The Last Trials of Clarence Darrow delves into more intimate territory, namely his relationship with Mary Field Parton, socialist writer and reporter. What appears to be new in McRaes treatment of Clarence Darrows story is his emphasis on the stormy relationship with Mary Field Parton. McRaes access to her diaries gave him, and therefore the reader, a little more insight into how the attorney for the damned affected those close to him.
According to Donald McRae's book, Mr. Darrow thought no one deserved to go to prison or to swing from the end of a rope. This brought up the intriguing question: "Was Clarence Darrow simply more "Christ-like" than others, or was he a staunch believer in ammorality?" While reading about the Loeb-Leopold case and looking at the pictures of the two with Mr. Darrow, it was hard not to get the creeps at times. (The 1950's movie "Compulsion" tried to place the blame on their mothers--one for being dominating, the other for being dead!) Moreover, Mr. McRae goes on at the end of the book to tell what happened to Leopold, including his marriage to a woman, saying he thought it was "poignant" that Leopold was more concerned about being seen as a homosexual than a murderer. Why the author chose to revolve his book around her is also interesting. Why call it The Last Trials of Clarence Darrow when he spent so much time concentrating on Mary Field Parton? Since Mr. McRae shows such empathy for non-straight men who marry women and don't won't to be exposed, he possibly believes Clarence Darrow was either a closet homosexual or bisexual, and this book is providing a cover for a man who is obviously a hero to the author.
For many years, Darrow carried on an extramarital relationship with journalist Mary Field Parton. McRae has taken this relationship, using Parton's diaries, letters between Darrow and Parton, as well as writings and interviews with Parton's daughter, Margaret, and has set it as a framing device for his description of three of Darrow's most famous cases, cases that came towards the end of his legal career. If the Parton connection had any relevance to, or effect on, Darrow's participation in, or conduct of, these cases, then the device would work. But, if she did, it is not apparent from McRae's book. For the most part, he simply quotes her diaries or her daughter's writing as to what she was feeling at the time of the events, or engages in speculation as to her or Darrow's reactions. I have the sense that McRae thought there'd be a book in Darrow's relationship with Parton, but found that there simply wasn't sufficient source material to write a full-length book.
I wish the author, though, had stepped out of his narrative sometimes and put many of the issues Darrow was battling into a broader context. I know that it might have meant a longer book, but it seems that by putting issues of capital punishment, religion vs.
This book focuses on three of his last and most important trials: Leopold & Loeb, Scopes and Sweet--the last of which was news to me.
Darrow is an amazing character, and if his life was written as fiction, it would be be considered unbelievable.
He is the only two-time winner of the UKs prestigious William Hill Sports Book of the Year an award won in the past by Nick Hornbys Fever Pitch and Laura Hillenbrands Sea Biscuit.