RIP John Mortimer
One of my favorite writers, John Mortimer, died Friday at the age of 85. He was best known for his short stories about Rumpole, a criminal defense lawyer working in the Old Bailey. As far as I know, it is the only long-running series about criminal defense, and certainly the one most sympathetic to the trade. Mortimer saw defense lawyers as essential guardians of the rights of all citizens, and as persons who operated in the face of skepticism and hostility from the police, prosecutors, judges, and much of the public. (John Grisham approaches defense lawyers similarly, but his writing has never appealed to me that much.)
It seems to me that in these days of Law & Order, we worship prosecutors too much. We've seen the tragedy of this attitude in Texas and in Houston in particular. I would like pop culture to re-elevate the defense lawyer, as it did in the days of Anatomy of a Murder and To Kill a Mockingbird. And if this could happen with the same wit that Mortimer brought to the Rumpole stories, all the better.
Mortimer did a lot more than write Rumpole stories. I specifically want to mention two excellent novels, satires of the Thatcher era, Paradise Postponed and its sequel, Titmuss Regained. Check them out if you have a chance.