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Brain Storm: A Novel Paperback – March 15, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It's 2002, and Joe Watson, who came straight out of Harvard Law to a job doing online research at one of St. Louis's top law firms, has never spent a day in court. Now he's been appointed to defend a sleazeball accused of killing a deaf African American, which violates not one but two tough new Federal hate-crime statutes. At their first prison meeting, this Client from Hell not only demands an extra blanket and two-ply toilet paper, but also that Watson get him permission to have a racist tattoo removed before it gets him killed. "There are a lot of Afro-Americans of color in here," he tells Watson. "I don't mean anything by that. Some of my best friends are friends of people who have talked to friends of Afro-Americans. You maybe saw on the news where a lot of men of colored end up in here because they are discriminated against or whatever..." Richard Dooling's combination legal/medical thriller and deadly satire of political correctness is a pure delight, as Watson has to juggle everything from a sexy scientist doing brain research who seems bent on destroying his marriage to a growing conviction that maybe the murder victim died just because he was a bad guy. Other examples of Dooling's artfully hilarious fiction available in paperback are Critical Care and White Man's Grave. --Dick Adler --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

When white supremacist James Whitlow shoots his wife's lover, a deaf African American sign language teacher, he finds himself a prime candidate for the application of new hate-crime statutes. But is he guilty of a hate crime? Enter his court-appointed lawyer, Joe Watson of Stern, Pale, the best law firm in St. Louis. A research wonk by avocation, an old schoolmate of Whitlow's by chance, young Watson resists pressure from colleagues and family to plea bargain: until all the facts come out, he means to stand by his client. Watson is such a nebbish, however, that it's hard to feel for him, especially since his triumphs occur offstage. He may write one hell of a brief, but as an action figure he often seems superfluous. Myrna Schweich, the tough-talking criminal lawyer he hooks up with, makes the good suggestions; curmudgeonly old Judge Stang explains the points of law; and even Rachel Palmquist, the sexy neuroscientist who wants to operate on Whitlow, gives Watson legal advice. Will he fall for Rachel's brainy charms? Since Watson can't imagine his wife (an unattractive walk-on character) as anything other than the ball and chain to whom he's pledged fidelity, it's difficult to care. Dooling, a lawyer whose White Man's Grave was a 1994 NBA finalist, has taken an intriguing law-school conundrum and grafted it onto a study of white-collar mores. The result is half bull session, half film noir. Yet the novel is saved by its extra-dry sense of satire (the Jamesian nameplay is only the start), faltering only when Dooling seems to ask that we take his characters with a straight face rather than as elements in a sharply drawn lampoon of a society drowning in legalisms. Film rights to Alan Pakula.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; First Edition edition (March 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312203993
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312203993
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,981,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on April 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
...Dooling has made a serious attempt to show how poorly the law reflects the workings of the human mind. Changes must be made and the changes must be based on firmer understanding.
A story of a struggling lawyer isn't unusual, although this one is tempered by a grasping wife and her Big Money father, a lush suburban house and a position with the city's leading law firm. The case itself seems simple. A vocal racist is accused of murdering a "African American" [the "scare quotes" are an essential facet of this book] - who happens to be deaf. There are heavy implications in this event, not the least of which is conviction for a provable "hate crime" invokes the death sentence. How is a young lawyer, with neither criminal law nor trial experience to cope with the enormity of this situation?
The legal issues are more than words in the statute books. Dooling's knowledge of science and technology introduces some fresh twists. The circumstances, convoluted enough, become even more intricate as Joe Watson becomes mired in trying to understand the new "hate" legislation permeating American law. How is "hate" defined? As he researches the case, he meets neuroscientist Rachel Palmquist [whose name becomes an essential factor in their relationship]. Palmquist tries to educate Watson on the latest findings in human cognition as part of her efforts to seduce him. Watson is better at cognition than seduction, as you will likely be as you follow her lectures on why we lack free will and what happens when electrodes are used to stir emotions. All this cognitive studies material is, of course, the basis for the book's title.
The issue in this story isn't attorney Watson's struggles with morality nor the respective merits of corporate or criminal law.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By jalber@alberleland.com on April 14, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Dooling showed his command of black comedy with his first novel, Critical Care. In his second book, White Man's Grave (a National Book Award finalist), Dooling turned his pen to a comparison between West African witch doctory and one of the the West's own institutions of magic and religion--bankruptcy law.
In Brain Storm, Dooling gives wonderful evidence that he has further sharpened both his comic skills and his already razor keen cultural commentary. He also adds a tight plot and more than a dollop of vivid sex that may tempt the undiscerning to accuse him of writing a market-driven book (which will also no doubt convert well to film--another curse to those same killjoys).
If that is so, then may all "market" books evince such romping comic gifts and insightful social commentary. Don't hold your breath, though. Dooling's prose is rare and fine, despite being cross-dressed in market attire.
In Brain Storm, Dooling puts the law, law firms, prosecutors and the judicial system squarely in his sights and then plugs them right where they deserve. Particularly appealing are his peeks into the workings of large law firms (of which he is a veteran) and the politics of prosecution. He also has some delightfully over-the-top characters, such as Judge Stang--a modern-day Roy Bean who would rather hang lawyers than criminals--and Myrna Schweich--a foul-mouthed, pint-sized criminal lawyer who can change from Urban Decay-accessorized grunge to pleated pinstripes in the back of a car on the way to the courthouse.
Dooling's filter for sorting out our society's take on the law is neurology, specifically the neurology of criminal conduct. His guide through this area is a centerfold-eligible Ph.D.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By wanton@stlnet.com on April 15, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Richard Dooling's new book "Brainstorm," is a roller coaster ride of a young attorney in an appointed case that he cannot win. The book delves into America's obsession with political correctness, finding someone to blame and our expectation that between government and science all of societies problems should be fixed without us lifting a finger.
Dooling's sardonic style and cynical wit come through again and again in all of his characters but ecpecially the Federal Court Judge who is presiding over the young lawyers case. Dooling's Judge dispenses wisdom, wit and occasionally justice in a manner that makes you smile as he makes the lawyers squirm. The authors unspoken commentary on our judicial system, though sometimes heavy handed is always amusing and his characterization of life in a large law firm will strike home with anyone who has ever dealt with the creatures that are the product of these firms creation.
Although I preferred "White Man's Grave," this book is a more than adequate follow up to that National Book Award nominee and I would suspect that this book could be one of this years sleepers. Do not miss it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 20, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Brainstorm reminds me of Bonfire of the Vanities in the way it is dealing with real issues with over the top characters.The book has terrific dialogue in the Elmore Leonard tradition and the defendent and the judge are two of the most enjoyable characters I've encountered in recent years.This is an enjoyable read that doesn't take itself too seriously and still deals with relevant issues.
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