cover image The Making of a Country Lawyer

The Making of a Country Lawyer

Gerry L. Spence. St. Martin's Press, $26.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-312-14673-3

Spence (How to Argue and Win Every Time) has composed a formidable autobiography, a striking evocation of the closing of the frontier in the Wyoming of the 1930s and '40s. It's also a penetrating look into the heart of a youth torn between the lure of the flesh and the evangelicalism of his mother, between the emotional pull of helping the downtrodden and the intellectual realization that in our society power lies with the rich. The climactic event of his youth was the suicide of his mother in 1969, who hoped he would become a clergyman--a tragedy he simplisitically and egotistically blamed on himself and his dissolute lifestyle, assuming a guilt that was to plague him for years. It is also the story of his two marriages, the first contracted when he and his bride were both 19, the second to a formerly married woman whom he credits with saving his life. He also chronicles several of his cases, and it is interesting to see him at work, from his first halting appearances in court to his assured performances in later years. One wonders if the title of his book is intended as irony, for the multimillionaire Spence is a ""country lawyer"" the way Nieman-Marcus is the proprietor of a country store. But his story, with dozens of family photos, is a major bit of Americana. (Oct.)