“The Burning Man” By Phillip Margolin Essay, Research Paper
Book Review of “The Burning Man” by Phillip Margolin
Peter Hale, the son of Richard Hale, a four-year associate at Hale,
Greaves, Strobridg, Marquand, and Bartlett, has lived his life under the shadow
of his father. Despite having a high five-figure salary and fire-engine-red
Porsche, Peter was constantly trying to overcome the expectations of his high-
class lawyer of a father, who was former president of the Oregon State Bar.
Handling only small-time cases did not present Peter with the opportunity to
outshine his father, who was also a second-team All-American football player and
National Champion wrestler, but when his father had a heart attack and could no
longer handle a million dollar case in which Peter had been helping him, Peter
could not let the opportunity pass. As Richard Hale lied helpless in a hospital
bed, he demanded Peter ask for a mistrial, but it seemed only to go in one ear
of Peter’s and out the other. Peter’s boldness would be costly though, as he
would lose the case and lose his father. Richard did not die, but when he heard
of his son’s error he could not forgive him and couldn’t bare to see him anymore.
Only a fatherly instinct would force Richard to find a meager job for
his helpless son in a small town with an old friend who was looking for someone
trying to regain status as Peter now was. Whitaker was not as exciting as
Portland was to Peter, but he began to be accustomed to the town when he began
his handling small criminal cases and ran into an old friend who graduated with
him from highschool, Steve Mancini. Steve, like Peter’s father, was a football
star, but at the Division II level for the Whitaker State football team. Hale
became close with Mancini and met many other residents of Whitaker through Steve.
One being Steve’s beautiful and intelligent fiance, Donna Harmon and her
slightly retarded brother Gary. Just as things began to become settled for
Peter in Whitaker, he ran into some problems with Gary Harmon. Peter had to
save him once from the police in a peeping incident and then became Gary’s lead
attorney, under some influence from Steve Mancini, as Gary was charged with the
murder of a local college girl.
The night of the murder, Gary had been at a local bar, the Stallion, and
had gotten into an argument with a girl whom he had asked to buy a drink for.
Despite the assurance of a local drug-dealer friend of Gary’s, Kevin Booth and
his friend, Christopher Mammon, the college girl had rejected Gary heavily not
knowing he was slightly retarded. This upset Gary and lead him to jaunt out of
the Stallion and back to his soon-to-be brother-in-law’s house and then to his.
That is when the police arrived and asked him to come to the station and help
them solve a crime.
At this time Dennis Downes and Bob Patrick, the officers who brought him
there, began to question him about his whereabouts the night before and about
his information on the murder that occured that night in Wishing Well park. The
questions led to Dennis Downes putting words into Gary’s mouth about the murder
and Bob Patrick intimidating Gary into believing he had supernatural powers and
could remember everything about the crime, or in essence that he really did
commit the crime.
This would be the basis of Peter’s defense case of Gary Harmon. He
would use the entire script of this interogation of Gary Harmon to try to
establish that Gary was coerced into giving the details of the crime that were
fed into his mind by the police, but Peter was still not sure that Gary did not
commit this crime. His beliefs were that there was no way Gary did this, and
his heart told him that if he didn’t win this trial, his life would be
indefinately over and if he did he would experience a new beginning.
The trial was not the only thing happening to Peter, as Steve and his
now wife began to have troubles. Steve took out his emotions on his wife and
hit her many times. Peter was the one who was always there for Donna and was
becoming attached to her and her brother whom he was defending. This would add
even more pressure and confusion to Peter’s life.
Things began to unwind and in the end a corrupt Becky O’Shay and Steve
Mancini aided in the coverup of the murderer, Kevin Booth, in order to coverup
their drug use. Booth’s under-cover FBI agent partner helped Steve Mancini
uncover the truth, that the gril was killed by Booth over drugs and drug money.
Gary ends up free after being convicted of murder while Peter ends up on the
same page as his father and in love with the beautiful and intelligent Donna
Harmon, whom he will marry and live with in the beautiful, quiet city of
Gary Harmon, unlike most others, sometimes needs others to think for him.
Whether or not the right people think for him or not is what makes this story.
It began in the Stallion, when Kevin Booth and Christopher Mammon told Gary to
ask a girl at the bar whether he could buy her a drink. They knew that she
didn’t want him to, but with just a little persuasion, Gary was led into a
delusional world, believing that the girl wanted him to buy her a drink and
perhaps take her home after that. When he was so abruptly brought out of his
delusional world, he became violent. After that, when Gary was brought into the
questioning room of the police station the next day, two police officers
desperately searcing for some answers also began to think for Gary Harmon.
After a series of questions to which they supplied the answers, they had Gary
believing that he had supernatural powers and that he could recall the past,
even that of which he had not experienced. They used this information to put
Gary on trial for a murder which they created in his mind. It took Peter Hale,
whom in himself he had no belief, to believe and think correctly for Gary Harmon
and save his innocent life from others who thought nothing of it.
Margolin used this story to symbolize all of those who live in
delusional worlds, some believing they know everything or some not knowing what
they know, and show how vulnerable those people can be. It is the people who
fight for the well-being of people in delusional worlds and try to convince them
to face reality that save them from disaster. This creates a great universal
appeal in this story, because everyone knows someone who lives in a delusional
world and can relate to the efforts of Peter Hale.