Book Review: The Conspiracy Trial

The Conspiracy Trial. Ed. Judy Clavir and John Spitzer. (Jonathan Cape; £5.50).

There is much dramatic material in any trial and that of the Chicago Eight contained more than most. Apart from the unconventional dress and behaviour of the defendants there was the passionate advocacy of their counsel, the binding and gagging of Bobby Seale and such bizarre incidents as the presentation of a birthday cake to him in the courtroom.

A trial transcript bears a formidable appearance and seems to be reading only for the serious researcher. Only when we dip into the transcript does it come alive, with the drama, the humour, the colour and sometimes the simple tragedy leaping out of the cold words of print.

This book is a very hefty piece of work—615 pages, no less, and all in pretty close type. Randomly opening it at first catches the attention, then holds the interest and in the end almost keeps you up half the night. Yet it’s still mainly a reference work, for anyone who has not been tired out by the exposure of this, one of America’s most famous court happenings.

And in between reading it, it makes a useful door stop or flower press.


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