition: 1
- Binding: Hardcover
- MSRP: 24.99
- ISBN13: 9780312558161
- ISBN: 0312558163
- Language: en_US
- Quality Rating: 1
- "Book cover image may be different than what appears on the actual book."