Contempt by Michael Cordell

American novelist and screenwriter
Michael Cordell

Text courtesy of TCK Publishing.

There was a time when eBooks were thought to be the death of paper books, just like television once  was thought to be the death of movies. However, on both occasions  new ways of telling stories just slotted in alongside old ways of telling stories and all that happened was consumers were given more choice. Not such a bad outcome.

Back in 2019 Colm Toibin said, “I can’t do thrillers and I can’t do spy novels. I can’t do any genre-fiction books, really, none of them. I just get bored with the prose. I don’t find any rhythm in it. It’s blank, it’s nothing; it’s like watching TV.”

Yes, genre-fiction can be like watching TV, but writing ‘like watching TV’ is a skill in itself that some writers do well – and we’ve seen a surge of good dramatic TV writing over the last decade or more – and some writers do badly; Cordell does it well. He should know: he’s been teaching screenwriting for the past 15 years.

Thane Banning, a real estate lawyer, is on death row after being found guilty of a crime he didn’t commit. After five years he is released on a legal technicality, but soon finds himself defending a man, an innocent man, up on a murder charge, just like he was .. but the sweetness of the case, for Banning, is that the prosecutor is the same man, Bradford Stone, who put him behind bars. Win this and Banning gets to see Stone’s downfall.

It was a risk for Cordell to leave the backstory – the reason why Banning was on death row in the first place – so late in the set-up, almost a third of the way in. But there is a lot of the personal backstory to establish first, and its importance to the plot keeps the reader interested. Besides his old crime is intricately linked to the new on. No spoilers here.

Banning, a novice criminal lawyer, doesn’t start his new role well: everything, personal and professional, goes wrong and before the case really heats up Banning is heading for disaster. But his contempt for the legal system lets his determination and imagination fly. He decides to work by his own rules … hear the music thump and swell as Banning goes it alone.

This plotline is expected for such a genre piece, but Banning’s hurdles aren’t cliched ones, neither are his metaphors; standard fare for crime prose since Raymond Chandler was a pup.

We stay with Banning all the way, like an imp on his shoulder. However, unusually, even the imp gets left in the dark which gives the denouement, that little post climatic tie-up, a taste of exceptional unreality; but that’s a minor point.

This is a quick, easy, and entertaining read. What’s the ‘page-turner’ appellation for an ebook? A page-swiper? Yeah! Escapist fare.

You can find the link to the book here.

Here again is the link to TCK Publishing for more of the same.

And here is the author’s website.

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