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The First Rumpole Omnibus Paperback – January 3, 1984

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

John Mortimer is a playwright, novelist, and former practicing barrister who has written many film scripts as well as stage, radio, and television plays, the Rumpole plays, for which he received the British Academy Writer of the Year Award, and the adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. He is the author of twelve collections of Rumpole stories and three acclaimed volumes of autobiography.

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Product Details

  • Series: Rumpole
  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Omnibus Ed edition (January 3, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014006768X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140067682
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.2 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #323,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Robert S. Clay Jr. on December 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
Horace Rumpole, the Old Bailey hack, shines in this collection of John Mortimer's stories. Rumpole is the master of acerbic wit and keen observation. Donned in a wig and robe, he thrusts and parries his way through the English criminal justice system, soldiering on for his mostly shady clients. One of Rumpole's rules is "never plead guilty." He also stands fast on the principle that hearing the truth from one's client can be dangerous. It usually puts the lawyer in an awkward position. Rumpole fortifies himself with an ample supply of little cigars, modestly priced claret, and an old copy of the "Oxford Book of English Verse," from which he quotes Wordsworth and others from memory. Amidst an hilarious ensemble of reappearing supporting characters, Rumpole goes forth daily to fight the good fight and also keep the legal fees and refreshers coming in to the Rumpole bank account. He fears only She Who Must Be Obeyed. His wife, Hilda, who rules their home in Froxbury Court with an iron hand. Written with humor, affection, and intelligence these stories are pure delight. The stories vary in length, but average 40-50 pages. Take Sherlock Holmes and P. G. Wodehouse, mix with Mortimer's background as a barrister, flavor with amusing vernacular and chatty first-person narrative, and you have good lite reading. Especially recommended for busy readers in the era of weighty tomes that populate popular fiction. ;-)
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By George R Dekle on August 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
"[I]t's crime which not only pays moderately well, but which is also by far the greatest fun."--Horace Rumpole.
The problem with most lawyer stories, even those written by lawyers, is that they bear little resemblance to reality. John Mortimer makes Horace Rumpole as real as any fictional lawyer can be, and in the process, Mortimer perfectly captures the joys and woes of trial practice, giving it all a good leavening of humor--something essential to a trial lawyer's retention of sanity.
Mortimer entertains and enlightens. Not only do you get satisfying mysteries told with just the right amount of humor, you also get insight into the foils and foibles of trial lawyers and judges. The book abounds with dead-on insights into the mechanics of trying cases. Any lawyer would benefit from reviewing Rumpole's maxims of trial practice. A few examples:
"As for me, I'm not sure that I like cast iron alibis. They're the sort that sink quickest, to the bottom of the sea."
"A bit of delay, I have found it an infallible rule, never does any harm to the defense."
"It's no help to the defense in an obscenity case to have anyone actually read the works in question."
Mortimer tries to include at least one lawyerly aphorism in each short story in the collection, and part of the joy I find in reading and re-reading the stories comes from searching for these little nuggets of wisdom.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A. Mitchell on September 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
John Mortimer's Rumpole is so satisfying that this is my second copy - I wore the covers off the first SET of the three omnibuses (or is it omnibusi?) I've read every Rumpole story in existence, as far as I know. While there are tiny inconsistencies in the names of characters and small subplot variations from story to story (that only a committed Rumpolean would notice), Rumpole remains a literary sustaining gulp of claret and a warm and fuzzy blanket on a cold foggy night. Long after the belly laughs passed and every crime and misdemeanor was committed to memory, I've still enjoyed the comfortable reek of Rumpole's small cigars and the warm memory of Leo McKern in the title role of "Rumpole of the Bailey."
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jerol Harrington on August 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
I have read all three Rumpole Omnibuses several times. I ordered an additional set for my mother, a former probate judge. What I find remarkable about John Mortimer's work, is that Rumpole is as engaging at the end of the series as at the beginning. I have also enjoyed Mortimer's three autobiographical books. I read and reread these stories, not as mysteries, but as a series of one act plays, where the dramas are spun out of the interaction of stock characters in the style of commedia dell'arte. Rumpole himself plays the part of the buffoon as barrister: fat, vain, self-centered, addicted to greasy food and cheap wine; but also extremely intelligent, perceptive, and compassionate. As I read more of the stories, Rumpole became less of a stock character and more of actual human being. Unlike Perry Mason, Rumpole does not necessarily win all of his cases. When Rumpole loses, we get to see him go down to cells beneath the Old Bailey, with all of the sounds and smells of prison life, to say goodbye to his former client. The stories are often very funny, but occasionally poignant and even sad.

Finally, John Mortimer is one of the masters of modern English prose. Just read a few paragraphs of any airplane novel (preferably one that has "Code" in the title), and then read a few paragraphs of any Rumpole story, and you will see what I mean. And nobody, including Raymond Chandler, does dialog better than John Mortimer.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Douglas S. Wood on July 28, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Horace Rumpole presents himself as just an Old Bailey hack doing run-of-the-mill burglary defenses and the odd car-heist case. In reality he defends the best in the Anglo-American legal traditions against modern forces (for example, the presumption of innocence) - and this was written 20+ years ago!

Rumpole is the lovable defender of the average man and foe to all stick-in-the-muds. His motto "Never plead guilty." It could just as well be comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Hilarious, warm, human, touching, self-effacing and ever-ready to pierce the pompous gasbag - that's Rumpole of the Bailey. Start with the First Rumpole Omnibus and work your way through the rest.

Guaranteed to tickle your funny bone and warm your heart.
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