By Gloria Wolk
Bialkin Books (2012)
Author Gloria Wolk has a commendable motivation in writing a federal criminal justice thriller, but her book is unimaginative and contains a jumble of clichéd situations.
Creatively, it is not recognizable as a literary endeavor. Dozens of one-dimensional characters appear, but there is nary a nod to singularity, depth, or meaningful descriptions — except that the characters have soap opera names such as Carly, Blake, Arden, Ethan, Kyle, Phoebe, and Vito Capone, an insurance scam victim.
The author is writing about federal obstruction of justice in an insurance case in which Carly, the main character, fears a 10-year prison term. (Her fears are warranted; recall the impulses of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz in the Aaron Swartz case.)
Perhaps this book “coulda been a contender” as pulp fiction. The initial pages are about America’s downtrodden, but the style is like a movie on Lifetime. All sorts of social problems are filtered through Accidental Felon — autism, cruelty to animals, AIDS, and transparent mala fides, such as Carly’s boss, who drives a Ferrari and is the CEO of a shady insurance company.
Would a lawyer discuss an indictment and plea over a cell phone with Carly while she is in the backyard because her son Ethan is on the computer and might hear their conversation? Yes, and so goes the author’s ingenuousness. Then, when Carly does meet with her lawyer, he wants to take her immediately to meet with the prosecutors because he knows she’s innocent. The lawyer’s first name is Irwin. He is “squat” and untrustworthy, whereas U.S. Attorney Calvin Cutter has “movie star features.”
An experienced lawyer will toss this as flotsam. Contrary to what this author erroneously believes about Carly’s cooperation, there is little compassion from politically appointed federal judges. Federal prosecutors get away with whatever, notwithstanding years of complaints of prosecutorial misconduct or overreaching. Immunity is an excellent cover. But this scenario is not woven persuasively into the threads of this harried defendant’s story. The spirit and message are well-intentioned in Accidental Felon, but the narrative is a stew without steam or complexity.