Turow and blogger at the Ripley Center.
Scott Turow is without doubt the thinking person’s courtroom thriller writer. He creates characters who talk about Brownian movement and who quote Kierkegaard. He does it all unaffected and adroitly, as behooves someone who taught Creative Writing at Stanford University before he went on to graduate from Harvard Law School.
PRESUMED INNOCENT, which Alan Pakula made into a movie starring Harrison Ford, was Turow’s fist novel. Set in Kindle County, an imaginary place that resembles its author’s native Chicago, it introduced attorney Rusty Sabich, the damaged child who says that if he were to paint his brutish father, he “would have a gargoyle’s face and a dragon’s scaled heart.” At thirty-nine, he juggles many selves—loving father, good citizen, faithful husband to a woman who is as cuddly as a porcupine, brilliant lawyer, master of “pathetic longing,” besotted lover.
Impeccably plotted and populated by characters as believable as one’s next door neighbors, PRESUMED INNOCENT did away with misconceptions according to which rigorously elegant writing has no mass appeal. To date, nearly four million copies have been sold in the United States alone. More importantly, this blockbuster of a novel made it clear that the dumbing down of the English language, simplistic plots, one-dimensional characters and fuzzy logic are not essential elements of crime writing.
Turow’s new book, INNOCENT, picks up where PRESUMED INNOCENT left off. Sabich, is now, at sixty, a judge, still married to the reclusive and prickly Barbara. Though they share an abiding love for their son Nat, who is a newly minted lawyer, theirs is a joyless relationship. No wonder that, in spite of the dire consequences of his first adulterous affair, Sabich’s longing for “the unnamable piece of happiness that has eluded (him) for sixty years “ becomes “a nagging whisper from (his) heart. “
The nagging whisper compels him to go once more a-roving and thus he places himself in a collision course with wrong sort of love. In his misguided quest, he is much as Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Balzac’s Emma Bovary—long on hope and short on common sense. Predictably, love rocks the foundations of his life.
If Sabich’s romantic misadventures are predictable, the plot of INNOCENT is a treasure trove of surprises. Technology, represented by DNA analysis and computer forensics, work miracles, love transforms and redeems previously unsympathetic characters, , some good people act villainously and some villains act as good people. Turow’s writing has always been is “as pure as music.” In INNOCENT the music gains a somber richness from the elegiac tone.