Prior to meeting my good friend and the attorney who keeps me out of jail, Jeff Meyer, I was under the unchallenged impression that the only thing any attorney could effectively author was a grocery list – and even that possibility was suspect. Why, lawyers who could effectively communicate through the written word were even rarer than a Trump supporter who could count to six. But that base assumption has been called into interminable question because I’ve discovered another attorney who can actually do much more than come up with an utterly unintelligible court motion.
To wit, my friend, former Kane County State’s Attorney, and crack defense attorney, Gary Johnson, just published a memoir that’s not only difficult to put down, but it’s impeccably written – a compliment this curmudgeonly columnist rarely bestows. The book is called ‘Luck is a Talent – The True Story of a Trial Lawyer’s Experience Defending an Innocent Man Charged with Murder.”
Centering the narrative around his successful defense of Steven Buckley during the infamous Jeanine Nicarico murder trials, Gary weaves the truly fascinating story of the life events that put him in that self-admitted terrifying position. And he does a magnificent job of it, too, particularly when you consider that most folks have real difficulty telling a non-linear story. The balance between the flashbacks and building Buckley’s defense is so well done that each chapter increasingly propels us towards the inevitable conclusion.
Put more simply, ‘Luck is a Talent’ is like a really good ‘Columbo’ episode. We know exactly how it’s gonna end, but we still can’t take our eyes off the process.
The book opens with Gary and his female second sitting in nearby jail cells after a contempt of court charge, which is the perfect setup for the rest of the story. Then he proceeds to let us in some of the more hilarious and ironic parts of his quite fascinating life.
He describes how a family member was his first client, the prank he pulled that got him in trouble with the Kane County Clerk’s Office, how an accidently overlooked interview changed the course of his legal career, going to class with a hangover helped him pass the bar exam, and how he learned to defend a capital murder case on the fly.
An unexpected bonus, at least for me, was a more than passing knowledge of the DuPage and Kane County players involved. From John Barsanti to Lorraine Sava to the great Larry Jones, they’re all there. But don’t worry, dear reader! That insider background isn’t nearly necessary to enjoy this autobiography.
My favorite part of the book is that Gary wasn’t afraid to call out his peers, reject blatantly bogus evidentiary techniques, and explain when he believed the justice system fell far short of its lofty goals, which was far more rule than exception in Nicarico trials.
Aside from the story itself, the best part of this stellar publishing effort is, in memory of Johnson family friend Colleen Drury, all the profits go to the Colleen’s Dream Foundation, which raises money for ovarian cancer research and education.
The bottom line is, despite the fact it’s not fiction, ‘Luck is a Talent’ is every bit the page turner you’d expect from a John Grisham or Scott Turow novel, and I’d wholeheartedly recommend that you purchase your very own copy right here! Unlike yours truly, Gary Johnson chose wisely when it came time to decide between the law and the pen – and now he gets to enjoy both worlds. I certainly hope this won’t be his last literary endeavor.
You know…I just realized the only two attorneys on the planet who can actually write are both friends of mine. I knew it would all come down to me!