Monday, January 09, 2012

Judgment Eve

EVE OF JUDGMENT is the fourth paperback adaptation of the acclaimed 1960s television series THE DEFENDERS. For more on the series, which starred E.G. Marshall and Robert Reed as father-and-son attorneys, read my post on the novel ALL THE SILENT VOICES.

Like VOICES, EVE OF JUDGMENT is based on an episode. "Judgment Eve" was written by the show's creator, the brilliant Reginald Rose, and directed by David Greene. Not having seen the episode, I don't know how closely novelist Roger Fuller adheres to the source material, but I suspect some padding was involved.

EVE opens with a trial already concluded and the jury off to consider. Lawrence and Kenneth Preston are defending Frank Thorpe, a construction magnate with shady ties to the criminal underworld, of murdering his business rival, who may or may not have been carrying on an affair with Thorpe's wife.

The book, however, is not about the case, but about the jury. Fuller is trying to give the readers an insider's view of what happens when a jury is sequestered overnight. What do they think about? How do they react to having an unexpected stay in a hotel with a total stranger in the next room? How does the possibility of sentencing a man to the electric chair affect them?

Fuller lets us meet all twelve jurors, leaving the Prestons as supporting characters in their own book. In 1963, when Pocket Books published EVE OF JUDGMENT, the workings of a jury may have been something of a mystery, but there isn't much here to surprise you. The jurors aren't terribly interesting, and you may find yourself wondering more about Thorpe's guilt or innocence.

The mystery is solved to the reader's satisfaction, you'll be happy to know. The book is okay, nothing spectacular, and certainly nothing as hard-hitting as the TV series.

As an aside, "Judgment Eve" may be of interest today for a very early guest-starring bit by Gene Hackman as the jury room's guard.

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