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The Just and the Unjust 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0156465786
ISBN-10: 0156465787
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

A dramatic novel of lawyers, and the law, this is a brilliant account of a murder trial that dominates the life of a town for one exciting week.

About the Author

JAMES GOULD COZZENS won the Pulitzer Prize for Guard of Honor. His other novels include The Just and the Unjust, By Love Possessed, Men and Brethren, and Morning, Noon, and Night.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 444 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest Books; 1 edition (October 20, 1965)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156465787
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156465786
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #417,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. D. Pruett on March 22, 1998
Format: Paperback
I read this book first in 1957 as a course assignment. I found it on my mother's bookshelves and, knowing that she read principally for enjoyment, I wondered why the professor had assigned it. I found it on first reading a fascinating account of a trial and of small town life, and a welcome change from the dry texts we had been studying. Later, when I came to practice law in a small town myself, I realized that Cozzens has captured better than any author I ever have read the "taste" of real law practice. I have read it several times and recommend it to any literate person.
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Format: Paperback
This novels relates changes in the life of Abner Coates, the Assistant District Attorney in the small town of Childerstown, during one week in May 1939, as the Commonwealth (never named) tries two men for first-degree murder. While the trial occupies much of the novel, it does not overshadow it. Cozzens so adroitly relates the lives of a number of characters that more than just one week seems to elapse. The intricacies of the criminal trial, as well as the utter ordinariness of the trial, are wonderfully, and at times movingly, done. The novel succeeds as a narrative not only of a murder trial, but also as an (interestingly unromantic) love story, and as a picture of what life in a small town in the eastern U.S. was like during the first half of the twentieth century. Cozzens is very, very adept at depicting people at their jobs and knows how to show dramatically the way work expresses character. After Paul Horgan, James Gould Cozzens is perhaps the most underrated and overlooked American novelist of the 20th century. He is definitely worth reading, and this novel is a good place to start.
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Format: Paperback
This is the book that a trial lawyer (me) can give to his friends who want to know "what's it like?" In addition to capturing the terror and boredom of a trial, Cozzens evokes small town New England as well as anyone I've ever read. His flawed and believable characters wrestle realistically with moral and ethical dilemmas.
Cozzens also shines in "Guard of Honor" and "By Love Posessed." I don't know why he has fallen out of favor. His style may be too dense for modern, short attention spans. Their loss.
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Format: Paperback
No American novel portrays better what it is like to practice law. Even though many, if not most, of the details of practice have changed in the 60-odd years since this was written, the book still gives a wonderfully accurate sense of what it is like to be in trial, think through legal issues, and deal with other lawyers. (It is hard to believe--but nonetheless true--that the author was not a lawyer.) In addition, the depiction of a fairly ordinary murder trial is neatly interwoven with the story of how a somewhat arrogant young lawyer takes an important step or two toward maturity.
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Format: Paperback
This is a fine and thoughtful novel--good English,very important topic, very human maturing lawyer who learns that the noble citizens are too often unjust and that some of the "bad guys" often are seeking to be just. Some important passages will only be fully understood by lawyers. I had been told that Anatomy of a Murder (late 60's) was the first pre-Grisham book. It is a fine book and made a good movie. The Just and the Unjust (40's) is, I think, clearly better--the law, the lawyers, the reality, and the humanism of many lawyers. I hope Amazon can resurrect ths book, at least for some.

Herb Benington

Vienna VA

age 78 and growing
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Format: Paperback
Abner Coates is a 31-year-old assistant district attorney in 1939 Childerstown, and the reader perches on his shoulder as he and his boss, Marty Bunting, prosecute a case against two accused kidnappers and killers. From opening arguments to the verdict, the Commonwealth judicial processes are witnessed by us as Abner sits at the prosecutors table, examines witnesses, and confers with Marty. We also go with Ab to the attorney's room where he and colleagues banter and do some lawyering as needed.

Abner comes from a line of lawyers. His judge father, at home struggling to recover from a stroke, eagerly awaits Abner's lunchtime or suppertime reports from the historic old courthouse. Old Judge Coates also thinks Abner should get married, and fortunately, there's just the girl (and we go along on a couple of their dates), but Ab isn't sure he can afford to get hitched yet. He is wrestling with whether he should run for D. A. in the next election. Marty plans to move on to a more prestigious position, and he and the local party boss think Abner is their replacement. But young Coates has doubts. He worries the party boss will ask for political favors, and he also knows being the D.A. would place a lot more responsibility on him than he currently carries as A. D. A.

Other legal issues -- like a vehicular manslaughter case in which culpability is in doubt -- do take some of Abner's time. But mainly, he's in court trying to "burn" the two men who admit to participating in the kidnapping of another less-than-upstanding fellow, but claim they should not be held accountable for his murder because they personally were unarmed and thought they were taking him home when they all got in the car with the actual shooter.
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