Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

Help select the winner of the 2016 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

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Poll: Which book should win the 2016 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction?
  • 44.39%
    "Allegiance," by Kermit Roosevelt
  • 31.6%
    “Tom & Lucky and George & Cokey Flo” by C. Joseph Greaves
  • 24.01%
    "Pleasantville," by Attica Locke

The ABA Journal and the University of Alabama School of Law are pleased to announce the finalists for the 2016 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. The three books chosen to compete for the prize are: Allegiance by Kermit Roosevelt, Pleasantville by Attica Locke and Tom & Lucky and George & Cokey Flo by C. Joseph Greaves.

The prize, authorized by the late Harper Lee, is given annually to a book-length work of fiction that best illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change. This is the sixth year that the prize has been offered. Previous winners include John Grisham for The Confession (2011) and Sycamore Row (2014); Michael Connelly for The Fifth Witness (2012); Paul Goldstein for Havana Requiem (2013); and Deborah Johnson for The Secret of Magic (2015).

A committee of ABA Journal and University of Alabama representatives select three finalists for the prize each year, and then a panel of judges votes for the winning book. The panelists who will vote to select a winner from the group of finalists this year are Philip Beidler, author and professor at the University of Alabama; Helen Ellis, author of American Housewife; Homer Hickam, author of Rocket Boys; Rheta Grimsley Johnson, author, journalist and syndicated columnist; and Angela Johnson, author of Wind Flyers and Heaven. The public is invited to cast their own votes on the book they think most deserves the prize; the public vote will act as a sixth judge. Voting closes on Monday, July 11 at 11:59 p.m.

The 2016 prize will be awarded in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 22 at the Library of Congress in conjunction with the National Book Festival. The winner will be announced prior to the ceremony and will receive a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird signed by Harper Lee. For complete contest rules, click this link.

Learn more about the finalists below, and vote online.

The Finalists

Allegiance cover
Allegiance, by Kermit Roosevelt

From the publisher’s website: “When the news broke about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Caswell ‘Cash’ Harrison was all set to drop out of law school and join the army… until he flunked the physical. Instead, he’s given the opportunity to serve as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black. He and another clerk stumble onto a potentially huge conspiracy aimed at guiding the court’s interests, and the cases dealing with the constitutionality of the prison camps created to detain Japanese-Americans seem to play a key part. Then Cash’s colleague dies under mysterious circumstances, and the young, idealistic lawyer is determined to get at the truth. His investigation will take him from the office of J. Edgar Hoover to an internment camp in California, where he directly confronts the consequences of America’s wartime policies. Kermit Roosevelt combines the momentum of a top-notch legal thriller with a thoughtful examination of one of the worst civil rights violations in U.S. history.”

Pleasantville cover
Pleasantville, by Attica Locke

From the publisher’s website: “Fifteen years after his career-defining case against Cole Oil, Jay Porter is broke and tired. That victory might have won the environmental lawyer fame, but thanks to a string of appeals, he hasn’t seen a dime. His latest case—representing Pleasantville in the wake of a chemical fire—is dragging on, shaking his confidence and raising doubts about him within this upwardly mobile black community on Houston’s north side. Though Jay still believes in doing what’s right, he is done fighting other people’s battles. Once he has his piece of the settlement, the single father is going to devote himself to what matters most—his children. His plans are abruptly derailed when a female campaign volunteer vanishes on the night of Houston’s mayoral election, throwing an already contentious campaign into chaos. The accused is none other than the nephew and campaign manager of one of the leading candidates—a scion of a prominent Houston family headed by the formidable Sam Hathorne. Despite all the signs suggesting that his client is guilty—and his own misgivings—Jay can’t refuse when a man as wealthy and connected as Sam asks him to head up the defense. Not if he wants that new life with his kids. But he has to win.”

Tom and Lucky cover
Tom & Lucky and George & Cokey Flo, by C. Joseph Greaves

From the publisher’s website: “The year is 1936. Charles “Lucky” Luciano is the most powerful gangster in America. Thomas E. Dewey is an ambitious young prosecutor hired to bring him down, and Cokey Flo Brown—grifter, heroin addict, and sometimes prostitute–is the witness who claims she can do it. Only a wily defense attorney named George Morton Levy stands between Lucky and a life behind bars, between Dewey and the New York governor’s mansion. … Based on a trove of newly discovered documents, Tom & Lucky and George & Cokey Flo tells the true story of a singular trial in American history: an epic clash between a crime-busting district attorney and an all-powerful mob boss who, in the crucible of a Manhattan courtroom, battle for the heart and soul of a dispirited nation.”

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