Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Burden of Proof is Scott Turow’s third book and second novel. After teaching creative writing at Stanford University and receiving his master’s degree there in 1974, and before beginning law school at Harvard University in 1975, Turow obtained a contract for a nonfiction account of his first year of legal studies. One L, published in 1977, just before Turow began his final year of law school, proved to be both a critical and popular success.

After receiving his law degree, Turow worked for eight years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago, during which time he wrote his first novel. Presumed Innocent, published in 1987, made headlines before it appeared, largely because of the record sums of money connected with it. Turow received an advance of two hundred thousand dollars from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, the largest the publisher had ever paid for a first novel. Warner Bros. paid three million dollars for paperback rights, the highest price ever paid for reprint rights to a first novel, and film rights were sold to director Sydney Pollack for one million dollars. The hardback version stayed on best-seller lists for forty-four weeks, the paperback edition for twenty-nine weeks.

Before the publication of Presumed Innocent, Turow had accepted a position at a major Chicago law firm, where he worked half-time while writing The Burden of Proof. Like its predecessor, Turow’s second novel...

(The entire section is 462 words.)