June 13, 2017
Davy Jessie seems to have everything going for him. He’s a young personal injury lawyer working at a top Houston law firm. He has won a few cases on his own and has had the opportunity to work closely with the firm’s flashy senior partner – Tim Sullivan.
Sullivan is a brilliant lawyer. His undeniable gift for delivering an elegant turn of phrase, coupled with his bon vivant lifestyle, make him the center of attention wherever he goes. He’s a man of the world who travels through life with near-mystifying facility. His charisma, command, and poise make him a role model for everything that an aspiring attorney should want in life – at least in the impressionable young minds of the junior associates who are all too willing to overlook his glaring flaws. Is Davy Jessie also about to fall under his hypnotic spell?
As Jessie’s orbit draws nearer to Sullivan’s shining star, the inalterable forces of tragedy are set in motion. The two men will ultimately be set at odds while Jessie’s family, career, and life careen into a downward spiral.
A Minor Fall is a frightening, sometimes humorous, account of the emotional and moral paralysis that beset this well-intentioned young man when he is called upon to account for his actions and make a difficult decision. As the story unfolds, the book also contemplates such existential matters as the nature of law, the existence of God, and the virtues of single malt scotch.
Excerpt from A MINOR FALL (SelectBooks; June 13, 2017; $24.95) by Price Ainsworth. Courtesy of SelectBooks, Inc.
Tim Sullivan was an almost distinguished looking, grey-headed man of sixty who always wore a coat and colorful tie, unless he was on the golf course. He had broad Irish hands that permitted him to lift a ball out of a deep rough, a ruddy complexion, and a thick waistline that was testament to the fact that he had enjoyed a professional lifetime of too many veal chops and excessive alcohol. While his suits were the expected $600-per-hour lawyer attire (navy or grey, chalk stripes in both, and brown gun check or grey Glen plaid on Fridays), his shirts and ties and suspenders were always outlandish combinations that would appear cartoon-like or foppish (or both) on others, but on him came across as an outgrowth of this flamboyant, winning personality. He was charming without effort, and usually smiling as if he had just heard a joke to which the rest of us were not privy. He could quote the Persian philosopher Omar Khayyám’s The Rubáiyát at length. He never settles a case at mediation without exclaiming:
Some of the Glories of This World; and some
Sigh for the Prophet’s Paradise to come;
Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit go,
Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum!
He could drink and not get drunk. He wore wire-rimmed glassed that he was always losing because he took them off or set them on his head to read. He could make conversation with anybody about anything, and he had the largest working vocabulary of anybody I had ever met.
I will never forget the trip to New York to take deposition where we spent the evenings at the King Cole Bar in the St. Regis Hotel with Sullivan conversing with a parade of humanity that sat down next to him at the bar in sequential fashion. Sullivan loved the art nouveau mural by Maxfield Parrish, and it seemed to me that Sullivan’s role at the bar was not too different from King Cole’s in the painting – listening to the petitioners who came to him for advice. It did not matter who they were, men or women, executives or debutantes. In a few minutes, they knew each other and they told him very personal information. Sitting there quietly observing on my barstool; I almost came to the conclusion that each of the interviewed patrons had come there with the hope of meeting Sullivan and telling him something that they had been needing to tell someone.
During a short lull between bar patrons, Sullivan leaned over to me and whispered, “Human beings have a need to talk to someone. They want to know that somebody else agrees with them and is on their side. All those hours you spent in ‘Trial Advocacy’ class in law school…did anybody ever tell you where the word ‘advocacy’ came from? I’m no Latin scholar, but don’t you imagine it has something to do with ‘adding a voice?’ You can learn as much about ‘advocating’ sitting right here at this bar as you can in all the damn trial advocacy classes combined. You have to be able to talk to people to be able to advocate for them. Conversation can be man-to-man or woman-to-woman, but if it happens they are both practicing heterosexuals, then there’s an extra spark. Watch,” he said as a particularly pretty woman with an expensive haircut sat down next to him and put her small beaded purse on the bar.
He ordered her a glass of wine and tossed off a new trusty lines from Khyyaám:
You know, my friends, with what a brave Carouse
I made a Second Marriage in my house;
Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed
And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse
In a few minutes, the woman began telling Sullivan about how messy her recent divorce had been and how nasty her custody fight was going to be.
He could do the same thing when picking a jury.
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