The Lawyer’s Tale

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

“D. Kincaid” is the nom de plume of “a prominent Los Angelesattorney,” as the dust jacket of A LAWYER’S TALE tells us, and thehero of the novel, Harry Cain, aka the “Sunset Bomber,” isapparently Kincaid’s alterego. Although A LAWYER’S TALE is filled with the dropped names of real Hollywoodpersonalities—Michael Ovitz, Anne and Mel Brooks—inan effort, perhaps, to lend it an air of verisimilitude, the actionof the novel is as far removed from reality as the Sunset Bomber isfrom his creator. Although the life of a successful Hollywoodlawyer doubtless contains its quota of glamour and unreality, theadventures of Harry Cain are too outlandish to be believed.

But fantasy may be the very point. As with all Hollywoodproducts, the goal of A LAWYER’S TALE is clearly to entertain. Seen in that light, the lavish attention paid to food and wine andcars, and such cliches as Cain’s portrait on the cover of, not justTIME, but also NEWSWEEK, can be seen as delicious excess. The factthat no mere mortal could manage, as Cain does, several mistresses,his beloved wife’s mortal illness, and a constant swirl ofchallenging litigations is beside the point. He is, as one of hismultitude of grateful clients aptly puts it, “a stinking genius,”for whom jail is a banquet and death no real threat. Occasionally,he is allowed to exhibit a flaw, such as when his daughter pointsout his benighted attitude towards the homeless, but in the main heis both bulletproof and above reproach.

Given the current popularity of the legal-suspense genre, onemight be tempted to say that D. Kincaid has created a hero for ourtime. In fact, Harry Cain is a mythical creature, endowed with thekinds of supernatural attributes that have occupied the popularimagination for time immemorial.