New & notable book: ‘The Word’

There’s a reason that Hubert Crouch, author of The Word, chose to set his legal thrillers in the city of Fort Worth.

The trial attorney-turned-novelist didn’t just throw a dart at a map and hit North Texas.

Crouch has ties to the area. As a founding member and partner of the Dallas law firm Crouch & Ramey, he has litigated many cases in Fort Worth courtrooms.

But beyond that, he absolutely loves the city. “Fort Worth has a unique personality,” Crouch says. “It’s amazing that Dallas and Fort Worth can be 30 miles apart and be so different in character.”

His debut novel, 2013’s Cried for No One, introduced Jace Forman, a superstar attorney with a down-home style and an office near Sundance Square.

Jace’s new case is a tricky one. The Word involves a cult leader whose extremist message is protected by the First Amendment. Jace represents the parents of a fallen female soldier after the funeral is disrupted by protesters.

It’s a story inspired in part by the U.S. Supreme Court tort liability case of Snyder v. Phelps, in which the high court ruled that an anti-gay church group had the right to picket military funerals.

When Crouch’s class of undergraduate students at SMU got into a contentious debate about the decision, it cemented his interest in the subject.

“Many students felt the ruling tipped the balance the wrong way in protecting free-speech rights while sacrificing people’s personal right to bury their loved ones in peace,” Crouch says.

To the author’s credit, he gives Jace a worthy courtroom adversary in Crom Prater, who speaks passionately and intelligently in defense of First Amendment rights.

“Legal debates like this are never just black or white,” Crouch says. “There’s a lot of gray.

“If I’ve done my job right, when these lawyers give their opening and closing statements, no matter which side the reader agrees with, he’ll think, ‘Well, that was a pretty convincing argument.’”

— David Martindale, Special to the Star-Telegram

The Word

by Hubert Crouch

Sepentine Books, $14.25