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Anatomy of a Murder Librarian's note An alternate cover edition can be found hereFirst published by St Martin's in 1958 Robert Traver's Anatomy of a Murder immediately became the number one bestseller in America and was subseuently turned into the successful and now classic Otto Preminger film It is not only the most popular courtroom drama in American fiction but one of the most popular novels of our timeA gripping tale of deceit murder and a sensational trial Anatomy of a Murder is unmatched in the authenticity of its settings events and characters This new edition should delight both loyal fans of the past and an entire new generation of readers


10 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Murder

  1. says:

    I can't believe I've never seen this book's movie; I love James Stewart But at least this way I had no idea what was going to happen next in the book; that was nice And funnily enough I still had the odd little perk of being able to hear Jimmy's voice in my head for a lot of the lines Oh and Lee Remick is perfect as Laura Manion I have a cough irresistible impulse to rent the movie Soon Actually the dvd might be in my mailbox now; I just can't get to it because of ALL THE SNOW This is a book that reuires the right mindset 21st century feminist prickliness has to be firmly suppressed; all the tv and movie images of young and zealous lawyers working flat out eighteen hours a day to get their clients acuitted have to be put aside The other images from popular media though the ones of lawyers seizing on any slender possibility that could remotely work in their favor? Those can stay Well no the second par of that's not fair; once it gets going everyone begins putting in those eighteen hour days and falling asleep at their desks It's only in the very beginning that the main character keeps sloping off to go fishing None of which is to say this isn't a terrifically fun book It had to be made into a movie; every page screams it It is so very late 50's from the dialogue pattering as easy and funny and sharp as a Gene Kelly – Donald O'Connor dance routine to Laura Manion's tight sweaters to the big old chrome and fins cars you just know everyone's driving And of course former DA Paul Biegler Jimmy Stewart well not in the book except in my head said it himself The case has everything Rape murder Even a little dog It's a fictionalized account of an actual trial written by Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D Voelker under the pen name Robert Traver Voelker based the novel on a 1952 murder case in which he was the defense attorney Wikipedia It looks so simple at the beginning When his wife Laura woke him up and to tell him she had been beaten and raped Army Lieutenant Frederick Manion picked up his loaded Luger went out and shot the man she said did it bartender Barney uill It's pretty straightforward; Laura has been and continues to be courageously open about the assault and her husband Manny uite matter of fact about the shooting The underlying idea is What husband worth his salt wouldn't kill the man who did that to his wife? Problem is while perfectly human and understandable it was still murder and Manny's been in jail ever since trial pending Former DA Paul Biegler is pulled away from his fishing to consider taking the case for the defense He needs a case; he's not the only defense attorney in his small Michigan town and the other one's flashier; his secretary Maida the perfect 50's secretary sassy and efficient both would like to be paid her salary thank you So he puts down his fishing rod and goes to the jail and finds it a tough call the Manions have no money And it seems like it could be a tough sell Laura is very frank too frank about Manny's jealousy and however much empathy there can be for a man going after someone who raped his wife within the strict letter of the law it simply was not justifiable homicide It was revenge Unless Biegler's got a few tricks up his sleeve and his old buddy Parnell has up both of his and between them – and some surprising items turned up as they look into the details of the case – they're ready to put up a fight to get the Lieutenant free I tend to doubt very many writers nowadays would uite have the gall to use phrases like Traver does A blouseful indeed And the handling of the rape and the discussion of it is interesting a blend of euphemism and clinical directness from everyone concerned with almost no emotion whatsoever The prosecution – trying to set the victim in as positive a light as possible – has no problem dismissing the rape as either irrelevant or imaginary whichever's convenient and to tarnish her reputation in any way possible; the defense is concerned that Laura's beauty might tell against them but otherwise is determined to stick her on the stand come what may Her own reactions are the only real weak point of the book perhaps excusable by the male first person point of view clueless I'd be curious to see a impersonal viewpoint of Laura's testimony if such a thing were possible because if she really did exhibit the level of sang froid that she seems to in the book she was a stunningly tough – or toughened – woman That being said – and being allowed to take off an invisible half star from the rating so on LibraryThing it's 45 – I enjoyed the hell out of this book The film version was directed and produced by Otto Preminger but – rape aside – I could easily see this as a Capra film The blurring of right and wrong – who's lying? And why? What exactly is the truth and should this man be allowed out of jail? – side by side with the sort of fervent idealism Jimmy Stewart should have had a patent on again whoever was at the helm it's the perfect 50's movie In a book Because Jimmy Stewart plays our hero in the movie there may be little doubt going in as to how the case will turn out – but it's not that simple It's a pitched battle this trial a bare knuckle no holds barred brawl in which just about anything goes as long as you word it right I've never seen or read a better revelation of the nuts and bolts of the US trial system – the mechanics of getting people to say – on and off the stand – what you as either the defense or the prosecutor need them to say without letting out details that tip things to the other side The head to head expert witnesses the careful manipulation of the witnesses and the jury the role of the judge and the use and formation of precedent – so that's what draws some people to the law It has to be exhilarating And it all comes down to a nail biter complete with a last minute curveball and an epilogue that will leave you blinking Characterization is vivid and colorful and so is the setting Dialogue is natural; supernatural actually in its wittiness and uickness this is the way I wish I could talk except less chauvinistic And the story is gripping It's terrific Side note I find this other comment from the Wikipedia entry for the movie nauseatingly unsettling The Lumberjack Tavern is still in existence today The murder scene body outline is still there although it is possibly a restoration and not the original outline There's a picture captioned where the body fell Seriously? And Barney actually died behind the bar at least in the book but that wouldn't be as much fun I guess


  2. says:

    A woman is raped at the gates of her neighborhood but her cries for help register too late By the time her husband one Lieutenant Frederic Manion of the US Army realizes what has transpired the rapist has fled for the safety of the local bara bar which he owns Undeterred the Lieutenant enters the bar calmly empties his Luger pistol into the man's chest and leaves to deliver himself into the hands of the closest deputy sheriff Paul Biegler is a former prosecuting attorney with congressional ambitions and a struggling practice While Biegler is a potent lawyer a bombastic rival in town attracts most of the criminal defense work A call from Manion seems like a dread godsend while a victory could establish and spread his reputation a defeat might make him a laughingstock The prosecuting attorney is a man who has already defeated Biegler once at the polls and who has an eye on the same congressional seat as Biegler This seems like a simple case a decorated war hero killed the man who raped his wife But it isn't enough that a jury might sympathize with Manion morally how can he be defended legally? The American Bar Association includes the dramatization of this book on their list of 25 Greatest Legal Movies and that list drew my attention to the book in the first place While I've been reading legal thrillers by John Grisham for the last fifteen years I'd never heard of this 1950s era novel Despite the dramatic start Anatomy isn't a 'thriller'; it strikes me as a mature novel The author was a practicing attorney and a judge and wrote the novel based on one of his own cases The judge's lifetime of of experience is on full display here talking with the reader through Biegler's conversations with Manion and others about the nature of law itself its uses its shortcomings Anatomy is thus a philosophical novel and I for one found the musing just as provocative as any nonfiction read The trial remains an interesting mystery throughout as there proves to be to the story than a hotel owner deciding to attack Mrs Manion Traver John D Voelker's pen name's best talent lies with dialogue The aforementioned philosophical conversations are fascinating of course but the on going banter between Biegler and his law partner never failed to delight In short Anatomy of a Murder is a richer legal novel than any I've read and I wish my library carried by the author I also intend on watching the movie but that's a given considering it stars James Stewart


  3. says:

    It was interesting and definitely edgy for 1958 but it was written in this pedantic good old boys kind of style that drive me mad If you like courtroom drama AND you don't mind a man's man type style and you're not too hung up on getting to the story uickly this will be a great book to read If any of those things annoy you stay away


  4. says:

    Thanks to a facebook friend for recommending I read this book for my read 50 books from 50states challenge This book takes place in MICHIGAN and I heard it is loosely based on real eventsWell I will say for a book written in the 1950's this was a topic I did not expect to be and then I found out it was a very popular book and made into a movieA crime of rape and murder that is brought to a sensational trial Most of the book is about the prep work for the trial and then the trial Hey courtroom drama has not changed much in all these yearsThis was a very satisfying read


  5. says:

    At #2 on the 1958 bestseller list is this story of a murder and trial set in a small town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan The legal thriller has become a staple in current fiction but was a fairly new genre in the 1950s Compulsion a 1957 bestseller by Meyer Levin was the beginning but Levin had a journalism background while Robert Traver had been a practicing lawyer and judge The writing is clunky and wordy but Traver goes uite extensively into all aspects of preparing a case selecting a jury and the differences between the approach of a prosecuting attorney versus a defense attorney He also manages to make what I consider a dry subject interesting The murderer confessed to his crime and turned himself in on the night of the murder so our hero former DA Paul Beigler plans his defense around a variation of the insanity plea The reader gets instructed along with the judge and jury on the workings of such a plea Because of some intriguing side stories about the murderer his wife and the victim; because a rape preceded the murder; because the setting is integral to the plot it was all in all a satisfying read I could see the surprise ending coming but the tension of the trial was good and taut An Otto Preminger movie from 1959 with James Stewart and Lee Remick features Duke Ellington as the piano player in the bar and includes some of his tunes Another piece of the puzzle regarding fiction in America falls into place for me


  6. says:

    In my opinion the 1958 fictionalized true crime story ANATOMY OF A MURDER is a good book that made a near great movie Note that the publisher even issued a later paperback edition with a movie poster reproduction as its cover Travers wrote this book meticulously but practically all the plot incident wound up in Otto Preminger's eually meticulous 1959 movie with its never before never again cast including Jimmy Stewart Arthur O'Connell Lee Remick Ben Gazarra and Eve Arden Unfortunately Travers also surely not the first attorney to do so intrudes extraneous opinion about off topics such as what would happen to his beloved Upper Peninsula if overrun by tourists I'm not sorry I read this book but count ANATOMY OF A MURDER on my small list of books that were made into better movies


  7. says:

    Many consider it the greatest legal thrillercourtroom drama of all time with strong dissent from fans of Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution This iconic thriller involves a suspenseful murder trial that could go either way I find it especially interesting because the story was inspired by an actual case handled by the author in his other life as a criminal defense lawyer I wonder if that was why John Voelker wrote under the pseudonym Robert Traver —James Grippando


  8. says:

    A classicI had heard of this novel most of my life and I finally decided to see what all the fuss was about back in its day I was fascinated by the approach it took to a murder knowing guilt at the outset then truly hoping that innocence by means of insanity would be proven We learn a lot about human nature especially our own by the time we reach the end Eually fascinating is to compare that time 50 years ago to today Maybe it's best I waited so long


  9. says:

    I randomly picked this up off my grandparent's bookshelf of leather bound Franklin books I have to say that not only did I thoroughly enjoy the well written story but I learned about our legal system than in both my high school and college civics classes combined This will absolutely be a re read


  10. says:

    This classic courtroom drama was made into a blockbuster movie in 1959 starring Jimmy Stewart as the main character defense attorney Paul Biegler The facts of the killing are well known from the beginning The defendant's wife Laura was raped by the local innkeeper and the defendant an army lieutenant took a gun went to the bar and shot the rapist dead He reported that he had done so and was taken into custody It becomes Biegler's duty to try to get him off The plot revolves primarily about the defense of temporary insanityI never practiced criminal law but as a retired FBI agent and attorney I am very familiar with the issues in the case I found the tactics and legal theories very well done as the author is a former prosecutor That part was fascinating to me although I'm not sure so much to the average reader The story is populated with some colorful characters a crusty old drunk of a defense lawyer helping Paul a couple of beautiful women including the rape victim a sassy secretary an unrepentant defendant a weaselly prosecutor a folksy sheriff and a comical deputyThe author writes with too much wordiness for my taste prolific in his descriptions almost to the point of purple prose A sterner editor would have made this a better book The author does not try to present a balanced perspective on the case He stacks the deck in favor of the defense It is clear from the beginning that we are supposed to root for the defendant to get off The judge and sheriff seem to bend over backwards to favor the defense too All the clever ploys of the defense worked and all those of the prosecutor backfired Nearly all the judge's ruling favored the defense That part was a bit hard to believe and rankled me both because of its unbelievability and because it's the kind of thing that makes people distrust the legal systemI enjoyed the drama of the story but in the end my biggest disappointment was the blurring of the lines between good and bad The good guys weren't as good as the reader might have hoped and the bad guys weren't nearly so bad as we are led to believe I found the ending both predictable and unrewarding but all in all the book is worth a read


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