Courtroom Drama: Background information when reading Defending Jacob

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Defending Jacob

A Novel

by William Landay

Defending Jacob by William Landay
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2012, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2013, 496 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Courtroom Drama

Print Review

The thrill of watching a trial unfold - the impassioned speeches, quick-witted lawyers, surprise witnesses, the piecing together of clues, not knowing if justice will prevail - it can all make for exciting, and in some cases legendary, storytelling. "Courtroom drama", a subgenre of "legal drama", is a term used to describe dramatic fiction in which legal litigation plays out with suspenseful and climactic courtroom scenes. In modern times, these scenes usually take place in what we recognize as legal courtrooms (hence the name), though in older texts the "courtrooms" might actually have looked like public forums or gatherings.

Though we often associate the genre with television (e.g. Perry Mason or Law and Order) or film (think of Jack Nicholson's "You can't handle the truth!" moment in A Few Good Men), courtroom drama is overwhelmingly popular in literature as well. [Indeed, it predates television and film by a couple thousand years; one of the first written works that we would now label as "courtroom drama" is The Eumenides, a Greek tragedy written by Aeschylus and performed in 458 BC. In it, Athena acted as judge, and Apollo, the defense attorney.]

scene from The Merchant of Venice

According to author Catherine C. Mambretti, "In the West, it was not until literacy became widespread (after the invention of the printing press in the mid-fifteenth century) that fictional trials can be found." From William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice in which Antonio and Shylock go to court over an unpaid debt, to Charles Dickens's Bleak House in which feuding family members argue over inheritance; from Franz Kafka's existentialist The Trial to Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men and Harper Lee's beloved classic To Kill a Mockingbird, courtroom drama has been delicious fodder for literary greats throughout the ages.

The popularity of courtroom dramas increased in the 20th century, perhaps because legal cases had more media coverage than ever before. The infamous Nuremberg Trials, in which WWII Allied forces took members of the Nazi party to court in 1945-1946, emphasized the idea that justice could be obtained via law and order rather than violence. The rise of television and film accentuated the drama in legal cases, making them all the more entertaining to literary and viewing audiences. For example, in the video below, Gregory Peck plays Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, directed by Robert Mulligan (1962).



Today, courtroom drama is often written by lawyers-turned-authors, such as Scott Turow, John Grisham, and William Landay, author of Defending Jacob.

This article was originally published in February 2012, and has been updated for the February 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hunger
    Hunger
    by Roxane Gay
    In this penetrating and fearless memoir, author Roxane Gay discusses her battle with body acceptance...
  • Book Jacket: The Black Witch
    The Black Witch
    by Laurie Forest
    In The Black Witch, Laurie Forest introduces her readers to an immersive fantasy world where ...
  • Book Jacket: See What I Have Done
    See What I Have Done
    by Sarah Schmidt
    Sarah Schmidt's historical fictionalization of the Lizzie Borden story is a tsunami. From the ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

Cruel Beautiful World examines the intricate, infinitesimal distance between seduction and love, loyalty and duty.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Young Jane Young
    by Gabrielle Zevin

    From the author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry comes a novel that will have everyone talking.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Hame

Hame by Annalena McAfee

A rich, sultry novel about a young American fleeing a crumbling marriage for a remote Scottish island.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A F Out O W

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.