Friday, March 15, 2013

The Defendants And The Defenders

THE DEFENDERS is the first of four tie-in novels based on the Emmy-award winning television drama THE DEFENDERS (natch). The CBS show starred E.G. Marshall (CREEPSHOW) and Robert Reed (THE BRADY BUNCH) as Lawrence and Ken Preston, father-and-son attorneys who defended clients and usually got involved with various social issues of the 1960s. For more on the TV series, see my earlier reviews of DEFENDERS novels.

This 1961 Gold Medal paperback is a little blah. Surprising, considering it was penned by the great Edward S. Aarons, author of the fantastic ASSIGNMENT spy novels starring Sam Durell. Aarons' book is the only DEFENDERS tie-in to be written before the series premiered, meaning he perhaps didn't know the show was going to be more than a standard crime drama about lawyers getting crooks off the hook.

The Prestons have two clients land in their laps on the same day. One is Jenny Scott, a friend of Ken's girlfriend who's on the hook for her husband's murder. Ken has a feeling she's being framed, even though a ton of circumstantial evidence puts her at the scene, and her husband's best friend claims to have received a phone call from the victim naming Jenny as his killer!

Meanwhile, Lawrence handles Eleanor Dunn, a rich, spoiled young woman who ran over a little boy while driving drunk. The boy, whose Fundamentalist parents refuse to allow doctors to operate, dies in the hospital, meaning a reckless homicide conviction for Eleanor unless the Prestons can create some fancy moves.

THE DEFENDERS is a fine read. Aarons has a handle on the characters, and you can certainly hear Marshall's and Reed's voices in the Prestons' dialogue. But the book, without the social commentary the series (and later books) was known for, is no more than a slight entertainment. Aarons' Sam Durell novels, on the other hand: fantastic.

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