About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Billy Strobe and Movies Involving the Law

John Martel
In Billy Strobe, which I reviewed earlier this week, the hero refers to and draws lessons from movies that involve the law. While growing up in Enid, Oklahoma Billy had constantly watched movies featuring legal themes with his father. He says he learned a lot about the law from watching those movies. 

Early in the book he quotes Paul Scofield, portraying Sir Thomas More, in a Man for All Seasons:

            I’d give even the devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s

He says his father liked what Dana Andrews wrote in The Oxbow Incident before being lynched:

            Law is the very conscience of humanity.

Beyond his father Billy’s heroes were lawyers such as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird and Henry Fonda in Twelve Angry Men.

A pretty girl reminds him of Betty Bedelia in Presumed Innocent.

While functioning as a jailhouse lawyer, when he is an inmate at Soledad, he has difficulties with an inmate client:

I was having more trouble with this guy than Jimmy Stewart did with his clients in Anatomy of a Murder.

On whether his inmate client was framed for murder he again thinks of Bonnie Bedelia in Presumed Innocent claiming she pulled off a better frame-up with “a cocktail glass and Harrison Ford’s semen”.

Billy goes as far back as the movie, Fury, from 1936 where Spencer Tracy orchestrated a frame with a “burnt ring”.

The Verdict was his father’s favourite movie. Billy asked his father if Paul Newman’s actions in the movie by breaking the law and breaching professional ethics were acceptable:

“When you take up the fight against Satan, son” he said, “whether its big firms like James Mason’s or prosecutors for the state of Oklahoma, you’ll have to battle ‘em tooth and nail and fight fire with fire. The Lord only helps those who help themselves.”

His love of law on the screen is limited to movies. When, after being released and joining a prestigious San Francisco law firm, a lawyer talks to Bill about coping with “Ally McBeal wannabes and refugees from L.A. Law reruns. Billy says he “is not familiar with those shows”.

When Billy starts earning good money and being able to buy a car and some new suits he feels like “Tom Cruise at the beginning of The Firm”.

When he is dumped on by an antagonistic partner he says Andrew Beckett, the lawyer with AIDS, in Philadelphia was treated by better by his firm.

Struggling at trial with little knowledge of procedure on how to question a witness about a document he recalls Glenn Ford in Trial and asks permission to approach the witness.

After he pushes too hard to get a specific answer from a witness he stops himself from going further by remembering how George C. Scott in Anatomy of a Murder lost the case by asking one question too many that he did not know the answer to on cross-examination.

The many references to the movies were a clever way to give Billy legal knowledge and added a nice touch to his character. He also liked country music. In Billy, Martel created an interesting and well rounded personality.


  1. I enjoyed that Bill - a nice addition to your original review, and I love a list, so one involving books and films is even better....

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I can remember loving the first big Book of Lists.

  2. Bill - I like it when an author adds an interesting aspect like that to a character. It gives the character more depth and interest. And I do like those film references. Interesting that it's not the same for him with TV shows.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I could not come up with such a list of movies. I know alot more T.V. lawyers. Sharon loves Suits.

  3. Very interesting use of movie references in a book. Even more reason to give it a try.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I am sure you would be familiar with all the movie references. Now the country music references in the book might be more challenging.

    2. Maybe, but you know I heard a lot of country music in the south, and still have some favorites country artists (mostly older): Willy Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams. Now if they are more recent country singers, or songs, I probably would not get the references.

    3. TracyK: Not to worry the music of Billy Strobe is the music you grew up with in the South.

  4. The Verdict is a great movie. Philadelphia is excellent. There are many movies that deal with the law, lawyers and interesting cases.

    I was brought up watching movies and reading legal mysteries, and whatever TV shows dealtt with these themes. Perry Mason was the first on TV. Then the excellent show The Defenders.

    This is because my father liked legal dramas and books. Actually, he took us to see A Man for All Seasons on Broadway. I think I was too young to understand the dilemmas and issues.

    A great genre. Twleve Angry Men is a classic, too. Anatomy of a Murder is good. Witness for the Prosecution is an old classic, a good one.

    1. Kathy D.: Thank you for all your memorable experiences with the movies, T.V. series and play mentioned. You had a youth rich in cultural experiences. I think A Man for All Seasons would be excellent on the stage. Delving into ideas is often done best on the focused setting of a stage.

  5. Bill, I have seen many of the movies you mention and I almost watched "Twelve Angry Men" the other day. I liked "Philadelphia" and "The Firm" (and "The Client," too). Some day I intend to see "To Kill a Mockingbird" again. I'm sure I'll discover new elements that I missed the first time I saw it many years ago.

    1. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. You watch far more movies than myself. It was intriguing how Strobe recalled the movies to further his legal education.

  6. My parents steeped us in culture, lots of reading, not much television. We had limits on TV for a few years, which encouraged our reading. Books were everywhere; regular trips to the library were made like clockwork.

    But my father believed in taking us to one play, one concert, one opera and maybe one ballet a year. He was very methodical about this. My mother took us to museums, and she read about music, art, Indigenous cultures and anthropology.

    Our home was filled with music, mostly classical, my mother's favorite, but also other genres. And we had nice artwork and art books all around.

    And our dinner table was always abuzz with news of the day, politics, wit. Yes, humor was encouraged, too.

    I was surprised as I grew up and encountered classmates that everyone did not grow up with this rich an environment, which is a shame. I appreciate now some things I didn't appreciate as a teenager. The Internet also helps round out the edges.

    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. I can better understand your knowledge in depth of many topics. Your family made sure you had a well rounded education. You must be very proud of your parents.

      I was 6 years old before our family bought a T.V set.

  7. I was 7 before we had a television.

    My parents did make sure we had a well-rounded education, and even when classmates were reading trashy books, I always chose good ones. Tried one bad book, which my father tried to dissuade me from reading, but being 15, I had to read it. I did so, and agreed that it was not worth reading, and never did that again.

    But my own life has been rich with books, news, discussions with friends who keep up with news and politics. And music has always been around. My sibling is a fabulous classical singer. And art is appreciated and surrounds my apartment.

    Love of and respect for books was a large part of my history. If I see friends putting books on the floor, it's sacrilege.

    My parents were also active in the Civil Rights Movement and took us to hear Dr. King in Washington, D.C. in 1963. And there's lots more to that story, all good.

    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for the interesting information on yourself and your family. The Saskatchewan regional library system came to our part of the province when I was 7 years old. I always had access to books but never in the variety of a big city library. I can remember my excitement each Christmas as I knew I would get 1-2 books as presents.

      I look forward to hearing more about your family's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement when you find a suitable post for a comment.