Elsbeth Bothe

Influential books

July 13, 2008

Former defense lawyer and retired city Circuit Judge Elsbeth Bothe has had a fascination with macabre literature since her childhood. "These preoccupations were sparked early as I tossed out Nancy Drew's juvenile sleuthing stories in favor of the New Yorker magazine's marvelously scripted articles called Annals of Crime," said Bothe.

"In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote

This blockbuster account of the detection, trials and ultimate punishment of the two psychopaths who slaughtered an upright Kansas farming family was originally published in the New Yorker [as a] series. Although facts were meticulously followed and researched (some claim the writing was actually performed by Capote's fellow traveler, Harper Lee), Capote insisted on calling the work a "nonfiction novel" - thus artificially contriving a genre that has since become a sad excuse for sloppy writing.

"The Brothers Karamazov" by Fyodor

Dostoevsky

Having been a 1950s undergrad at the U. of Chicago, I can't resist including at least one of the titles listed among "the 100 great books of the Western world."

"Gideon's Trumpet" by Anthony Lewis

Civil libertarians look back with nostalgia upon the "good ole days," exemplified by this inspiring story behind the landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright, where a unanimous Supreme Court recognized the constitutional right of indigent criminal defendants to be represented by counsel. The book occupies a prominent place in my library. Though it won the American Mystery Writers' Edgar Award for the best fact crime book of that year, I would classify it as a mandatory text for students of the law.

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