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Drawing on untapped archives and full of fresh revelations, here is the definitive biography of America’s legendary defense attorney and progressive hero.
Clarence Darrow is the lawyer every law school student dreams of being: on the side of right, loved by many women, played by Spencer Tracy in Inherit the Wind. His days-long closing arguments delivered without notes won miraculous reprieves for men doomed to hang.
Darrow left a promising career as a railroad lawyer during the tumultuous Gilded Age in order to champion poor workers, blacks, and social and political outcasts against big business, Jim Crow, and corrupt officials. He became famous defending union leader Eugene Debs in the landmark Pullman Strike case and went from one headline case to the next—until he was nearly crushed by an indictment for bribing a jury. He redeemed himself in Dayton, Tennessee, defending schoolteacher John Scopes in the “Monkey Trial,” cementing his place in history.
Now, John A. Farrell draws on previously unpublished correspondence and memoirs to offer a candid account of Darrow’s divorce, affairs, and disastrous finances; new details of his feud with his law partner, the famous poet Edgar Lee Masters; a shocking disclosure about one of his most controversial cases; and explosive revelations of shady tactics he used in his own trial for bribery.
Clarence Darrow is a sweeping, surprising portrait of a legendary legal mind.
“Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned is impeccably researched, beautifully written, and timely. . . . Farrell gives us Farrow in all his brilliance, hypocrisy, and eccentricity. . . . As Farrell’s riveting biography makes abundantly clear, there was no more powerful and incendiary thunderbolt than Clarence Darrow.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A clear-sighted, empathetic biography. . . . [Farrell] knows that he has a protagonist of Shakespearean richness and complexity, and this well-written, vividly atmospheric portrait captures Clarence Darrow with his faults and contradictions intact.” —Los Angeles Times
“[This is] vintage Darrow, inspiring, enraging, and, in Farrell’s engrossing biography, marvelously alive.” —The New York Times
“John A. Farrell, with access to previously unavailable materials, brings the ‘grandest legal career in American history’ to life again in a masterfully researched and elegantly written volume.” —The Boston Globe
"Groundbreaking...Attorney for the Damned is a well-balanced portrait of the private and public Darrow, giving the sweep of his life and times." —The Washington Times
“Farrell draws from previously unpublished correspondence to give fresh insight into Darrow’s remarkable career. . . . A thoughtful overview of Darrow, his life, and his many accomplishments.” —The Seattle Times
“A comprehensive biography of the storied defense attorney. Making elaborate use of transcripts, observers’ accounts, correspondence and newspaper reports, Farrell chronicles Darrow’s most celebrated trials in detail. . . . These cases—including two in which Darrow, almost surely guilty, was himself tried for jury tampering—dominate the narrative, but Farrell neatly places them within the larger context of this complicated man’s crowded life and practice…. Farrell unflinchingly addresses [Darrow’s] shortcomings, even as he underscores the genuine brilliance of a still-unmatched advocate for underdogs everywhere.” —Kirkus (Starred Review)
“Farrell offers excerpts from Darrow’s magnificent courtroom arguments as well as delicious details of his personal life (he was a hearty participant in the era’s free love movement). [He] gleans from previously undisclosed material to offer a completely engaging portrait of a flawed man of noble ideals.” —Booklist (Starred Review)
“John A. Farrell, in Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned, goes farther into the archives and deeper into Darrow’s crags.” —New Yorker
“Masterful . . . a riveting piece of work and certain to be one of the most fascinating biographies of this or any other year.” —The Daily Beast
“John Farrell’s Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned is a riveting historical drama filled with strange twists and turns. Every page is a triumph of scholarship. A marvelous biography!” —Douglas Brinkley, professor of history at Rice University and author of The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America
“It is almost impossible to conceive how so much living could have come in just one life, and Jack Farrell’s masterful new biography makes Clarence Darrow come alive. This is a wonderful, at times heart-pounding story, told with precision, sympathy, and insight.” —Ken Burns
“Clarence Darrow confounded titles: he was a freethinker, hedonist, anarchist, populist, infidel, cynic, and master storyteller who became our greatest lawyer and a folk hero. Farrell’s masterful, sweeping new biography not only does justice to all his roles but joyously satisfies even a Darrow addict like me.” —Roy Black, Esq., criminal defense attorney
“This book is a joy and a revelation. It is at once a rollicking tour through the mind of a legal genius and a spellbinding account of some of the most famous cases in American history. The chapter on Leopold and Loeb alone is worth waiting in line to get a seat in Jack Farrell’s courtroom.” —David Maraniss, author of When Pride Still Mattered and They Marched into Sunlight
“People want heroes. But history demands truth. This gritty biography demystifies a deeply flawed legal hero, who ‘almost assuredly’ bribed jurors and witnesses in order to level the playing field against ‘the rich and powerful.’ Darrow was a giant of his corrupt times. His biography is a must-read for all Americans who care about both the means and ends of justice!” —Alan M. Dershowitz, author of The Trials of Zion