Saturday, January 17, 2015

Worthy Brown's Daughter - Phillip Margolin

Phillip Margolin got the idea for this book in early 80's when he read an article about Colonel Ford from Missouri who owned black skinned Mr & Mrs Holmes and their children as slaves, and when they moved to Oregon, Ford told Holmes that if they helped him establish a farm they would be free. The farm established, but Ford kept several of Holmes's children as servants. Holmes found a white lawyer who would help them get their children back, but when they were returned in 1853, one had already died in Ford's custody.

Margolin also found, in his research, a memoir of Stephen J. Field; the only Supreme Court Justice to be arrested for murder while sitting on the bench.

There is also a reference from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, where a sinner is saved from the death row because someone else takes his place. Same principle as Christianity.

The story in this book was set in 1860, began with a court in a little town called Phoenix. We met a young, honest attorney named Matthew Penny and a dishonest attorney named Caleb Barbour. Barbour represented a wealthy businessman named Benjamin Gillette. Another client of Barbour was a beautiful, greedy woman named Sharon Hill. Although Matthew Penny lost his case in Phoenix, he left a good impression on Benjamin Gillette's heart. When all these people went to Portland for the next actions, Gillette invited Matthew Penny to his house, where Matthew fell in love with Gillette's daughter, Heather.

Caleb Barbour had a slave named Worthy Brown, whose daughter Roxanne could read. One day Roxanne saw an article in a newspaper that there was a new constitution on slavery. Worthy Brown asked Barbour about it, and Barbour promised if Brown worked for one more year he would free them. One year passed and Barbour let Worthy Brown go, but he kept Roxanne as a servant. Worthy Brown asked Matthew Penny to be his lawyer.

A character like Matthew Penny is hardly to find these days. A man with such a pure heart could only be found in 19th century novels. It seems that at those times, many people had concience. Book I read these days usually portrays flawed heroes who try to beat up their opponents at any cost. When Penny accidentally killed Barbour, all he could think was how to pay for that sin. His heart was breaking because he had to forget his happy future with Heather Gillette. Worst, Worthy Brown felt so grateful to him that Worthy was willing to admit the crime.

Another important character was a smart lawyer named Orville Mason, graduated from Harvard. A good friend to Matthew Penny and Heather Gillette, Orville Mason became Benjamin Gillette's attorney and in the end saved Heather Gillette from Sharon Hill's greed.

The book was thin, with very short chapters. Not many dialogues and I guess Mr Margolin focused on the plot. Basically this was a historical novel about the judicial system in Portland, Oregon, in 1860.

No comments: