Wednesday, June 17, 2015

B-Girls and South Beach Lawyers

Review: Bum Rap by Paul Levine

Even at the height of its popularity, I never got into Miami Vice. Crockett's and Tubbs' fashion for men, so popular at the time, left me cold. No, my sense of life in southern Florida came largely from the wonderful Richard Powell novel, Pioneer, Go Home! 

As I read Bum Rap, I kept hearing echoes of that earlier story. These were faint echoes, though; Levine's characters are fully realized as themselves. Perhaps it was the combination of folksy humor, gangsters, and legal battles that woke the memories!

Jake Lassiter is an ex-football lineman turned lawyer who features in a series of Levine's legal thrillers based in Miami. He gets called in to help rescue Steve Solomon from the bum rap of the title; Solomon has been arrested and jailed without bail for shooting a Russian Mafioso named Nikolai Gorev. Lassiter will need to work closely with Victoria Lord, Solomon's "law and life-partner", to get him freed.

If you're a fan of Paul Levine's work, you've also met Solomon and Lord already. They feature as adversaries in the courtroom and partners everywhere else, in the Solomon vs. Lord legal thrillers. Having Solomon behind barred doors, and Lord partnered with Lassiter, is a neat way to sweep their different legal techniques under the same blanket to see what transpires. Predictably, Lassiter falls for Lord, who is drawn but not lost to his charms. 

Add in a luscious Russian B-girl (the only other person who knows what truly happened in the locked room with Gorev and Solomon), and you have all the elements of a totally South Beach crime. Despite blackened eyes, bullet-creased sleeves, and a couple of dead Russians, the level of physical violence is surprisingly low. It's mostly mental violence that drives this story: no exploding cars, lots of exploding theories.

Unanimous. All nine justices. Cops need a warrant to search your cell phone.
“Surprising outcome, don’t you think?”
“Not at all. The justices don’t have bags of cocaine in the trunks of their cars, so the drug seizure cases usually go the government’s way. But every justice has a cell phone.”

A neat twist at the end and a couple of true-love stories to sweeten the deal make this novel a delight. The B-girls' seduction scenes don't hurt either!

I enjoyed the Lassiter, Solomon & Lord combo very muchso much, that I have now assigned myself the pleasant task of reading the previous novels in both series. And I love finding a new author to follow!

Liner Notes:

  • The Elvis Presley movie made in 1962 from Richard Powell's 1959 Pioneer, Go Home! was called Follow That Dream.
  • The 1963 Herman Raucher play Pioneer, Go Home! was written from Raucher's notes for his rejected screenplay for Follow That Dream. The studio rejected the screenplay because Raucher's dialog gave the Southern-gypsy Kimper family's conversations a Brooklyn Jewish flavor. He tells the story of writing the screenplay, and its rejection, in There Should Have Been Castles.
  • The paperback cover on Amazon for Herman Raucher's play Pioneer, Go Home! clearly illustrates the Richard Powell novel. It is the only one of the four books cited in this review that is not available for Kindle.