||January 1, 2005
A judge is incinerated during a trial in rural Illinois. Homeland Security and the FBI take jurisdiction after a middle eastern man is arrested. Carl Hardman, an aging small town lawyer, is persuaded to render emergency help and is trapped into the entire defense. A local extremist Christian plots to take the law into his own hands. Can Hardman get a fair trial for his unlikeable and uncooperative defendant?
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Keep and Bear Arms
A first novel that has generated high praise, Keep and Bear Arms is a legal thriller brimming with courtroom drama, written for thinking people who value real-world intrigue and ideas over body count.
Carl Hardman, an aging lawyer, tries to save “Wally Aldin” (Walid al-Din) a middle-easterner, from the death penalty for the fire-bomb murder of a rural judge. Hardman’s pre-teen daughter, Susan, lives with her mother, Dani, who is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law. Taking the case requires him to stay in Champaign, hoping to spend more time with Susan.
Dani is an expert on a legal aspect of the case and Hardman needs her help. Nevertheless, he is drawn to Laura, the young wife of the defendant. Ethics argue with hormones; he courts disaster.
The national media flood into Moraine, a small Central Illinois town near Champaign. Homeland Security and the FBI wage a turf war with the local sheriff. A Christian Identity true believer plots against Hardman and his client.
Aldin is an enigma. Far from likeable, he has often abused the legal system and refuses to cooperate in his defense, electing to rely on the presumption of innocence. His true colors are a mystery that plagues Hardman. Is he a deep cover Al-Queda terrorist?
The courtroom scenes are taut and legally accurate. The judge cuts corners to avenge her colleague. Within the FBI, integrity struggles with expediency. A brooding premonition of execution stalks the case.
The author, Robert Auler, has spent a lifetime defending unpopular defendants. He opens the doors to the backroom mysteries of the legal system. The book is fast-paced and realistic. It presents an intelligent and accurate collision of the deepest passions of the post-911 age.
See the website, www.robertishamauler.com. The consensus of professional and ordinary readers is that Keep And Bear Arms is "...a gripping, first-class read."
Carl Hardman was in his fifties. A gray insurgency was infiltrating his dark hair, eyebrows staging a revolution, but his blue eyes were still youthful and clear. On a good morning he was still six-two, in reasonable shape from a youth spent playing shortstop, but every ancient sprain and bruise protested the thought of legging out one more base hit. Nevertheless, he could still try a criminal case. He was considered one of the better lawyers in downstate Illinois. Trying cases was like being a gunfighter in the old west. Reputation and demeanor settled most confrontations.
Carl's restored 1983 Jaguar XJ6 was prowling the Interstate toward Champaign, where the state university nestles in verdant flatland. Carl had driven the hundred miles from his home in rust-belt Marquette County on the Illinois River at least once a week for the past five years.
In the early '60s he had left Chicago's gritty southwest suburbs to attend the University of Illinois, armed with a battered suitcase and a Sears record player. He achieved high honors in philosophy followed by a U of I law degree. Champaign was the first place he had ever felt free and happy. But his vintage memories of Champaign were now soured by divorce and five years of truncated contact with his 11 year old daughter, Susan. Her mother, Dani, had moved to Champaign to put space between herself and Carl. For Dani a return to the University was hope and refuge; it was where she had forged her intense political and social beliefs in the Domestic Theater of the Viet Nam war.
The prairie rolled by flat and wet, threatening to become green. An occasional swipe of the windshield wipers handled the late April mist. Every barn and tree line was engraved with loneliness. His mind browsed the bittersweet fragments of Susan's young life he had driven hundreds of hours to share. He passed places where he had pulled off and lowered the windows to let fresh air chase exhaustion. Gas stations rolled by, parking lots where he had surrendered for an hour of sleep. Grimy men’s rooms. First-name cashiers selling plastic-wrapped sandwiches. On these trips he composed fast food reviews for an imaginary gourmet magazine.
The Jaguar’s interior smelled of leather and wood. Its stereo was tuned to the Cubs losing their home opener to the Reds in the third inning. Zambrano, the starter, had gotten pounded and the bullpen was busy revealing its flaws. The baseball season always brought renewal, even though investing hope in the Cubs was contrary to the immutable laws of logic. He would have taken the day off to go to Wrigley Field except for Susan's science fair. He was several hours early and hoped he could convince Dani to let him take Susan to dinner.
The play-by-play of the Cubs game was interrupted. “Here is an update from WGN News. We are receiving reports of an arrest in the firebombing murder of Circuit Judge Harold Ewing in a courtroom in downstate Moraine, Illinois. Sheriff Marvin Burnett has called a press conference for 4 p.m. Sources indicate there may have been terrorist involvement. WGN will interrupt the ballgame to keep you informed on this story as it develops." The game resumed with the eternal optimism of Ron Santo, the color announcer.
Carl muttered, "Wow!" He had been following the story. Moraine was less than 50 miles from where he was driving. The town was a failed experiment, sleepy and seedy, decades behind Millington, the industrial town in Northern Illinois where Carl practiced. Moraine, the county seat of Lincoln County, had the Amish and their apple butter instead of Millington’s corner bars and home-style Italian food.
Carl had prospered in Millington. His commitment to his clients had never waned, but thirty years had slowly blunted his shock at the injustices within the legal system.
His ex-wife, Dani, had been a law student when she assisted him in winning a tough murder case that had made his reputation. After graduating from law school she had done a stint in the Domestic Peace Corps, then had returned to practice with him. After five years they were partners. In another three they were married. Just like that. A merger finalized.
She was a marvel at researching and briefing, finding slivers of case law to jam under opponents' fingernails. Carl was quick in the courtroom and good with the clients. They had been an unbeatable team. Their practice had mushroomed. They remodeled the old Millington firehouse into a unique office building with the ancient brass pole still running down through Carl's office from the law library above.
But the law had eroded their marriage slowly, like acid rain. It seeped into their home and into bed with them. It had saturated their cabin when they fled to Wisconsin for weekends at the lake. Eventually it dissolved closeness. Disagreements over strategy or finances became pitched battles on the drive home; the dinner table was just another case conference. Conceiving Susan six years into their marriage had been a statistical miracle.
In his fifties he was mellowing. The system had grudgingly accepted him. There had even been a few feelers about a judgeship or a seat on the County Board.
The cell phone interrupted Carl’s recollections. He pressed the hands-off answering feature. "Hello."
"Carl Hardman?" The voice was deep and well modulated.
"Do I have Carl Hardman?"
Stalemate. He thought about hanging up, but his curiosity took over. "What do I win if I get it right?" He let the silence build. "Who are you and what's this about?"
"I'm calling to ask you a question. Do you have any political or personal reason that would prevent you from defending somebody accused of murdering a judge?" The voice was calm and sounded vaguely foreign. Carl glanced at the radio and turned down the ballgame.
"Are you directly involved in that Moraine case? If so, you know how public a cell phone call is, don't you?"
"Directly involved? No, but I'm calling on behalf of someone who is. You have a reputation for defending people with...uh…unusual legal problems."
Carl smiled. "That fits a lot of my clients, who haven’t killed any judges yet. I guess it depends on a number of things."
"Like your fee?"
"Well... maybe I wouldn't put that first, but it'd be right up there in the top five."
“I will call you within five minutes and give you instructions where to meet. In the meantime, please do not call anyone about this matter.” Without waiting for Carl’s response, the phone went dead.
The call had an overtone of menace. Carl was seldom worried about his personal safety. He had represented a spectrum of people living on the far side of the line, many of them desperate or violent. Most of them still had a naïve trust that the American system of justice was as fair as their high school civics teacher had promised. What interested Carl was meeting somebody who had signed off and had renounced the system. Despite his occasional disquiet about the fairness of the law, Carl considered himself in the exact center politically. But here was a case that intrigued him. He had heard about terrorists. He wanted to see one up close.
In college, Bob Auler was my manger at the college radio station, but fired me, saying I would be better off in print. Then I was his editor at The Daily Illini and fired him, saying he would be better off in fiction. Turns out we were both right, although he only stayed fired for a week, and later turned to the law, a more lucrative branch of fiction, where he became the Goliath slayer of downstate Illinois.
Paul Davis, retired news director WGN-TV Chicago, Senior Vice President, Foundation for American Communications, Pasadena
Keep and Bear Arms has a fiery start in a time of terrorism...flawed heroes...courthouse characters...lead us down the wrong alley. It is the reader who will be stereotyping, not the book. Auler's attorney-eye for federal and state conflicts is a great addition to a story of incredible crime.
Paul M. Lisnek, CNN legal analyst and legal anchor; author of Hidden Jury and Other Secret Tactics Lawyers Use to Win
From and explosion on page one, the excitement of Keep And Bear Arms never lets up! Auler captures the reality of small town living, but this could easily have taken place in any major city in the U.S. Auler blends his expertise and knowledge of the law with the excitement that people love to see in legal fiction. Auler is right on the mark!
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Reader Reviews for "Keep And Bear Arms"
|Reviewed by dennis batchelder
|excellent defense twist to the modern courtroom thriller
I've read quite a few courtroom thrillers from the likes of Turow and Lescroart, and Bob Auler's "Keep and Bear Arms" was right up there in characterization, suspense, and interesting topics.
But Auler's tale was different... and all the better for it. He told it from the point of view of a big-city liberal defense attorney, Carl Hardman, who's trying a terrorist case in a small conservative town with a mildly corrupt old-boy-network legal system. Sort of like "My Cousin Vinny", but Hardman ain't new at this: he's a washed-up 50-something lawyer who's not even happy about defending an accused terrorist, but who wants to make sure the guy isn't railroaded into a lethal injection.
I liked Hardman - he's real, sympathetic, and driven. He struggles with problems beyond the case, like an ex-wife, an eleven year old daughter he doesn't get to see as much as he needs, and the hots for his client's sexy wife. Auler also does a nice job building out a strong characterization in Brother Bill, the leader of a far-right protest group.
"Keep and Bear Arms" tells how an unlikeable Lebanese American is accused of fire-bombing an old judge, right in the middle of a courtroom. The FBI jumps in and calls it terror. Hardman is sucked into his defense. The far-right gets upset that a big-city lawyer is gonna cut a deal and plots their own mischief. Hardman is fighting with his nasty client. And all the time he's struggling with his convictions about how he's going to defend somebody who he already thinks is guilty.
Auler spins all his characters through twists on the same dilemma--one we should maybe ask ourselves every now and then: how do we put aside our own "gut level" beliefs and prejudices and follow the rules, especially when we have the power to climb above the law? Some of his characters are able to surmount this challenge, and some aren't--and it's not the ones you'd expect.
This was a fantastic legal read, and it really made me think on the deeper issues of how the rule of law keeps us human. Thanks, Bob, and keep writing!
|Reviewed by Benjamin Blue
|I'm normally in bed at ten, but I stayed up until almost one o'clock last night finishing Keep and Bear Arms. The last hundred pages compel you to continue reading to find out the dramatic ending.
A not very likeable naturalized U.S. citizen, born in the Middle East and suspected of terrorist leanings, is in the crosshairs of the post-9/11 state and federal justice systems. Accused of a heinous murder of a judge, the defendant is subjected to an entire legal system that now seemingly believes "guilty until proven innocent".
The court room scenes are highly charged and very real. It gives one pause to consider what happens when everyone presumes guilt. This is a must read for liberals and conservatives alike.
Benjamin Blue - author of the mystery/thriller novel Storm Killer