Saturday, 13 November 2021

JOHN MORTIMER - RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY (1978)

 


Synopsis/blurb ....

In the first of six witty short stories, 60s-something English barrister, Horace Rumpole, takes on the younger generation both at home and in the hallowed courtroom-while offending his esteemed colleagues and his draconian wife, Hilda.

A collection of stories featuring Rumpole of the Bailey, including "Rumpole and the Younger Generation", "Rumpole and the Alternative Society", "Rumpole and the Honourable Member", "Rumpole and the Married Lady, "Rumpole and the Learned Friends" and "Rumpole and the Heavy Brigade".

A bit of a trip down memory lane insofar as I can dimly recall the TV series featuring Leo McKern as Rumpole. The show aired in the late 70s and ran on and off until 1992.


Six stories and six different cases which Rumpole defends with varying degrees of success. His motto is to never plead a client guilty. A lot of the stories comprise Rumpole philosophising on life in chambers, his home life, with his marriage to Hilda and his son, Nick; as well as on the state of the nation. There's a drinking culture surrounding the legal profession and Rumpole is usually partial to a taste post-chambers as well as a drop or two at home.

I quite like the observational nature of the tales which are now quite dated. We encounter the hippie culture in one of the stories and the outrage that induces in the middle classes. Almost a hang them for having long hair mentality. There's a subtle humour to all of the stories. Mortimer pokes fun at class and authority. This was a time when the word of the police would be accepted unquestionably.

Rumpole frequently defends the same criminal family and is the go-to-barrister for some south London villains. He negotiates the politics at work, has limited career expectations and always seems to be a disappointment to Hilda, his more ambitious wife. 

Other memorable stories feature an MP accused of rape and a divorce case where the opposing parties are being manipulated by their mercenary, avaricious son.

I enjoyed the nostalgia the book resurrected for me. My dad enjoyed the TV series, so it was nice to be reminded of him. Narration was by Patrick Tull, which was enjoyable with just the right amount of gravitas. 

There are plenty more Rumpole books to enjoy if I want to go down that route and while I wouldn't rule it out in the future, I think I'm satisfied for now.

3.5 from 5

Read - (listened to) October, 2021
Published - 1978
Page count - 208 (8 hrs 28 mins)
Source - Audiobooks
Format - Audible

6 comments:

  1. I liked those stories very much, Col, so I'm glad you found things to enjoy. Rumpole is a good character, and I liked learning something about the British court system. He works with some interesting characters, too!

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    1. Agreed Margot. I did enjoy this collection.

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  2. I think the TV series is currently running on Channel 81 just now. I keep meaning to check it out to see if it's as good as I remember (which is quite good, but not extraordinary).

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    1. Thanks Nigel. Channel 81 isn't a channel I'm familiar with. I'll have to do a bit of digging. I don't think I have it on my Virgin package.

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  3. I have had this on the shelf for years but never seem to get around to it. I did, however, enjoy the TV series with Leo McKern as Rumpole

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    1. Worth a look IMO. You can dip in and dip out. The TV series is fondly remembered, mainly because of the link to my dad.

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