Author is a retired attorney having practiced for 35 years in Illinois who now lives in Texas and started writing stories about a year and a half ago.
BOOK REVIEW - THE ROOSTER BAR
John Grisham’s latest book The Rooster Bar is based upon a premise that is just plain ridiculous to me. Four third year law students, with only a semester to go, at a law school named, get this, Foggy Bottom Law School, are drowning in student debt. One of them discovers that the owner of this for profit law school is an evil billionaire capitalist who in fact owns seven other for profit law schools, has controlling interest in a billion dollar international bank that makes student loans, and has made billions through other nefarious but legal schemes.This student realizes that all is hopeless for him and his pals. Each owes about two hundred thousand in student loans and their job prospects are dismal to say the least. Only about half the school’s graduates pass the bar exam and for those who do, job prospects are virtually non existent especially there in Washington D.C. where this story takes place. The big firms don’t hire from Foggy Bottom. Seeing no way out he commits suicide. Well the other three are shaken but see that he’s right and that their lives are doomed. They come up with the brilliant idea of dropping out of school and going into business for themselves as lawyers. After all how hard can it be? So they set up shop, troll the traffic courts and hospitals and begin practicing law without a license but under fake names. They intend to fly under the radar the rest of their lives and not pay back their loans. After all if they get caught it’s only a misdemeanor, right? They have some initial success but needless to say everything goes wrong for them from the DUI cases to a multi million dollar medical malpractice case. Everybody and their brother is after them for screwing up this or that. They live a life on the run just that one step ahead. But despite it all they get back at the evil billionaire owner of the profit law schools and stick him for a few million. Unbelievable. I like a little bit of reality to my stories. Something that at least could happen. It’s hard for me to believe these two law students outsmarting a veteran evil genius of the business world just by out bluffing him. There is a side story that plods along as our heroes, and yes they're heroes to Grisham, stumble and bumble. One ot the law partner's’ parents smuggled themselves illegally into this country from Senegal. Though the partner is ok as she was born here and thus an American citizen, her parents are doomed to be deported. She goes through a journey of hell with them as they are sent back to Senegal and then again as they navigate their way through the corrupt Senegalese bureaucracy. This was interesting and I did learn a lot about deportation and Senegal, but the problem with this story is that Grisham wants the reader to feel sorry for these people. Being illegals they got little sympathy from me. . The other two partners meanwhile, both white males meet a sexy young prosecutor. This is the obligatory sex scene that’s in all novels today. It doesn’t add to the story and it isn’t even titillating. The book’s title The Rooster Bar isn’t even mentioned until about page one hundred of the three hundred fifty page book. Before I got there I thought it might have something to do like a play on words as an admission to the bar by passing the bar exam or somehow connected to the ‘bar’ as in the legal profession. It didn’t. Bar meant a bar here, a watering hole. It’s mentioned again at the end and quite clumsily at that. At the end the three of them get away with enough cash to live comfortably in Senegal. Oh yeah the white boys become Senegalese citizens, under new fake names of course and the female partner does likewise. The bad guys getting away with it is something I could accept from Elmore Leonard not John Grisham. The book though did educate me about the travesty of the student loan program. Stop and think about it for a moment. Who in their right mind would lend a twenty something young person without a job and no collateral a hundred thousand dollars or more. Who? The U.S. government that’s who in its never ending quest to help people everywhere. I went to law school a long time ago 1969-1972. I never had a student loan. I never even knew if they existed then. Never had a scholarship. My summer jobs paid for my tuition and housing for the following year and thus for this reason I could not get into Grisham’s premise. I suppose it is believable for all those out there who suffer under student debt today. And I did learn though the reason why college costs so much today is that the government is paying for it. What the heck let’s jack up the rate of tuition say the colleges and get the government to loan the student the tuition. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together. Anyway I still couldn’t put the book down. It was a typical Grisham page turner. But as said the ending was disappointing. So in conclusion I repeat. They kind of got away with it and with a lot of money to boot, though exiled to Senegal. Shame on you Mr. Grisham for that, you being a lawyer and all.
BOOK REVIEW - THE CUBAN AFFAIR
I am a big fan of Nelson DeMille having read and liked all his books. But his recent book, The Cuban Affair, fell a little short for me. It’s about a mission impossible covert operation that the macho hero Mac gets drawn into by the lure of big money, a three million dollar fee, and the love of a beautiful woman named Sara. The mission, which he decides to accept of course or there’d be no story, is to go to Cuba and recover sixty million dollars hidden in a cave so the Cuban exiles can use it in their fight against the Castro regime. Our hero is an Iraqi war veteran with proven combat experience and leadership abilities, captain of his own boat on the south Florida coast, and is therefore just the man the Cuban exiles need for the job. And Mac is up for it too since it’s bound to be more exciting than his boring business of renting out his heavily mortgaged boat for fishing or excursion cruises. Besides there’s a payment due on it now which he doesn’t have. Thus this job will not only get him out of debt but have him set for life too. So it looked like I was in for another good action packed adventure novel, which DeMille is good at, but in Cuba this time and not in his usual New York like his other books. And though the setting was different the hero character was not. Our hero Mac is just channeling DeMille’s other hero, wise cracking defrocked New York detective John Corey. In fact there's so much of this Groucho Marx type wisecracking at the beginning of the book that it seemed overdone and even somewhat offensive at times. I just wanted him to stop all that and get on with the story. Finally as the book goes on DeMille draws less and less from his snappy banter repertoire but still throws it in here and there. Another problem I had with this book was DeMille's fixation with getting our hero getting laid. At times it seems that’s the sole focus of the story and it definitely puts the affair in The Cuban Affair. But he keeps dinging on it so much that our hero’s maturity level comes across as that of a goofy horny teenager. Furthermore DeMille even makes a point of having Mac’s seventy year old first mate get laid. I know Demille is an old man about my age, seventy that is, but I couldn’t help but think jeez what a dirty old man. On the hand if you like this kind of macho man, love ‘em and leave stuff. This book is for you. To each their own. One good point about the book though is that I learned a lot about present day Cuba. For example everyone gets a $20 a month paycheck from the government no matter what kind of work he does, or if he does it at all. The government is the employer of everybody. Therefore graft and bribery runs rampant and everyone spends their life conning and gaming the system. DeMille did a good job in researching all this and he was quite informative about it. He was recently in Cuba himself thanks to the “Cuban Thaw” as he calls it. The pros and cons of which he also discusses in the book. Anyway back to the story, Mac and Sara obviously consummate their partnership relationship. There are numerous escapes from the bad guys, aka the Cuban secret police and other Cuban thugs, shoot outs on the high seas with the evil Cuban navy, and other action packed dramatic scenes where one is always trying to figure just out who’s crossing who. But alas our hero and heroine do not recover the sixty million dollars. What a bummer. And so for this reason and this reason alone the book let me down. He got the girl, and more than once I might add, (yikes I better watch it here I’m starting to channel DeMille), but not the money. Shame on you Mr. DeMIlle. Oh well I’ll still buy his next book. That is if he lives long enough to write one and I live long enough to read it, since we’re both old guys that is..