Tuesday, March 29, 2011

'Bodily Harm' Book Review

A government official has a horrifying and murderous encounter with a mysterious assassin in China--and gets an assignment he dares not defy.

David Sloane, dubbed by the media as 'The Lawyer Who Never Loses', is in a hurry.  He's overdue in court--where he is about to win again--but doesn't feel at ease about the likely outcome.  A grubby young man, smelling of alcohol, accosts Sloane on the streets of Seattle, forcing a slim file on him, which he contends explains why the Doctor, whose career is about to end with the verdict, isn't responsible for the death of the child of Sloane's clients.

"The doctor did not kill that boy."
Sloane stopped.  Pedestrians maneuvered to avoid him.  Walking back to the curb, Sloane saw that the man held a photocopy of an article from The Seattle Times reporting on the medical malpractice case.
"How would you know that?"  Sloane asked.
"Because I did."

With that, Robert Dugoni has set the hook deeply with his novel Bodily Harm.

The action moves with breakneck speed as the attorney that has everything go his way professionally, soon finds his personal life in wreckage as this high-octane story of desperation in lofty corporate offices becomes interwoven with money, politics, murder and government agencies.  As with previous novels by Dugoni, this work really reaches beyond the conventional thriller as he stretches his literary lead over the work of Turow and Grisham.

It's not often I feel engaged by the literary merits of a thriller.  Too often they are paint-by-the-numbers formula pieces.  Bodily Harm though, like Wrongful Death, Damage Control and The Jury Master preceding it ( and previously mentioned on the pages of this blog), have that intangible quality of plausibility to them.  While you are irresistibly turning each page to see what's next, you can well imagine how these things could actually happen.

The characters are finely drawn.  The relationships are deeply felt by this reader, and the tragedies and triumphs resonate with real emotion.  In the end as the dust is settling and David Sloane emerges victorious yet anything but unscathed, he is left with one question:  "When does it stop hurting?"

You'll have to read the book to get the answer, but you better hurry--his next, 'Murder One' is set for release in early June, and I, for one, can't wait.

Forget being the 'heir apparent' to Scott Turow or John Grisham.  Robert Dugoni has re-defined the legal thriller and is in a class by himself.  Long live the new King!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Nothing In Moderation-How To Kill the Republican Party

From time to time in these posts I comment on the state of politics as I see them.  Long-time readers know I consider myself a conservative and a Republican.  I have, however, been increasingly alarmed by a lack of common sense by the far right, and have expressed my dismay that leadership has become an oxymoronic term within the party.  Having said that, I stood by my party (though not necessarily it's candidates) until now.

It has become clear since the mid-term elections that the agenda of the conservative right-wing is to form a cabal of business titans, ambitious office seekers and ultra-conservative Christian groups to systematically disassemble most of the economic and social gains for the middle and lower class populations of the U.S. in the twentieth century.  Preying on the susceptability of one-issue, or poorly informed voters and ginning up fear tactics--while blithely ignoring their own culpability in the current economic hardships--the Republican party has begun an assault on moderation that is sure to kill it in the long run.  Given their 'druthers, many of these people would eliminate unions, pensions, Social Security, Medicare, funding for the arts and abortion anywhere, anytime, for any reason.  This is the to-do list right now, having accomplished that they will move on to reducing or eliminating taxes on business, with an emphasis on big businesses.  Bigger the business-lower the taxes.  Don't think so?  Follow this link:  Tax Holiday for Big Business?

These are not moderate, or even conservative views, really.  There is no inherent conflict between fiscal conservatism and union bargaining.  Have we forgotten the lesson of the Good Samaritan?  We can, and should do what we are able to do as individuals, but not forsake those of lesser fortune simply because they are financially inconvenient to society just now.  Issues of human rights belong in the public discourse to the extent that all humans living in the U.S. should enjoy the freedoms and protections of the Constitution, not just those that subscribe to my particular point of view.  People of good faith and conscience can agree to disagree.  That is vital to the free flow of ideas and critical to finding constructive ways forward without disenfranchising opposition.

The assault has been under way for some time.  Thirty years ago, if you intended to run as a Republican for high office you had to be vetted by the Christian right.  What was your stance on abortion?  What about gays and lesbians?  School prayer?  You better drink the Kool-Aid and sign on or you had no active chance of advancing your candidacy.  Since then the requirements have tightened into a noose.  I stand in amazement that there is no sense of irony that the only unforgivable sin is to differ in opinion.

If you were nominated to a U.S. Federal judgeship the chances were similarly bleak for advancement if you had ever ruled on, commented in public or written a term paper in school on any or all of these and other issues.  As I write this thousands of position remain unfilled, the nominees blocked without even a committee review by some Senator acting as a 'watchdog' (read:  lapdog)  for the Christian Coalition or some other lobbying group.  If it is one thing a conservative pol knows, it's which side of the bread is buttered with campaign money.

Perhaps the most distressing aspect of this onslaught has been the dogged determination not to be deterred by facts.  I have seen, read and heard more mischaracterizations, misdirections, disinformation campaigns, whispered innuendos and downright damnable lies in the last three years then in the forty or so previous years I have been watching and thinking about politics.  And that includes, Bush, Clinton and Nixon.

Right now we have a President hobbled by the notion that there is compromise out there, just waiting to be hammered out with reasonable, moderate Republicans.  Respectfully, Mr. President, you are wrong.  From the grass-roots to the Capitol Dome the offensive against reasonableness is being pushed forward by a cynical and increasingly delusional conservative party.  Consensus building and bi-partisanship are given lip service, but in truth are seen as signs of weakness to be exploited.  It is time, Sir, in the words of a famous Republican, to just say no.

So here is what I say to my former Republican brethren:  Kill the party if you must, I shall not come along.  You have thrown down the gauntlet of extremism, I shall not pick it up.  You seek to crush moderation, I shall, starting today, resist.