Ever been involved in a court case? If you have, you know the power and perils inherent in our judicial system. I was summoned for jury duty (again) and was reminded of the drama of trials, the impact of verdicts. It’s a natural platform on which to build great novels.
Actual courtroom procedures, at least in the U.S., tend to move slowly and methodically. The challenge of novelists is to retain the reality of trials while crafting a gripping story. The most successful authors take just the right degree of artistic license in their presentations. Four of our most prolific and reliable contemporary authors of courtroom novel are Scott Turow, Jodi Picoult, John Grisham and Michael Connolly; they’ve produced too many books in this realm to list but you’ll find them in your local bookstore or library.
Not surprisingly, many of the best novels that include trials (usually following a death) as either a focal point or a catalyst have been adapted into successful films. But even if you’ve already seen a novel-turned-movie, it’s worth going back to the writing that spawned the film; it’s some of the most compelling writing in literature.
How many of these great novels with (U.S.-based) trials have you read:
An American Tragedy – Theodore Dreiser, 1925
Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston, 1937
Native Son – Richard Wright, 1940
The Caine Mutiny – Herman Wouk, 1951
Anatomy of a Murder – Robert Traver, 1958
To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee, 1960
The Seven Minutes – Irving Wallace, 1969
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood, 1985
The Bonfire of the Vanities – Tom Wolfe, 1987
Compelling Evidence – Steve Martini, 1992
Snow Falling on Cedars – David Guterson, 1995
Defending Jacob – William Landay, 2012