Scott Turow’s first published novel, Presumed Innocent, spawned a very good film. It keeps the tension and much of the introspective character of the novel, and while the whodunnit reveal is perhaps less of a surprise than it is in the novel, where it comes at a remove from the courtroom events, it’s both gentler and more immediate. Harrison Ford stars as Rusty Sabich, Brian Dennehy as PA Raymond Horgan, and Raul Julia as urbane, opaque defense attorney Sandy Stern. Excellent. See if it you can, and note Ford’s unattractive haircut; Ford commented, in an interview I read before seeing the 1990 movie and which I cannot locate now, that he felt Rusty was a person who paid little attention to his own appearance.
(Amazon has it on DVD and as an instant video. I don’t get paid to say it, but Amazon is convenient for me in many ways and it’s my go-to online retailer. Of course it’s not the only source.)
Turow would go on to write seven more novels set in the world of Kindle County, with characters introduced in this novel, and the eighth book returns to focus on several of the central characters of this first book. Presumed Innocent is perhaps the best of the lot, narrowly edging the second book (The Burden of Proof, centering on Sandy Stern).
In this quote, Rusty’s sullen and barely-competent personal assistant, Eugenia, is testifying at Rusty’s trial about her knowledge of a possible relationship between Rusty and Carolyn Polhemus, the murdered PA, based on a phone conversation she overheard between the two. She is now working for Rusty’s replacement, and while she seems to be enjoying her former boss’ discomfiture, she still has to keep in mind that any admission of improper secretarial practice on her part (like eavesdropping on private conversations) could get her fired. She has just claimed on direct examination that the conversation between the accused and the victim sounded intimate; on cross-examination she retracts that and rephrases it as “nice-like.”
Stern comes and stands beside Eugenia. She weighs about two hundred pounds. She is broad–featured and surly, and even dressed in her finest, as she is today, she still does not look very good. Her dress is much too loud and is stretched tight over her bulk.
“You base your comment,” he asks, “on your experience in such things?”
Sandy is poker-faced, but a couple of the jurors get it. They look down as they smile. Eugenia certainly gets it. Killers’ eyes do not grow colder.
Killers’ eyes do not grow colder. Six words, and suddenly this overweight middle-aged woman gains the implacability of Dirty Harry. I can see her, and I quail a little bit. That’s genius, my friends.