Thursday, November 7, 2019

Book Review: 'My Cousin Vinny' by Lawrence Kelter

Popular New York author Lawrence Kelter has published over twelve mystery thrillers that always manage to find their way to the top of readers’ favorites. Though we all know Lawrence’s polished writing of crime dramas, in his book - BACK TO BROOKLYN - he entered a sphere every fine author envies: the ability to marry suspense, courtroom drama and satire! Now with MY COUSIN VINNY he continues that degree of superb writing, in the same vein, yes, but even more hilarious and spoof-ridden.

In his Foreword to his first VINNY book Lawrence explained his concept for electing to write about this particular couple. ‘In the world of satire it is so incredibly rare that voices are created with such endearing charm and personality that they resonate with us still, decades later. Yet Dale Launer has done just that with the film “My Cousin Vinny”. The film was released on March 13, 1992 and has become an iconic comedy classic, a tale about two wrongly accused young men who are defended in an Alabama murder trial by Vincent Gambini, an inexperienced, wildly inappropriate lawyer unaccustomed to southern rules and manners. Mention the film by name or parrot any of the classic lines and you’ll find that practically everyone within earshot is immediately on the same page, going tit for tat with smiles plastered on their faces. “Am I sure? I’m pos-i-tive.” It’s rated the #2 all-time greatest legal thriller by IMDB, the Internet Movie Data Base, second only to John Grisham’s masterpiece A Time To Kill. To this day, the film is still used by professors in law schools as reference material in the instruction of courtroom procedure. Today, fans of the comedy are still tickled by the film’s wry sense of humor and sight gags. Personally speaking, I still get sucked in every time the film pops up on TV, and laugh just as hard as I did the first time I saw it. It just never gets old. Dale and I foresee a bright future for our sidesplitting couple, with Lisa investigating and Vinny litigating, much like Dashiell Hammett’s Nick and Nora Charles. I hope that you share my appreciation for this unique comedy. I look forward to continuing its legacy.

And again Lawrence offers a summary of his plot in the well scripted synopsis: ‘There have been many courtroom dramas that glorified the great American legal system. This is not one of them. My Cousin Vinny has been voted the most re-watchable movie of all time. It’s a story about two wrongly accused young men and the wildly inappropriate attorney who must defend them in an Alabama murder trial. Bill Gambini and Stanley Rothstein, two friends from Brooklyn, are on their way cross-country to UCLA. Taking a southern route through Alabama, they stop at a local convenience store. No sooner do they leave when they are arrested, presumably for inadvertently shoplifting a can of tuna. The two unfortunate youths wind up facing trial for the murder of a store clerk and face a possible death sentence. They have no money for an attorney. The good news is that Bill has a lawyer in his family, his Cousin Vinny. The bad news is that Vinny is an inexperienced attorney who has never been to trial. Aided by his savvy, firebrand fiancĂ©e, Mona Lisa Vito, Vinny must prevail over some very tough opposition in order to prove his clients’ innocence. He must overcome the testimony of three eyewitnesses, a bulldog sheriff, an FBI forensics expert, a very competent district attorney, and an uncompromising judge who’s just aching to prove Vinny a fraud.’

Exceptional attention to detail – much like a painter or sculptor creating art – Kelter makes this ‘sequel’ as lively and solid as the original. Really a fine novel – with hopefully more coming down the pike. Grady Harp, May 18

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.