Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hippie Professor Faces Murder Rap

JUDD FOR THE DEFENSE was a very good but low-rated lawyer series that aired on ABC from 1967 to 1969. Carl Betz, formerly the doting husband and father on THE DONNA REED SHOW, played a flashier character in Clinton Judd, a flamboyant, high-priced Texas attorney who flew all over the country defending his clients in cases that either involved a lot of media coverage or a controversial issue or both.

Very likely based on F. Lee Bailey, Judd was no Perry Mason. He didn't win all his cases, and the show sometimes felt ripped from the headlines with episodes about race relations, abortion, draft dodging, migrant workers, and care of the mentally ill.

The TV show also spawned two tie-in paperback novels, both written by Lawrence Louis Goldman, a screenwriter with credits including two Roger Corman movies, the fine sci-fier KRONOS, and many television series, including JUDD FOR THE DEFENSE. Goldman's first JUDD novel is true to the series, sending Judd and his young associate Ben Caldwell (played on TV by Stephen Young) to Ben's alma mater of Commonwealth University to defend an elderly professor accused of murder.

Dr. Leland Michales (sic), an old liberal who had Ben in some philosophy classes during the younger man's college days, is conducting legal and university-sanctioned experiments with LSD, which include dosing volunteers and monitoring their actions. When the experiments begin to garner the school negative publicity, the administration demands that Michales quit his research and return the LSD. When he refuses, the school suspends him. But when a female student falls from the college's bell tower to her death while under the influence of acid, Michales is arrested on a murder charge.

While much of the dialogue sounds a little dated today--the way many books, movies, and TV shows from the 1960s do--it also sounds reel coming from the mouths of Commonwealth's college students. As in the series, Ben does most of the legwork, interviewing witnesses and tracking down leads, leaving the dramatic courtroom shenanigans to his mentor Judd. At 222 pages, Goldman has plenty of room to develop the characters and the mystery plot, and his experience working on the TV show lets him adapt the qualities that made it an Emmy- and Edgar-winning series to the page.

Even if you aren't familiar with JUDD FOR THE DEFENSE, Goldman's novel is still an absorbing mystery and highly recommended. Goldman's followup, THE SECRET LISTENERS, was also published by Paperback Library in 1968.

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