Anatomy of a MurderPosted: 2008/12/07
Traver, Robert. Anatomy of a Murder. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1958.
If you want to get technical about it this was my first book of December – considering the first two were read while it was still November. A technicality, I guess.
Anatomy of a Murder was written in the 1950s by Robert Traver. From the moment I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. 439 pages went by in a blur. I read before bed, when I first woke, on the drive into work, on my lunch break, waiting in line at the grocery store…It had me hooked from the very first sentence. It’s no wonder this novel became a movie. For starters, take the author – Robert Traver was the pen name for John D. Voelker who happened to be a lawyer and a judge in addition to being a fantastic writer. Secondly, Voelker used a real life murder than took place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. True stories are always fascinating.
So, here’s the story (now that I’ve set the stage, so to speak): Paul (Polly to his friends) Biegler is an ex-D.A. turned public defender set out to prove his client, Frederic Manion, murdered a bartender in a moment of insanity. Proving the insanity isn’t the only challenge of the case. Biegler must also prove Manion’s wife was raped by the bartender (and thus creating the moment of insanity) when all evidence surrounding Mrs. Manion’s attack is not admissible in her husband’s trial. The entire story is so well written you never want it to end.
Some of the many, many lines and phrases I found great:
“gently drunk” (p 13).
“Juries, in common with women drivers, are apt to do the damndest things” (p 39).
“I consider jealousy the most corrosive and destructive of all emotions and I long time ago made up my mind that I refused to be jealous of anyone or anything. Life is simply too goddam short” (p 73).
One last comment. I always thought that lawyers (of any kind) needed to show judges the utmost respect both in the courtroom and in chambers. Right? Well, someone needs to explain the scene on page 244 where Polly is in Judge Weaver’s chambers. Picture this, the Judge has just lit a pipe and Polly sits, “one leg over the arm of [his] chair.” I don’t even sit that way in my mother-in-law’s house!
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter, “What a Trial That Was!” (p 243).