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!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Goodbye Days
    Goodbye Days
    by Jeff Zentner
    Guilt can be a heavy burden for anyone to manage, but it's especially difficult for teenagers. ...
  • Book Jacket: The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
    The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
    by Hannah Tinti
    Hannah Tinti follows her spectacular 2008 debut, The Good Thief, with a novel of uncommon ...
  • Book Jacket: Music of the Ghosts
    Music of the Ghosts
    by Vaddey Ratner
    Music of the Ghosts is about healing and forgiveness, but it is also about identity and the revival ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

A funny and acutely perceptive debut about four siblings and the fate of their shared inheritance.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    No One Is Coming to Save Us
    by Stephanie Powell Watts

    One of Entertainment Weekly, Nylon and Elle's most anticipated books of 2017.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Stars Are Fire
    by Anita Shreve

    An exquisitely suspenseful novel about an extraordinary young woman tested by a catastrophic event.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people ...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y S M B, I'll S Y

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.

 
Modal popup -