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The Devil Amongst the Lawyers: A Ballad Novelby Sharyn Mccrumb
Synopses & Reviews
In 1935, when Erma Morton, a beautiful young woman with a teaching degree, is charged with the murder of her father in a remote Virginia mountain community, the case becomes a cause célèbre for the national press.
Eager for a case to replace the Lindbergh trial in the publics imagination, the journalists descend on the mountain county intent on infusing their stories with quaint local color: horse-drawn buggies, rundown shacks, children in threadbare clothes. They need tales of rural poverty to give their Depression-era readers people whom they can feel superior to. The untruth of these cultural stereotypes did not deter the big-city reporters, but a local journalist, Carl Jennings, fresh out of college and covering his first major story, reports what he sees: an ordinary town and a defendant who is probably guilty.
This journey to a distant time and place summons up ghosts from the reporters pasts: Henry Jernigans sojourn in Japan that ended in tragedy, Shade Bakers hardscrabble childhood on the Iowa prairie, and Rose Hanelons brittle sophistication, a shield for her hopeless love affair. While they spin their manufactured tales of squalor, Carl tries to discover the truth in the Morton trial with the help of his young cousin Nora, who has the Sight. But who will believe a local cub reporter whose stories contradict the nations star journalists? For the reader, the novel resonates with the present: an economic depression, a deadly flu epidemic, a world contending with the rise of political fanatics, and a media culture determined to turn news stories into soap operas for the diversion of the masses.
A stunning return to the lands, ballads, and characters upon which she made her name, The Devil Amongst the Lawyers is a testament to Sharyn McCrumbs lyrical and evocative writing.
"In 1935, the case of an Appalachian schoolteacher arrested for murdering her father becomes a national news story, seized on by the press for its sensationalism and the opportunity to mock the rural inhabitants involved. Competing with a brigade of city journalists is novice Tennessee newspaperman Carl Jenkins, whose obsession with the truth leads him to call in his cousin Nora, gifted with second sight — but what, exactly, can he report with no concrete evidence? The latest in McCrumb's Appalachian Ballad series (after 2003's Ghost Riders) is decidedly mixed; McCrumb's grasp of setting and character instantly immerses readers in the worlds of both the sympathetic locals and the cynical city press. Her plot, part mystery and part cautionary tale, is passable, but leaves nothing for readers to work out on their own. Dialogue, which stretches for authentic, often feels awkward and stilted; though fans will be familiar with the style, new readers will likely be frustrated. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“Ms. McCrumb writes with quiet fire and maybe a little mountain magic. . . . She plucks the mysteries from peoples lives and works these dark narrative threads into Appalachian legends older than the hills. Like every true storyteller, she has the Sight.”—The New York Times Book Review
In 1935, a beautiful young schoolteacher is accused of murdering her coal-miner father in
a Virginia mountain community.
National journalists descend on Wise County, intent upon exonerating the defendant, and on stereotyping the mountain community to satisfy their Depression-era readers.
But local cub reporter Carl Jennings writes what he sees: an ordinary town and a defendant who is probably guilty.
The novel resonates with the present: an economic depression; a deadly Japanese earthquake; the rise of political fanatics; and a media culture turning news stories into soap operas for the diversion of the masses.
The Devil Amongst the Lawyers is a literary tour de force, examining social issues that go well beyond the fate of one defendant. It is a testament to Sharyn McCrumbs lyrical and poetic writing about the mountain South.
About the Author
Sharyn McCrumb is the author of The Ballad of Frankie Silver, She Walks These Hills, and many other award-winning novels. Her books have been named Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. She was named a “Virginia Woman of History” for achievement in literature in 2008. She lives and writes in the Virginia Blue Ridge, less than a hundred miles from where her family settled in 1790 in the Smoky Mountains that divide North Carolina and Tennessee.
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