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Fool's Gold: A Story of Ancient Spanish Treasure, Two Pounds of Pot, and the Young Lawyer Almost Left Holding the Bag
     

Fool's Gold: A Story of Ancient Spanish Treasure, Two Pounds of Pot, and the Young Lawyer Almost Left Holding the Bag

by Bill Merritt
 

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A fantastically eccentric true crime caper that does for coastal Oregon what Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil did for Savannah.

Just a few months out of law school, Bill Merritt takes a job working for a slightly shady but charismatic lawyer named Thaddeus Silk. Only months later, Thaddeus drops dead of a heart

Overview

A fantastically eccentric true crime caper that does for coastal Oregon what Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil did for Savannah.

Just a few months out of law school, Bill Merritt takes a job working for a slightly shady but charismatic lawyer named Thaddeus Silk. Only months later, Thaddeus drops dead of a heart attack, and Bill is left to pick up the pieces of his chaotic and poorly managed practice. Before he can even start to make sense of the mess that was Thaddeus's legal life, the police are knocking at his door, and Bill is being accused of fencing stolen treasure. Enter Abby Birdsong and Grady Jackson, two clients of Thaddeus's whose files are among the boxes and papers and bourbon bottles that litter his office. Drug charges had been brought against Abby for carrying two pounds of pot in her bag; and Grady seeks a permit from the state of Oregon to dig for treasure on a local beach. Bill takes on both of their cases, which, on the face of it, aren't related. When the two cases collide in ways that seem too fantastic to be true, Bill finds himself caught in the middle.

How Thaddeus and Bill, Abby and Grady, assorted law enforcement officials and colorful hangers-on overlap and interconnect took Bill another nineteen years to puzzle out. The result is an intricate and original legal yarn with a cast of provincial misfits so peculiar and charming it reads like fiction.

Editorial Reviews

Jonathan Yardley
Bill Merritt has done something that almost nobody does anymore: He's written an old-fashioned, honest-to-God shaggy-dog story.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Take a hoary old sea coast legend of lost gold, a parade of unwashed, felonious ne'er-do-wells, an utterly corrupt county sheriff; mix them thoroughly with bags and bags of pot, and you've got Merritt's hilarious tale of good intentions, bad luck and even worse body odor. This hairy yarn begins with the death of a marginally compromised, totally debauched attorney and ends with the death of a local oddball; in between is stuffed mystery, suspense and archeology. The text abounds with the author's funny lawyerly griping and plenty of exasperated observations on the bone-headed ways of ordinary citizens ("In the Land of Fresh out of Ideas, the half-baked scheme is king"). Though he traffics in blunt, almost crude physical description of the characters, especially the women ("Her face was round with double chins, almost invisible eyebrows.... Taken all in all, it was not a sexy face"), Merritt ultimately treats them so sympathetically that one cannot help liking them, with a tale that's compelling at every turn and surprisingly emotionally complex, Merritt has managed his own alchemy. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This may be a more-or-less true story of the author's early legal career (a small "Author's note" speaks of composite characters and made-up individuals), but it sure reads like a comic novel as Merritt (Where the Rivers Ran Backward) weaves a delightful and fascinating tale of buried treasure, stashes of pot, and legal maneuverings. In 1981 coastal Oregon, Merritt was hired as an associate for deal-making shady attorney Thaddeus Silk. He had worked for Silk for only three months when Silk dropped dead of a heart attack in his office one night. The next day Merritt found himself in the middle of police and Bar Association investigations. He also had to handle an ex-con receptionist always accompanied by her Vietnam-addled vet boyfriend and Silk's suspicious sister. And the clients: while working for a crazy treasure-hunting recluse, who had been fighting the state for years for the right to dig on the beach, and a pot-smoking middle-aged hippie, Merritt soon found himself at the center of the investigations. He came to realize that there were too many bizarre occurrences to be purely coincidental, although it took him some time to puzzle out the "whodunit." The book also includes an interesting history of Oregon geography and shipwrecks. Highly recommended.-Karen Sandlin Silverman, Library Svcs., Ctr. for Applied Research, Philadelphia Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Merritt's memoir of his early days as a lawyer in coastal Oregon falls flat. The book suffers from too many cartoonish, unconvincing characters stuck in a plodding story line. Merritt claims to be recounting a "true" story, but an author's note cautions that the book is "filled with made-up individuals, composite characters, and descriptions that do not match anything in the real world." The events and people he recalls are neither terribly believable nor very entertaining. When wily mentor Thaddeus Silk suddenly expires, Merritt inherits client Grady Jackson, a crusty recluse who's suing the state of Oregon for the right to search for buried treasure on the state-owned Neahkahnie Beach. After finding an antique gold chain in Jackson's mountaintop cabin, the authorities believe that he has stolen it from state land, and they take legal action. Merritt's other client is overweight pothead Abby Birdsong, who literally trails marijuana seeds from her handbag while strolling into the courtroom. When Birdsong is busted for stashing four tons of Jamaican weed in a storage locker, she tells Merritt that she pilfered the dope after watching federal drug agents murder three dealers on the beach. The plot takes several turns, with both Songbird and Jackson eventually proving to be not quite the buffoons they appear. But Merritt's narrative has already provided a little too much buffoonery, courtesy of obtuse characters with names like Ropy Arms, Engine Joe and Tail Pipe. Merritt's prose is affable and folksy, but his meandering story lacks grit and wit.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781596910997
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
01/24/2006
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
6.34(w) x 9.46(h) x 1.16(d)

Read an Excerpt

"As much as anybody I ever met, Abby Birdsong was truly a Bride of the Weed. The afternoon she finally made it to my office, and every time I met with her from then on, she stank of marijuana as if she stored her clothes and her hair in a smokehouse of dope. And she didn't just smell of dope, she carried a large straw bag that dribbled seeds as she walked. I had no way of checking, but I'm almost certain she kept a couple of pounds in there. The more I talked to her over the months, the harder it was to pin down exactly what else she did with her life other than toke up.

And then, she toked up right in my office.

I've smelled some bad dope in my time, but whatever it was Abby was dribbling out of her straw bag gave new meaning to the word ——. That was, hands down, the worst dope I ever smelled."

Meet the Author

Bill Merritt practiced law in Portland, Oregon, for more than a decade, and lives there still. He's the author of Where the Rivers Ran Backward, about his experience in Vietnam.

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