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Legal Stories

Authors represented include: Henry Cecil, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Bruce Hamilton.

The Carlyle Harris Case

Charles Boswell, Lewis Thompson
Collier, 1948.

Guilty or innocent? That is the question posed by this Victorian-era true crime tale, in which a young medical student named Carlyle Harris, Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, finds himself on trial for his life. Harris stands accused of murdering his secret wife, Helen Potts, by administering a fatal dose of morphine to the attractive, intelligent nineteen-year old, a student at the Comstock Select Boarding School for Young Ladies. This compelling courtroom drama made headline news for months during 1891 and 1892, capturing the interest and imagination of the scandal- loving press and public. The authors bring the case to life in vivid detail, by including excerpts of verbatim testimony taken from the actual court transcripts, and describing all the legal maneuverings, from jury selection to the final verdict and its aftermath.

Brothers in Law

Henry Cecil
Collier, 1955.

At the ripe old age of 21, Roger Thursby, Esq. has just passed his bar final examination and is now officially qualified as a British barrister. Unfortunately, Thursby's formal legal education has done little to prepare him for what he actually encounters in the London courts. From his very first day working in the offices of Mr. Kendall Grimes, Q.C., Thursby is caught in a confusing legal maze that begins with his first appearance in court where the only words he manages to utter are, "Yes, Your Honor." But curiosity, ambition and a sense of humor help him overcome a multitude of legal slips, including a messy divorce case and the defense of a confidence man who seems to know more about the law than Thursby. The young barrister's eccentric mother and two lovely young ladies hover in the background, happy to dispense both personal and professional advice as Roger learns to navigate the British judicial system. (A film by the same name was produced in 1957).

Fathers in Law

Henry Cecil
Sphere, 1955.

Mary and Bill Woodthorpe are a wealthy British couple in their early 30s. Unable to have children of their own, they adopt an illegitimate 18-month old child whose natural mother claims that she has no knowledge of who the baby's father is. Several years later, things begin to get complicated when the natural father, Randolph West, who has been falsely imprisoned, is released from jail and claims that the adoption was made without his consent. Anxious to be reunited with his son, West immediately initiates an application with the British courts to set aside the original adoption order. He bases his claim on the grounds that he was deprived of his legal right to be heard before the order was made. Counselors present evidence and arguments from both sides before a compassionate judge who ultimately makes the difficult decision as to whether the child will remain with the adoptive family or be returned to his natural parents.

The Court of Last Resort

Erle Stanley Gardner
Pocket, 1954.

Gardner presents a detailed explanation of the origin and work of an organization known as "The Court of Last Resort," an informal yet highly effective group that came to life during the 1950s. It was the brainchild of Erle Stanley Gardner and Harry Steeger, publisher of Argosy magazine. Both men felt strongly that enlightened public opinion could remedy injustice, and they believed that one way to accomplish this was by publicizing the cases of innocent men who had been wrongfully convicted of murder. Gardner invited legal and criminal experts from throughout the United States to join his investigative group, and for several years, Argosy magazine ran regular features detailing the Court's activities. Here Gardner recounts many of the individual cases that his rather unconventional "court" reopened, investigated, and brought to the attention of the American.