Reading the Screen: Innocent, Presumably

innocentInnocent, the new novel by Scott Turow, is the sequel to 1987’s  Presumed Innocent. It was Turow’s first novel and it was something of a sensation, mostly because you could read the book, really pay close attention to it, and still not be sure whether its central character — “hero” sure ain’t the right word — was guilty of murder or not.

I’ve read the book several times, and I still can’t tell you whether Rozat “Rusty” Sabich, the attorney accused of murdering a woman with whom he had a brief affair, did it. That’s the beauty of the book.

presumed-posterThe movie adaptation, released in 1990, was directed by Alan J. Pakula  (All the President’s Men, The Parallax View) and written by Frank Pierson (Dog Day Afternoon, Cool Hand Luke). That’s some heavyweight talent. Harrison Ford starred as Rusty Sabich, and he is — others may tell you otherwise, but they’re all wrong — brilliant in the role: subtle and unreadable and, just like Turow wrote him in the book, slightly unlikable in a you-can’t-put-your-finger-on-it kind of way.

 Here’s a look at the movie:


This is one of those rare adaptations of a mystery novel that is as suspenseful and shocking as the book. Pakula and Pierson are (mostly) faithful to Turow’s labyrinthine story, although they do veer off in their own direction a few times, just enough to make someone familiar with the book think: I have no idea what’s going to happen next. (Kubrick did the same thing with The Shining: at one juncture he took a right-angle turn, and put the book’s fans in the same position as the people who hadn’t read the novel: in the dark about what was coming next.)

I hope somebody makes a movie out of Innocent, too. It is a very clever book, smartly plotted and beautifully written — a sequel that justifies its existence by taking place two decades after the original, and by adding troubling new layers to the character of Rusty Sabich. Alan Pakula’s no longer with us, sadly, but Sidney Lumet would knock this out of the park

Harrison Ford, if you’re listening, you should grab the rights to this book. I’d love to see you play this part again. Heck, I’ll even write it for you.



About the Author:

David Pitt lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In addition to reviewing for Booklist, he writes a monthly column about paperback fiction and nonfiction for the Winnipeg Free Press. He has contributed to The Booklist Reader since 2010.

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