Book: Novel Verdicts

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Novel Verdicts: A Guide to Courtroom Fiction

Author: Jon L. Breen
Publisher: Scarecrow Press

This critical guide is especially noteworthy for its unique and comprehensive coverage of each individual work. Each annotation not only provides general information about the author but indicates the proportion of trial action included in each book. A critical bibliography for librarians, lawyers and courtroom enthusiasts alike, Novel Verdicts is a useful and easy-to-use reference tool that captures the changes in the law as depicted in courtroom fiction.


Penzler Pick, June 2000: In 1984, Jon Breen produced an annotated bibliography of courtroom fiction, Novel Verdicts, which was the first serious attempt to provide a guide to the best books about that most dramatic of human situations, the trial. Now he has expanded and updated that volume with this second edition, increasing the number of books listed and described from 421 entries to 790. Each listing includes the name of the author; the title; place; publisher and date of the first English and American editions; a symbol to designate the approximate amount of actual trial action; and a paragraph or more about the plot, the type of courtroom action depicted, and an evaluation of both the overall book and its effectiveness as courtroom fiction.

Breen, one of the fairest and most perceptive scholars of mystery fiction, is exceptionally well suited to make assessments about a book’s overall worth, and his judgment appears to be nearly impeccable (which I suppose means we agree a lot). Novel Verdicts contains an enormous range of titles, from such modern practitioners as Scott Turow, Lisa Scottoline, John Grisham, Jay Brandon, J.P. Hailey (Parnell Hall), Stephen Greenleaf, and Steve Martini to the golden-age writers Erle Stanley Gardner (who has 86 entries) and Ellery Queen, as well as wonderful early practitioners like Arthur Train and Melville Davisson Post, who are still able to amaze with their brilliant, twisting plots. If you have any interest in this type of fiction—and it would be hard to imagine an aficionado of the mystery genre who doesn’t because of the tension inherent in any good trial scene—this book is the most useful guide to the best of this demanding literary form. —Otto Penzler

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