read by Dennis Boutsikaris
John Grisham has sustained the phenomenal talent he displayed with his early novels, which brought lawyers back into the crime novel genre in a way that hadn't been so successful since Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason books of the 1930s and 40s.
The Innocent Man is Grisham's first work of non-fiction, but his skills of description, characterization and narrative pace are all put to use in this dramatic reconstruction of small town injustice in Grisham's natural heartland, the American Deep South.
Grisham's major fault is his enthusiasm for baseball - a sport that is totally incomprehensible to most of the world and in which most readers have absolutley no interest: his non-US publishers should pass on this information. If you get past the sport, however, within The Innocent Man will be found one of the most gripping and disturbing tales of legal incompetence, court prejudice, investigative unfairness and judicial inhumanity. The book brings to mind David Rose's searing Violation - the recent exposé of America's corrupt legal process used as a tool of racial oppression.
In The Innocent Man, the rape and murder in 1982 of a 21-year-old cocktail waitress are pinned, after five years, on a former minor-league baseball player named Ron Williamson and his friend Dennis Fritz. With no physical evidence, the prosecution’s case is built on the unquestioned testimony of convicts and interested parties. Fritz is found guilty and given a life sentence; Williamson sent to death row.
If this is justice American style, just think again about the post 9/11 laws that give the United States power to extradite British citizens to face trial in US courts without the need to show just cause.
An audiobook it is difficult to stop listening to, given dramatic tension and pace by the incomparable Dennis Boutsikaris.
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