Like most people, I can always use an extra $7- or $8-million, which is why today I have decided to write a blockbuster legal thriller. Americans buy legal thrillers by the ton. I was in many airports over the past few months, and I got the impression that aviation authorities were making this announcement over the public-address system: "FEDERAL REGULATIONS PROHIBIT YOU FROM BOARDING A PLANE UNLESS YOU ARE CARRYING THE CLIENT BY JOHN GRISHAM." I mean, EVERYBODY had this book. ("This is the captain speaking. We'll be landing in Seattle instead of Detroit because I want to finish The Client.")
The ironic thing is that best-selling legal thrillers generally are written by lawyers, who are not famous for written communication. I cite as Exhibit A my own attorney, Joseph DiGiacinto, who is constantly providing me with shrewd, well-reasoned advice that I cannot understand because Joe has taken the legal precaution of translating it into Martian.
Consider his faxes. Usually, when people send you a fax, they send a cover page on top of it, which conveys the following information:
"Here's a fax for (your name)." But Joe's cover page features a statement approximately the length of the U.S. Constitution, worded so legally that I can't look directly at it without squinting. It says something like: "WARNING: The following document and all appurtenances thereto and therein are the sole and exclusionary property of the aforementioned (hereinafter "The Mortgagee') and may not be read, touched, spindled, fondled or rebroadcast without the expressively written consent of Major League Baseball, subject to severe legal penalties (hereinafter "The Blowtorch Noogie') this means YOU."
And that's just Joe's COVER PAGE. Nobody has ever dared to read one of his actual faxes, for fear of being immediately thrown into prison. This is typical of U.S. legal correspondence, the primary purpose of which is to scare everybody who comes into contact with it into immediately hiring a lawyer.
Nevertheless, some lawyers are hugely successful writers, and I intend to cash in on this. I am not, technically, a lawyer, but I did watch numerous episodes of Perry Mason, and on one occasion, when I got a traffic ticket, I represented myself in court, successfully pleading nolo contendere (Latin, meaning "May I pay by check?"). So I felt well-qualified to write the following blockbuster legal thriller and possible movie screenplay:
The woman walked into my office, and I instantly recognized her as Clarissa Fromage, charged with murdering her late husband, wealthy industrial polluter A. Cranston "Bud" Fromage, whose death was originally reported as a heart attack, but later ruled a homicide when sophisticated laboratory tests showed that his head had been cut off.
"So," she said, and I could tell by the way she spoke the word that it had quotation marks around it. "You're a young Southern lawyer resembling a John Grisham protagonist as much as possible without violating the copyright laws."
"That's right," I replied. "Perhaps we can have sex."
"Not in the first chapter," she said.
"Ohhhhhhh," she cried out. "OOOHMIGOD."
"I'm sorry," I said, "but that's my standard hourly fee."
The courtroom tension was so palpable that you could feel it.
"Detective Dungman," said the district attorney, "please tell the jury exactly what you found inside the defendant's purse on the night of the murder."
"Tic-Tacs," said Dungman.
"Was there anything else?"
"No, I can't think of .
. Wait a minute. Now that you mention it, there was something."
"What was it?"
"A chain saw."
A murmur ran through the courtroom and, before the bailiff could grab it, jumped up and bit Judge Webster M. Tuberhonker on the nose.
"That's going to hurt," I told my client.
With time running out on the case, we returned to my office for a scene involving full frontal nudity.
A hush fell over the courtroom, injuring six, as I approached the witness.
"Dr. Feldspar," I said. "You are an expert, are you not?"
"Yes," he answered.
"And you are familiar with the facts of this case, are you not?"
"And you are aware that, as a trained attorney, I can turn statements into questions by ending them with "are you not,' are you not?"
"And is it not possible that, by obtaining genetic material from fossils, scientists could clone NEW dinosaurs?"
"OBJECTION!" thundered the district attorney. "He's introducing the plot from the blockbuster science fiction thriller and motion picture Jurassic Park!"
The judge frowned at me over his spectacles. "In the movie," he said, "whom do you see playing the defendant in Chapter Four?"
"Sharon Stone," I answered.
"I'll allow it," he said.
"And so, ladies and gentlemen of the jury," I said, "only ONE PERSON could have committed this murder, and that person is"
The guilty party suddenly jumped up, causing the courtroom to nearly spit out its chewing gum.
"THAT'S RIGHT!" the guilty party shouted. "I DID IT, AND I'M GLAD!" It was Amy Fisher.