Hari Kari
Friday, September 2, 2011
Justinian in Critics' Corner

Mrs Parker reviews Stuart Littlemore's novel Harry Curry: Counsel of Choice - Ugly. Irascible. Intolerant. Clever ... Nothing original here ... Harry's in desperate need of an injection of substance ... Stand by for Vol 2  

I do love the portmanteau word genre.

For example, watch Judge John Deed and Silk from Britain and see the unembarrassed exposure of the disrepute of the legal profession and the administration of justice.

Garrow's Law is a refined exception.

In Australia we have Crownies (the creative genius of the title alone); On Trial is a serious diversion flawed by the ennui of reality forensodrama; and Rake, which at least has the candour to admit to the disrepute of what it successfully and with amusing talent portrays - namely the tricks the legal trade.  

The US justice system stinks, as we know. It can be cocooned in humour as in Boston Legal with its last episode so damning of the cant about same sex marriages.

The Good Wife is hypnotically boring, centred as it is on the cell phone without which the malodorous system would be in danger of even greater inefficiency. Yet I have pre-ordered the second series. To watch it live here would be guantanamously torturous.

Now Stuart Meredith Littlemore, of the Media and Him, has chucked five stories into the genre.

None is original in theme or subject. All the expected suspects are trotted out as instances of injustices and are related with the condescension of literary banality, descriptive of predictable forensic triumphs of the getting-him-off variety.  

The first, which purports to give birth to the present non-practising incarnation of Harry Curry, either is a blatant abrogation to the character of a true story involving an exchange between an eminent Public Defender (Bill Hosking) who was appointed to the District Court and the memorable Adrian Roden, or is an astonishing coincidence of literary happenstance.

The tale is of drugs and the gorgeous Arabella Engineer (Anglo-Indian drop dead lovely learner and mentee) and her worsting of the system's technicalities.

The author: banalityWhat she and Harry Curry do between the paragraph that ends with a kiss and the following one which opens on the steps of the court house is a matter for them. There is also a curious ritual about the order in which who takes a shower.

"Not much of a Terrorist" is the second tale and what the reader learns of what someone else knows about the Sandanistas is almost a relief.

"The Live Dead Man" is well constructed and poignant. So too "Travelling South" and "The Set-Up" with a sensitivity to issues, rather than merely the game, which could produce in the promised second volume some good stuff.

But the parochialism! Goodness if you know nothing of the world between southern Queensland to Eden down the bottom of NSW; if you have not heard of Hospital Road near the Domain; the "Long Bay Hilton Remand Centre" (whatever that is); the waters beside the Sydney Theatre Company, the Leyland P76; voting for Fred Nile; Scotch Fingers and Monte Carlos; Brylcreem; high range PCA, the RTA, or police speak - you're in strife.

For whom was the book written? The present profession? - the thoughtful will have much to ignore. The lay reader? - now ladies and gents here's the drum on Law 1:01 as practised to perfection on the eastern seaboard.

The one truly familiar character is the country solicitor David Surrey: he is real.

The words Ugly, Irascible, Intolerant and Clever on the title page, I suspect, are appropriate to the author, not yet to Harry Curry who is in desperate need of an injection of human substance and dimension.

By the way, the use of the relatively obscure architectural term "clerestory" is unsurprising given the author's heritage; but its use twice in six pages is a bit over the top. 

Mrs Parker

Harry Curry: Counsel of Choice - Ugly. Irascible. Intolerant. Clever - by Stuart Littlemore, 297pp HarperCollins $29.99.

Article originally appeared on Justinian: Australian legal magazine. News on lawyers and the law (http://justinian.com.au/).
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