Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Reading List: The Racketeer
- Grisham, John. The Racketeer. New York: Doubleday, 2012. ISBN 978-0-345-53057-8.
- Malcolm Bannister was living the life of a retail lawyer in a Virginia town, doing real estate transactions, wills, and the other routine work which occupies a three partner firm, paying the bills but never striking it rich. A law school classmate contacts him and lets him know there's a potentially large commission available for negotiating the purchase of a hunting lodge in rural Virginia for an anonymous client. Bannister doesn't like the smell of the transaction, especially after a number of odd twists and turns during the negotiation, but bills must be paid, and this fee will go a long way toward that goal. Without any warning, during a civic function, costumed goons arrest him and perp-walk him before previously-arranged state media. He, based upon his holding funds in escrow for a real estate transaction, is accused of “money laundering” and indicted as part of a RICO prosecution of a Washington influence peddler. Railroaded through the “justice system” by an ambitious federal prosecutor and sentenced by a vindictive judge, he finds himself imprisoned for ten years at a “Club Fed” facility along with other nonviolent “criminals”. Five years into his sentence, he has become the librarian and “jailhouse lawyer” of the prison, filing motions on behalf of his fellow inmates and, on occasion, seeing injustices in their convictions reversed. He has lost everything else: his wife has divorced him and remarried, and his law licence has been revoked; he has little hope of resuming his career after release. A jailhouse lawyer hears many things from his “clients”: some boastful, others bogus, but some revealing secrets which those holding them think might help to get them out. When a federal judge is murdered, Bannister knows, from his contacts in prison, precisely who committed the crime and leverages his position to obtain his own release, disappearance into witness protection, and immunity from prosecution for earlier acts. The FBI, under pressure to solve the case and with no other leads, is persuaded by what Bannister has to offer and takes him up on the deal. A jailhouse lawyer, wrongly convicted on a bogus charge by a despotic regime has a great deal of time to ponder how he has been wronged, identify those responsible, and slowly and surely draw his plans against them. This is one of the best revenge novels I've read, and it's particularly appropriate since it takes down the tyrannical regime which incarcerates a larger percentage of its population than any serious country and shows how a clever individual can always outwit the bumbling collectivist leviathan as long as he refuses to engage it on level terrain but always exploits agility against the saurian brain reaction time of the state. The only goof I noticed is that on a flight from Puerto Rico to Atlanta, passengers are required to go through passport control. As this is a domestic flight from a U.S. territory to the U.S. mainland, no passport check should be required (although in the age of Heimatsicherheitsdienst, one never knows). I wouldn't call this a libertarian novel, as the author accepts the coercive structure of the state as a given, but it's a delightful tale of somebody who has been wronged by that foul criminal enterprise obtaining pay-back by wit and guile.
Posted at November 27, 2013 22:45