Cover image for Good counsel
Good counsel
Junkin, Tim, 1951-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2001.
Physical Description:
291 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
"A Shannon Ravenel book"--T.p. verso.
Format :


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Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Tim Junkin's fast-paced insider novel tracks a moral journey. Jack Stanton began his career as a public defender in the Washington, D.C., "Agency." A quick study and a charismatic trial lawyer, Jack believed wholeheartedly in indigent clients' rights to the best legal defense possible. He worked tirelessly and won some tough cases against the District's corps of prosecuting attorneys. His reputation for expert client preparation grew alongside his passion for winning.

Ultimately, however, Jack pays for that reputation with his integrity. And, for his workaholism, he pays with his marriage. By the time he decides to leave the Agency to establish his own private law practice, his line between truth and manipulated fact has thinned to almost nothing. And so, specializing in medical malpractice cases, Jack succeeds brilliantly until he obscures that thin line altogether and is charged with lying under oath.

He runs, hiding out in a secluded house on the Chesapeake Bay. It's there that he encounters an idealistic young woman plotting to avenge her father's murder by terrorists. Her plight leads Jack to act once again on behalf of an underdog and to regain-at least for himself-his own idealism and honor.

With its intriguing cast of the accused and their defenders, Good Counsel dramatically illustrates the process and practice of litigation. It's a knowing, taut, suspenseful novel that confronts the high price of professional success.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

A lawyer's ambition costs him his marriage and his career in Junkin's evocative second novel, which opens with protagonist Jack Stanton on the run from the law. Stanton's crime is left undisclosed in the early going, as Junkin flashes back to the lawyer's glory days building a name for himself defending the rights of the downtrodden in Washington, D.C. Stanton's ability to hide is quickly compromised, though, when the woman who sells bait at the general store in the Chesapeake Bay fishing town he flees to reports him to the police for not having a fishing license. In despair, Stanton attempts suicide, but his fortunes seem to turn when he is rescued by Susannah Blair, nicknamed Muddy, who works at the general store. After she takes him in, Stanton slowly tells the story of his deception in the case that got him in legal trouble, and Muddy soon reciprocates by disclosing her plan to kill the Nicaraguan terrorist who assassinated her father while she was growing up in Washington. Junkin walks a fine line between genres in this blend of legal thriller and morality play, but what makes it work is the portrait of Jack Stanton, a passionate, well-drawn character whose compassion emerges full-blown after the law catches up with him and Muddy acts out her plan for revenge. The novel is not without flaws; the odd ending leaves Stanton and Blair's affair unresolved, and the women are decidedly less credibly sketched than Stanton, with Stanton's wife appearing as a mere shadow figure while Muddy often seems to be a romantic prop for the protagonist. Generally, though, storytelling and characterization quality allow Junkin to pull off his intriguing conceit. (Mar. 30) Forecast: Another legal thriller; and how this one, though better than average, will register on readers' radar is a mystery. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



PROLOGUE: Washington, D.C. I've been in tough spots before. Mean trials where lives rode the line. And I've always stayed cool. Composed. Clear-headed. But until today I've never testified in a grand jury or played a part in any case where the stakes were right there in my face. Where the stakes were all about me. I'd thought it all out. Figured I could swing it. That it would play. But there was something about the way the prosecutor postured. Morgan Langrell had always been arrogant and self-righteous, but something else was there this morning. A certain smugness, a visible relish of vengeance. The fact that he spun the questions himself rather than have a deputy do it might have tipped me. But then we have a history, Langrell and I. When I thought he'd finished, when he should've been finished since he'd covered it from ass to elbow, rather than release me he announced a lunch break and ordered me to return at two o'clock. Langrell's arms were crossed imperiously as he watched me leave. He and his assistant are still in there with the grand jurors. Standing outside the courtroom, seeing the doors close behind me, watching the prosecutors stay inside-all of this-it makes my insides heave. I'm a trial lawyer. My career, my success, my prosperity have depended on my ability to size up people, to find the weaknesses in a witness's story, to read demeanor, gestures, to see the truth behind the mask. Or so I've convinced myself. For sure, I've known Morgan Langrell all too well. The way he gloated through his questions, though-I should have sensed it earlier-it all flashes wrong. I walk quickly through the courthouse, glancing over my shoulder at the federal marshals lounging in the hallway. I begin to imagine the worst, that I really could be found out, that all of it could turn bad. Looking back again, I see that no one seems to be following me. I leave the building and walk past John Marshall Park over to Constitution Avenue where I sit on a bench trying to calm myself. I try to practice my breathing. But I'm beginning to gag over what I've done. I need to shake this off. To regain my balance. Standing, starting down the sidewalk, I step into the street, moving alongside the cars parked parallel to the curb. Halfway down the block I glance in the bent side mirror of a pickup truck and notice a large black man in a suit about twenty paces behind me. When I pause, he stops too and looks quickly away. Continuing down the block, I drop my keys, turn to pick them up, and see he's still following. He has that erect, bullish walk of a marshal. I abruptly dart through the lanes of traffic, dodging vehicles, crossing to the other side of the boulevard. He turns to cross as well but is delayed by oncoming cars. I hurry into the entrance of the National Gallery of Art, crowded with tourists. Weaving through the people to the back of the museum, I take the escalator down and hustle through the underground tunnel that connects to the East Building. There, I climb the stairs and pause to catch my breath. No one is following. A massive weblike mobile of fins or blades and tentacles hovers above me. Outside, I hail a passing cab, give the driver a quick ten so he doesn't complain about the short trip, and have him drop me at my blue Mercedes, three blocks north of the courthouse. My watch reads 1:20. As I steer my car toward home, I notice perspiration on the backs of my hands. Running the string of timed green lights up Connecticut Avenue, I turn onto Woodley, pass by the entrance to our private lot, and park a side street over. Once inside my townhouse, I punch in Linda's work number. I need reassurance. I'm just overreacting, I tell myself. Projecting the worst. I need to talk to her and then get back to the grand jury by two. The phone rings. I ask for her nursing station. A man answers and tells me she's no longer at the hospital. I call her home. Her voice is groggy as she answers. "Are you asleep?" I ask. "Are you sick?" "No," she slurs. "I called the hospital," I say. "What's going on?" She asks me if I testified. She sounds half drunk. She then asks me if I mentioned her name. "No," I say. "Of course not." There's a pause. Then she blurts out that she lost her job and that I'm about to lose a lot more. She tells me that I've been set up. That I'm about to be arrested. That she had to cut a deal to save herself. That she told them everything. She works herself into a state. She says she's not sorry. She says some other angry things. She blames me for all of it, she says, and finishes by telling me never to call her again. The line goes dead. The phone in my hand is shaking. I find myself in the bathroom, sick. After I've lost whatever was in my stomach, I push myself off the floor and begin opening drawers, rummaging through my things to find my passport, only to see that it's expired. I take a duffel from the closet and stuff it with some of the clothes I've heaped on my bed. I grab a bottle of liquor and take a long swallow before throwing it in the bag. From the bathroom I take my pills and shaving kit. A corner shelf is stacked with books. My old journals are there, covered with dust. I grab them to take with me. I'd rather not have Langrell reading my diaries. I find small bills scattered on my dresser. Sirens begin to wail from down Connecticut Avenue. They grow louder and aren't far off. I wipe my slick hands on my trousers, but my fingers still slip as I try to open the bedroom window. It's stuck. I push harder. I'm trapped. I strike violently at the frame with the base of my palms and strike again, heaving upward and cracking the glass. The window gives and grinds open. I push the duffel bag out, duck down, and climb through onto the landing of the fire escape. The iron ladder creaks as I lower myself. The rust from the rails dirties my hands. I have to jump the last three feet and land badly on my ankle. I hear the sirens coming up out front and hobble down the alley and cross a side street to another alley. A neighbor's garage is open, and I crouch inside behind some garbage cans. An hour passes as I wait, rubbing my ankle, trying to think. Finally I limp the one block to my car. Taking the back streets I drive up to the northwest edge of the city to one of the branches of my bank. Acting nonchalant, breathing deeply, summoning up a long-practiced professional composure, I present the teller with a check. She brings up my account on her computer. She's young and gets nervous and apologizes as she buzzes for the branch manager. The manager, older with stiff bluish hair, checks the computer, then makes a telephone call. When she hangs up she apologizes too and tells me that my account has been frozen. All my accounts, she says. "Christ, I've got nearly a half-million dollars in here," I say. "I just need a little cash . . ." Her face reddens, and I can see she is embarrassed for me. She offers to try to reach one of the vice presidents at the downtown location, my so-called personal executive banker. Walking away, I realize I've begun to hyperventilate. I drive back downtown, craning around for cops. There's an underground garage near my office. Parked there, I swap my suit coat for a sweatshirt from my duffel bag, put on my sunglasses, find a wadded up golf hat in my trunk, and make my way to the corner across from my building. From near the metro stop I can see the windows to my office suite and to where my secretaries sit. Both are recent replacements, hired in the past six months. I watch everyone on the block, every pedestrian, study every parked car, looking for evidence of surveillance. Slowly it gets dark. Pretending to wait for the bus, I finally see the lights in my suite go out. A minute later my two secretaries and the paralegal all leave together. Gradually, other lights on the second floor are extinguished. Walking around the block to the back, I use my access key to enter the basement and take the back stairs to the second-floor hall. There are two doors to my office suite, and I wait outside the rear door, listening. There's only the hum of the exit sign above. I enter and in the dim light take the bills from the petty cash box. Maybe three hundred or so. I figure my office checking account is frozen too but that Langrell might not think to lock up my client trust money. I rip a blank check from the trust account checkbook. Then the elevator bell rings. I hurry to the rear. I hear them talking in hushed tones. "Open the door," one says roughly. "Yes sir." I recognize the Middle Eastern accent and voice of our building maintenance man, Hamad. His keys jangle as he turns the lock. "I've seen him in court," another man says. "Before Judge Kellogg. Tore a witness a new asshole. I doubt he'd be so stupid as to come here." "You never know. He's fucked up bad already, hasn't he," the first one counters. As the front door opens into the suite, as I hear them enter, I slip through the back exit. I make it to the stairs and am down and out the rear. The nausea returns as I head north up Rhode Island Avenue in heavy traffic watching for signs of police. I hit Georgia Avenue and then the beltway. I drive but cannot think of where to go, what to do. A steel press squeezes my thoughts. I shut down. Pulling onto the shoulder, I'm sick again on the side of the road. My tongue is swollen and dry. I reach inside the bag and grab the bottle and take a long slug. I put on my car blinker and accelerate back onto the highway. Driving without aim or destination. The rear-view mirror seems key. I check it again and again, fearful of cops. But all the headlights look the same. I'm becoming more disoriented, carried along by the lights, unable to think my way clear, lost in the maze of lights. At some point, too tired to care whether anyone is following, I turn the wheel. The exit I take is east, toward the bay. Excerpted from Good Counsel: A Novel by Tim Junkin All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.