Lit Gloss

By Liz Spikol
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Dec. 29, 2008

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In 1998 Ralph Cipriano, then on staff at The Philadelphia Inquirer, made journalistic history by being the first reporter ever to sue his editor for libel. That editor, Robert Rosenthal, had told The Washington Post that Cipriano falsified a story about excessive spending by Philadelphia’s Catholic archbishop. The story was the kind Cipriano had been writing for the Inky as a crusader against the corruption that marred the Archdiocese—much to the chagrin of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua’s craven PR man, Brian Tierney (yes, that Brian Tierney). When Cipriano and the Inquirer settled the case out of court, the reporter and his high-profile lawyer, Jim Beasely, appeared together on the cover of Editor & Publisher—fighters of the good fight. Now Cipriano has written a biography of the late, great Beasely, who, like Tierney, Bevilacqua and even, to a certain extent, Cipriano himself, was a fascinating mix of charm and impatience, passion and peevishness. For Phiadelphia readers, Courtroom Cowboy is a rich, rewarding read. Aside from the now-entertaining details of Cipriano’s legendary libel case—with plenty of dirt on Tierney and the Cardinal—the book features some of Beasely’s highest-profile cases, including that of Ira Einhorn, the so-called hippie murderer who stuffed his pretty girlfriend into a trunk; Donald Lee McCabe, the self-professed psychoanalyst who drugged and had sex with a patient; and a 23-year libel suit against Philly writer Greg Walter brought by the high-powered lawyer Dick Sprague (guess who won that one?). Countless other familiar names pop up; Beasely was larger than life, and so were his clients. Along with the court cases, Cipriano introduces us to Beasely the man, a remarkable, evangelical trial lawyer who flew fighter jets, hunted big game and was so committed to work, he was unable to vacation, despite a love of fishing and owning a huge boat. But unlike many big personalities, Beasely wasn’t warm and cuddly, and Cipriano doesn’t hide his more challenging out-of-court personality. Cipriano’s prose is brisk and entertaining, and the book, published by Lawrence Teacher (ex of Running Press), is a sumptuous affair with plenty of illustrations and photographs. In the end, Jim Beasely is probably best summed up by Don King, who said he was “one fightin’ mother fucker.”

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