John Mortimer

At their theatrical best, lawyers are star actors who write their own lines, improvise to meet the occasion and use the courtroom as a stage to declaim on matters of life and death. Sir John Mortimer, who died at 85 on Jan. 16, was an Oxford-trained barrister (and the son of a barrister) who proved adept at arguing his cases both in his fiction and in real life.

He gained early notice with 1957's The Dock Brief, a comic tale of an inept counsel. It was done on radio, TV and stage, then filmed with Peter Sellers. The autobiographical A Voyage...

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