Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Redemption" by Howard Fast

Howard Fast was one of America's most prolific authors. And the range of his work is truly phenomenal, encompassing Fiction, History and Religion. From the first time I read "April Morning", in 5th grade, the story of a young boy on the morning that the American Revolution began at Lexington and Concord, I was a fan. And over the years, although I have drifted almost entirely into non-fiction, his books have continued to draw me back as he explores new topics and interests. Hey, this is the guy who wrote "Spartacus."

This book, "Redemption", was written in 1999, just a few years before his death in March of 2003, at age 89. It is remarkably candid in it's exploration of the accidental relationship of Ike Goldman, a professor emeritus at Columbia University, and Elizabeth Hopper, a woman whom he meets while driving across the George Washington Bridge at about 3 AM. She is standing at the rail on the walkway, ready to jump. He, a widower of several years, is returning from a gathering of old cronies, talking law, politics, and smoking cigars. She is the battered and abused wife of a Wall Street tycoon, who will be found murdered very shortly after they meet. And the murder is committed with Ike's long forgotten pistol, which he hasn't seen in years.

This leaves two obvious suspects, both with ample motive, opportunity and time to commit the murder of the late Mr. Hopper. But is circumstancial evidence ever enough to be sure? Especially when it is a capital crime? As a professor of contract law, Ike must learn, with the aid of a former student turned defense counsel, to navigate the pathways of the justice system rather than the board room.

Mr. Fast did not just write simple novels. They can be taken at "face" value and make great reading. But the secret to his long and varied suceess as a writer has always been his ability to educate the reader along the way. The story is just a vehicle. The plot here encompasses Womens Right's, Faith, and the possibilities of fate accidently taking hold in one's life.

With a wedding between 79 year old Ike, and 47 year old Liz in the balance, the story takes on a whole new dimension, as Ike struggles with the seeming absurdity of love with a younger woman. Will his judgement, and integrity, be tempered by his emotions? Or will the simple logic of truth, which he has always taught, hold sway?

With supreme character development, as expected of Mr. Fast, the book takes on an urgency that will keep you turning pages. The court trial and jury summations are spot on to real life, leaving the reader just as unsure as in an actual courtroom, when the jury is really out.

Mr. Fast passed away in 2003, at age 89. He wrote until the end. I wish I had had the opportunity to thank him for the treasure of literature he has left behind.

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