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Tag Archive: Charles Dickens

Feb 17

The Top 25 Law Novels Ever Written – How many have you read?

Have you read any of the top 25 greatest law novels ever written? Sure you have, but you may not know it or consider some of these novels as ‘law novels’. I know I didn’t.

After reading a magazine story about the supposedly greatest law novels ever written, I immediately began to wonder ‘who says they are the best’. Who decided, what are the criteria, and why was “In Cold Blood” not on the list?

You may have guessed by now that, yes indeed, lawyers decided. I don’t mean that with any malice you understand, because of course, lawyers might view ‘law novels’ with a more critical legal eye than you or me. However, literature, English, and journalism majors might disagree with their choices. Some of the classics they chose surprised me, yet I can understand why they were chosen.

The ABA Journal published its list of the top 25 law novels of all time last year (August, 2013). They convened a panel of experts, well-read lawyers and scholars, (names listed on their website) and asked for nominations. Next, they complied a ballot of 100 novels with storylines that revolved around lawyers or legal cases. The panel then selected the list of 25, which turned out to be 26 in the end (two books tied for the Number 25 spot).

They describe their final choices this way: “These are stories that have endured for years or decades, or even generations. Many of them are familiar; some of them, less so. Among them are stories of life and death, courage and betrayal, loyalty and honor, revenge and redemption—in other words, human existence.”

• “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote was not included in the ‘best ever’ list because: “In Cold Blood was a seminal contribution to the true-crime genre, but it wasn’t a novel. It was written with all the narrative conventions of a work of fiction…but was too deeply identified as journalism to be considered for our list.”

• Three authors have two works on the list.

• My score: 12 out of 26. What’s yours?

25. A Tie.
Old Filth by Jane Gardam (2004)
The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark (1940)

24. The Fountainhead by Ann Rand (1943)

23. Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver (1958)

22. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)

21. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (1844)

20. The Firm by John Grisham (1991)

19. QBVII by Leon Uris (1970)

18. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston (1937)

17. The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk (1951)

16. A Time to Kill by John Grisham (1989)

15. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)

14. The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942)

13. Native Son by Richard Wright (1940)

12. Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street by Herman Melville (1853)

11. The Paper Chase by John Jay Osborn Jr. (1971)

10. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser (1925)

9. The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe (1987)

8. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)

7. Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow (1987)

6. Billy Budd by Herman Melville (1924)

5. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862)

4. The Trial by Franz Kafka (1925)

3. Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1852)

2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)

Apr 15

A magic spring moment—finding wild mushrooms

“Not to presume to dictate but, but broiled fowl and mushrooms—capital thing!”—Charles Dickens

Waiting for mushroom hunting season to arrive is one of the things I look forward to every spring. I call it the “eureka, magical moment”.

Not only is mushroom hunting a pleasant outing in the woods hiking among the newly sprouted wildflowers, but it is also a chance to find something absolutely delicious.

A rare delicacy indeed.

In fact, in my humble opinion, nothing beats wild mushrooms sauteed in a hot skillet in melted butter. That is the way my grandmother and mother used to make them, nothing fancy, just mushrooms. Yum.

So every spring, some time between the second week of April and the middle of May, we kids would trek into the woods with our mother, grandmother, aunt, uncle and cousins searching for mushrooms.

The rules were simple: know your mushrooms and don’t eat them until you are absolutely certain they are safe. Better let Uncle Kenneth or cousin K.R. check them first, we were told.

You may remember the old adage: all mushrooms are edible—once.

Granted a few are deadly and some are mildly poisonous, but one example of an edible mushroom common to Missouri woodlands is the Morel. And, I might add, we found them by the ‘gunny sack’ full.

I also remember some do’s and don’ts about eating wild mushrooms, whose nickname incidentally, is Hen of the Woods:

• The first time you eat any mushroom that you absolutely cannot identify, try a tiny bite first. And never, ever drink ‘liquor’ with it, if you don’t know the mushroom. Sometimes those two don’t get along well together.

• Cut mushrooms in half, soak in warm water so the ants and other insects can crawl out. Yes, it’s true. Wild mushrooms have a co-habitant, ants, since mushrooms are actually the fruit of fungi, which ants just happen to love.

• After soaking, it is safe to cook the mushrooms in butter or cream sauce, as we did when I was a kid, or cook them on the grill with vegetables as we do today. Or, make a Hen of the Woods salad with tomatoes, onions and bacon and all sorts of other ingredients that I can’t remember.

When I was a kid, we lived near Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in northwest Missouri, a boon location for would-be or experienced mushroom hunters. If we couldn’t find mushrooms in our own woods, we could venture onto the refuge where we were sure to find them.

Here’s a tip: mushroom hunting is allowed at Squaw Creek, this year from April 10th until May 20th, and no legal permit is required. It’s a short day trip from Kansas City, especially if one cannot find mushrooms closer to home.

Any trained mushroom hunter will know exactly which variety is safe, but if you are unsure and want to try your hand at mushroom hunting, I recommend this guide: Barbara Bassett’s “Edible and Poisonous Mushrooms.”

Then, it is happy mushroom eating time!

Hope you find a gunny sack full.