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The Fall of the House of Zeus

The Rise and Ruin of America's Most Powerful Trial Lawyer

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eBook published by Crown (Crown Publishing Group)

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About This Book
“Over the past four decades no reporter has critiqued the American South with such evocative sensitivity and bedrock honesty as Curtis Wilkie.”
—Douglas Brinkley
 
The Fall of the House of Zeus tells the story of Dickie Scruggs, arguably the most successful plaintiff's lawyer in America. A brother-in-law of Trent Lott, the former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Scruggs made a fortune taking on mass tort lawsuits against “Big Tobacco” and the asbestos industries. He was hailed by Newsweek as a latter day Robin Hood, and portrayed in the movie, The Insider, as a dapper aviator-lawyer. Scruggs’ legal triumphs rewarded him lavishly, and his success emboldened both his career maneuvering and his influence in Southern politics--but at a terrible cost, culminating in his spectacular fall, when he was convicted for conspiring to bribe a Mississippi state judge. 
 
Here Mississippi is emblematic of the modern South, with its influx of new money and its rising professional class, including lawyers such as Scruggs, whose interests became inextricably entwined with state and national politics.
 
Based on extensive interviews, transcripts, and FBI recordings never made public, The Fall of the House of Zeus exposes the dark side of Southern and Washington legal games and power politics: the swirl of fixed cases, blocked investigations, judicial tampering, and a zealous prosecution that would eventually ensnare not only Scruggs but his own son, Zach, in the midst of their struggle with insurance companies over Hurricane Katrina damages. In gripping detail, Curtis Wilkie crafts an authentic legal thriller propelled by a “welter of betrayals and personal hatreds,” providing large supporting parts for Trent Lott and Jim Biden, brother of then-Senator Joe, and cameos by John McCain, Al Gore, and other DC insiders and influence peddlers.
 
Above all, we get to see how and why the mighty fail and fall, a story as gripping and timeless as a Greek tragedy.


From the Hardcover edition.
Show less
“Over the past four decades no reporter has critiqued the American South with such evocative sensitivity and bedrock honesty as Curtis Wilkie.”
—Douglas Brinkley
 
The Fall of the House of Zeus tells the story of Dickie Scruggs, arguably the most successful plaintiff's lawyer in America. A brother-in-law of Trent Lott, the former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Scruggs made a fortune taking on mass tort lawsuits against “Big Tobacco” and the asbestos industries. He was hailed by Newsweek as a latter day Robin Hood, and portrayed in the movie, The Insider, as a dapper aviator-lawyer. Scruggs’ legal triumphs rewarded him lavishly, and his success emboldened both his career maneuvering and his influence in Southern politics--but at a terrible cost, culminating in his spectacular fall, when he was convicted for conspiring to bribe a Mississippi state judge. 
 
Here Mississippi is emblematic of the modern South, with its influx of new money and its rising professional class, including lawyers such as Scruggs, whose interests became inextricably entwined with state and national politics.
 
Based on extensive interviews, transcripts, and FBI recordings never made public, The Fall of the House of Zeus exposes the dark side of Southern and Washington legal games and power politics: the swirl of fixed cases, blocked investigations, judicial tampering, and a zealous prosecution that would eventually ensnare not only Scruggs but his own son, Zach, in the midst of their struggle with insurance companies over Hurricane Katrina damages. In gripping detail, Curtis Wilkie crafts an authentic legal thriller propelled by a “welter of betrayals and personal hatreds,” providing large supporting parts for Trent Lott and Jim Biden, brother of then-Senator Joe, and cameos by John McCain, Al Gore, and other DC insiders and influence peddlers.
 
Above all, we get to see how and why the mighty fail and fall, a story as gripping and timeless as a Greek tragedy.


From the Hardcover edition.
Product Details
eBook (320 pages)
Published: October 19, 2010
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Imprint: Crown
ISBN: 9780307460721
Other books byCurtis Wilkie
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    Arkansas Mischief
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    As Bill Clinton's political and business mentor, Jim McDougal—with his knowledge of embarrassing real-estate and banking deals, bribes, and obstructions of justice—long haunted the White House. McDougal's vivid self-portrait, completed only days before his death and coauthored by veteran journalist Curtis Wilkie, reveals the hidden intersections of politics and special interests in Arkansas and the betrayals that followed. It is the story of how ambitious men and women climbed out of rural obscurity, of friendships broken and lives.Anecdotes fall like bright coins from a raconteur's rich purse, and the Whitewater scandal shown for what it was. Vintage political history, Arkansas Mischief is a southern tragedy with lessons for us all.

    Dixie

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    Dixie is a political and social history of the South during the second half of the twentieth century told from Curtis Wilkie's perspective as a white man intimately transformed by enormous racial and political upheavals. Wilkie's personal take on some of the landmark events of modern American history is as engaging as it is insightful. He attended Ole Miss during the rioting in the fall of 1962, when James Meredith became the first African American to enroll in the school. After graduation, Wilkie worked in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where he met Aaron Henry, a local druggist and later the prominent head of the Mississippi NAACP. He covered the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964 and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party challenge at the national convention in Atlantic City, and he was a member of the biracial insurgent Democratic delegation from Mississippi seated in place of Governor John Bell Williams's delegation at the 1968 convention in Chicago. Wilkie followed Jimmy Carter's campaign for the presidency, becoming friends with Billy Carter; he covered Bill Clinton's election in 1992 and was witness to the South's startling shift from the Democratic Party to the GOP; and finally, he was there when Byron De La Beckwith was convicted for the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers thirty-one years after the fact. Wilkie had left the South in 1969 in the wake of the violence surrounding the civil rights movement, vowing never to live there again. But after traveling the world as a reporter, he did return in 1993, drawn by a deep-rooted affinity to the region of his youth. It was as though he rejoined his tribe, a peculiar civilization bonded by accent and mannerisms and burdened by racial anxiety. As Wilkie writes, Southerners have staunchly resisted assimilation since the Civil War, taking an almost perverse pride in their role as "spiritual citizens of a nation that existed for only four years in another century." Wilkie endeavors to make sense of the enormous changes that have typified the South for more than four decades. Full of beauty, humor, and pathos, Dixie is a story of redemption -- for both a region and a writer.

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