Witness

 

Altaff is a brilliant homicide attorney while his long nosed friend Shivashankar is an ace investigative journalist. Altaff’s defense in a murder trial seems like an impossible task, because the prosecution has built an air tight case against his client who is accused of raping and killing Rekha Pillai, a buxom and voluptuous movie starlet, pin-up calendar model, and a high priced call-girl.

As Altaff struggles in a courtroom against tutored witnesses, an unethical Public Prosecutor, and a biased judge, his friend Shivashankar is on an amateur detective tryst to search the victim’s diary which promises to exonerate the client. But then comes a surprise witness who produces a twist that turns the story upside down.

REVIEW BY NARAYAN RADHAKRISHNAN


Title:                             Witness 
Author:             L. Prakash
Publishers:                    Banana Publications, 2010
ISBN                           : 978-81-907320-1-7
Price                            : Rs. 169/-
Rating:                          : ***** (5 bolts)
                Perry Mason…the name sums it all. For a generation he was the epitome of the suave, brash, maverick fictional lawyer. Every law student used to dream of becoming a Perry Mason. And lawyer Erle Stanley Gardner churned out Perry Mason mysteries by the dozen. By the time Gardner died in 1972, America and the rest of the world were privy to 82 pulsating courtroom novels. The success of Perry Mason had prompted many an author to travel the same route. There were pastiches, some extraordinarily good, some astonishingly bad. Two particular lawyers were so impressed that they went one step ahead of Gardner and were instrumental in creating a new genre in thriller fiction, namely the legal thriller genre. I am speaking of John Grisham and Scott Turow. Today legal thrillers are the in-thing in popular fiction in United States and in Europe.
            Perry Mason also had his staunch devotes in India. The major examples being the lawyer Stewart Sangster series created by Parameswaran Nair of Kerala (featured in books like The Case of the Spookish Spouse, The Case of the Innocent Accomplice etc.) and Narayan Sanyal’s PK Basu Barrister series written in Bengali. However, both series died in the early Eighties.
            Of late many a lawyer-author in India was following the Grisham path of legal thriller writing. Adithya Sudarshan (A Nice Quite Holiday) and Armin Wandrewalla (The Turning) being the prime two examples. Traditional courtroom mysteries had taken a backseat. It’s at that juncture I got hold of Witness. And it’s after a long, long time I am reading a courtroom drama which is reminiscent of pure courtroom drams written by Gardner. Even the book size evokes memories of the Perry Mason Pocket Book series. The jacket image is reminiscent of Victorian era trials of England.
In a way, I felt that Witness is a homage and tribute to the Masters of the courtroom drama genre. The protagonist of this novel, Altaff, is the very personification of the brilliant, dedicated attorney whom we have seen in many a movie and novel. Witness has him involved in a murder trial wherein his client is accused of murdering a movie starlet. The lawyer has a mountain to climb, with an airtight case the prosecution has built, public pressure mounting and pressurizing the court to go for a guilty verdict, and a judge who seems biased towards the prosecution. The only saving grace Altaff has is the staunch support and help of his friend, ace investigative reporter Shivashankar. How the duo beats the odds; in a sort of a David- Goliath showdown forms the crux of the novel.
            Dr. Prakash’s books, though thrillers of the first order, were also heavy works. Most books cross 550 pages, and takes time to finish reading it. This is a very short novel – and under 200 pages it can easily be finished within a couple of hours. Altaff seems to be a series protagonist. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Perry Mason is going to be referred to in future as the “Altaff of America.” Watch this space.  And Dr. Prakash, if you are reading this when will I be able to read Death of a Lawyer, Scales of Justice and Not Guilty versus Innocent???

 

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