Friday, November 23, 2012

Rumpole Misbehaves

According to Wikipedia an Anti-Social Behavior Order or ASBO “is a civil order made against a person who has been shown, on the balance of the evidence, to have engaged in anti-social behavior.  The orders, introduced in the United Kingdom by Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1998, were designed to correct minor incidents that would not ordinarily warrant criminal prosecution.  The orders restrict behavior in some way, by prohibiting a return to a certain area or shop, or by restricting public behavior such as swearing or drinking alcohol.”  To Sir John Mortimer (1923 - 2009), who was famous for being a civil rights lawyer as well the creator of the fictional lawyer Horace Rumpole, the ASBO was an outrageous assault on the historic civil rights of the English people.  Hence, in his last completed Rumpole novel, Rumpole Misbehaves (2007) (published in Britain as The Anti-Social Behavior of Horace Rumpole), Mortimer uses his favorite creation to attack and parody the ASBO.

Actor Leo McKern as Horace Rumpole

Rumpole’s first client is twelve year old Peter Timson who has an ASBO issued against him for disturbing the resident’s of a posh neighborhood by playing football (soccer) on their street.  Rumpole’s second client is Graham Wetherby, a young government bureaucrat who is accused of strangling a prostitute.  The relationship between these two seemingly unrelated cases provides fine reading in the great Rumpole tradition.

Horace and Hilda (Leo McKern and Marion Mathie)

Of course, it would not be a Rumpole story without hilarity.  The fun really starts when Rumpole’s neighbors in Chambers at Number 4 Equity Court take out an ASBO against Rumpole for drinking alchohol in Chambers, eating in his office in violation of office policy, and smoking in the building.  Rumpole’s nemesis on the bench, Mr. Justice Bullingham (or as Rumpole calls him “Mr. Injustice Bullingham) still has the hots for Hilda and threatens to break up the Rumpole marriage.  She Who Must Be Obeyed has decided, once again, that she wants to read for the bar and Rumpole finally decides that he will apply to “take silk” as a Queens Counsel.

Although the earlier installments of the series were much better written than this, for fans who can’t get enough of Rumpole this is great fun.  Sadly, although Rumpole never retired and stayed, apparently ageless, in his early to mid seventies for thirty years, with Mortimer’s death in 2009 at age 85, Rumpole has finally argued his last case.  But, just like Holmes and Watson will always be waiting for a new client at 221 B Baker Street, Horace and Hilda will forever bicker at the Froxbury Mansion Flat and Horace will perpetually irritate his colleagues at No. 4 Equity Court.


No comments:

Post a Comment