Law on the box; Guest Post by Kate Helm
Today is my stop on the The Secrets You Hide blog tour and I’m here today with a guest post by the author: Kate Harrison
About the Book
A knock-out read for fans of Clare Mackintosh, Anatomy of a Scandal and Apple Tree Yard.
Georgia Sage has a gift: she can see evil in people. As a courtroom artist she uses her skills to help condemn those who commit terrible crimes. After all, her own brutal past means she knows innocence is even rarer than justice.
But when she is drawn back into the trial that defined her career, a case of twisted family betrayal, she realises her own reckless pursuit of justice may have helped the guilty go free.
As Georgia gets closer to the truth behind the Slater family, something happens that threatens not only her career – but even her own sanity. At first, she fears her guilt around the events of her terrible childhood is finally coming back to haunt her.
The truth turns out to be even more terrifying . . .
Law on the box – why there’s nothing as satisfying as a court room drama
It was the best thing about being off sick from school. The moment in the afternoon when my mum and I would snuggle on the sofa to judge murder, rape or another serious criminal case. We were the jury – never mind that I was 10 years old and some of the evidence wasn’t fit for my tender ears.
But that was the beauty of Crown Court on ITV: it could be raw, contradictory and dramatic. And for me, it started a lifelong fascination with justice that led to me becoming a reporter and now a thriller writer. So here are my top 5 legal books and dramas – what’s your verdict?
This Granada series was a pioneering daytime show where a fictional case would be presented to a jury made up of members of the public – before asking them to give their verdict.
It was fascinating and compelling, because the writers were instructed to keep the evidence as neutral as possible – often the actors playing the defendants didn’t know if they were guilty or not until they read the epilogue after the ‘trial’ ended. Crown Court, with its imperious opening music, also featured actors who would go on to be household names, including Ben Kingsley, Juliet Stevenson and Brenda Fricker.
There were 300 cases in all between 1972 and 1985– the list on Wikipedia makes for fascinating and unsettling reading (some of the titles would not be acceptable now!). They addressed a range of really meaty subjects, from sexual assault to racist violence.
The only trouble was – in the days before video recorders – if you were off sick from school for the first and second episode, you had to put a lot of work into convincing your mum you were ill enough to stay off to see the verdict in the third episode…
Rumpole of the Bailey
This was another family treat, though it was on in the evening so there was no need to sniffle your way into watching it. Featuring the eccentric rebel, Horace Rumpole, this drama had plenty of comedy too. Even though Rumpole couldn’t have been more different to me – I was a schoolgirl, he was a grumpy old barrister – he was an irresistible hero. For a couple of years, I desperately wanted to become a ‘lady’ barrister like Phyllida Trant (Patricia Hodge) and I loathed the smug judges Rumpole outsmarted. John Mortimer’s books about his creation actually followed the TV series, and it’s impossible to read them without picturing Leo McKern, an Australian actor who made this very English barrister come to life.
Silk (and North Square)
Coming bang up to date, Silk on BBC1 was a must-see for me, with another super-bright and passionate advocate, Martha Costello, taking the lead. The drama revolves around the cases and the personal lives of those in the chambers.
I really enjoyed it, but some aspects of the story felt spookily familiar and after a bit of research, I discovered that the Channel 4 series North Square, set in a Leeds chambers, was written by the same person, Peter Moffatt, and even featured many of the same actors, including Penry-Jones and the brilliant Phil Davis.
We got North Square on DVD and it was as good as I remembered. The similarities were quite obvious but I’d say North Square wins for me as it’s more biting in its tone and also features the brilliant Helen McCrory.
The Good Wife
The title of this put me off for YEARS but once I tried one episode on Netflix, I was hooked. It’s the opposite of Crown Court – there’s sex and glamour and money. The US system is very different – many of the things we associate with all courts – like the banging of a gavel – actually come from the US. And the financial side is so different too. But the central characters – shamed politician’s wife Alicia Florrick and former flame Will Gardner – work on some thrilling cases and have a real chemistry. It’s brilliant box-set escapism.
The Secret Barrister: stories of the law and how it’s broken
And finally, something that’s as far from escapism as you can get. The Secret Barrister is bang up to date and very realistic. It’s not a TV drama, but a non-fiction book. I listened to it as an audiobook, shocked and angry about many of the revelations about the English justice system. It originates from a blog by an anonymous lawyer, and the book explores what works and what doesn’t. It’s utterly compelling and you will see the entire legal process in a different way after reading or listening. Maybe now is time for a contemporary Crown Court to show us all what’s being done in our name…
The Secrets You Hide is published as an e-book on October 4 and paperback on February 7. Join Kate’s free book club for exclusive previews and competitions to win signed books by your favourite thriller authors, via Kate’s website www.kate-harrison.com or follow her on Twitter @katewritesbooks