Courtroom Drama: Perry Mason and His Progeny with William Bernhardt - Context Travel

Courtroom Drama: Perry Mason and His Progeny with William Bernhardt


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Courtroom drama is popular and often profound whether from bestsellers like Erle Stanley Gardner and John Grisham or more literary talents like Scott Turow. This seminar will consider the history and evolution of legal drama, discussing some of the most popular entries and examining its enduring appeal.

Erle Stanley Gardner's 82 Perry Mason novels were extremely popular and remain the third-bestselling book series ever written. But legal drama did not begin with Gardner and it certainly did not end with his passing in 1970.

Charles Dickens was already incredibly popular when he wrote Bleak House in 1852, one of the earliest novels to deal with the courts. Many other fine courtroom dramas have followed on stage, screen, and page, such as Twelve Angry Men, Witness for the Prosecution, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Anatomy of a Murder. Many actual court cases have also given rise to legal drama. The Scopes became Inherit the Wind and Leopold and Loeb became Compulsion. In the 1990s, John Grisham wrote a novel called The Firm, and soon ""legal thrillers"" topped the bestseller charts. Ironically, in a society that is often critical of and cynical about lawyers, legal stories thrived.

Led by William Bernhardt, an attorney, scholar, and author of courtroom novels, this seminar will consider the history and evolution of legal drama, discussing some of the most popular entries and examining their enduring appeal. Why do people love reading about lawyers? Why are courtroom battles so thrilling? Judging from the success of the recent HBO Perry Mason reboot starring Matthew Rhys (now filming a second season), the genre shows no signs of abating. Designed for anyone who enjoys a thrilling trial, this seminar will hold participants’ attention from the opening statement to the final verdict.

William Bernhardt is a scholar, teacher, author of more than fifty published works, including several New York Times-bestselling novels.  In addition to his many crime and law novels, Bernhardt has written plays, a musical (book and music), nonfiction, children's books, poetry, and created jig-saw puzzles. He was also a Champion on Season 30 of the game show Jeopardy! He is the founder and President of the Red Sneaker Writing Center which provides resources to support upcoming writers. The Center hosts the annual WriterCon in Oklahoma City and small-group seminars across the US, as well as a free monthly e-newsletter and a biweekly podcast — reaching more than 20,000 subscribers. Bernhardt has received many accolades for his writing, including an induction into the Oklahoma Writers’ Hall of Fame. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma College of Law and currently lives in Oklahoma with his wife and their children.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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