I am deeply sad to write that my good friend, Howard G Franklin, passed away, surrounded by close family in Portland (US), on the evening of September 11, 2016. I first met him in person in March 2012 when he visited Hangzhou (China) while he was touring the country with his wife, Linda, who I have known as a writer way back from 2008 when I published my first book on China through FirstBooks and Inkwater Press. We kept in touch ever since as good mates. Such is the sad fact of life that we are all busy in our day-to-day lives and distance makes it challenging to meet each other often than we hope for. I was hoping to go and meet him in Portland one day (a city I have never been to and I had hoped that I would visit).
Linda confirmed that he was diagnosed with metastatic cancer at the beginning of April. He had three very good months, sailing through chemo, continuing to play singles tennis and walk three miles a day. Following a genetic test that indicated it was 90% likely bladder cancer, he had immunotherapy, but developed pneumonitis throughout July. By August, it had metastasized very widely with 11 new brain lesions, which robbed him of all balance and stability, and invasion of heart lining, lungs, GI tract, etc. His last six weeks were a very rapid decline, from walking with Linda's assistance, to a walker, to a wheelchair and finally to being bedridden. With his whole family by his side, he left our world at 9.19pm local time, holding Linda’s hand. They had over nine wonderful years’ together, way too short but as Linda says, they did so much and he was able to leave a legacy behind, which was so important to him.
Outside of personal life, his work as a distinguished author and attorney in the US will always be remembered by the many who he was able to bring inspiration and joy to with his lifelong experiences. Here is a link to an article I wrote last year about Howard’s work, and below is a screen shot of an obituary that was published in his local newspaper in Portland.
May god bless Howard G. Franklin and may his soul rest in peace. Great man.
Based on the life experiences of author and attorney Howard G. Franklin, Gideon’s Children gets its name from the landmark Supreme Court decision on March 18, 1963 that guaranteed every criminal defendant in a felony trial the right to a lawyer. Now over 50 years since that Gideon v. Wainwright decision, Franklin’s book puts into perspective the challenges confronted by he and a group of lawyers defending the poor, mostly African-American defendants in southern California in 1968.
Having reading this book, I can only imagine what it must have been like as a public defender in 1960s America. In excruciating detail, Franklin provides a vivid insight, which at times is very entertaining and graphic, of a young, idealistic attorney who went to work in a public defender’s office in Los Angeles in the late 1960s.
I find it particularly fascinating how Franklin does an exceptional job introducing the readers to historical events, landmark cases, and his personal experience throughout this remarkable read. It is very easy for society to brush away history or to take things for granted without knowing about how the events in history have got humanity and society to where we are now, and Franklin does an outstanding job in making sure that generations of readers will get to know what actually happened.
Although the book is fiction, the situations are very real. It brings into frame the challenges faced by attorneys in those early days, especially after Gideon’s decision, and how the U.S. legal system has been somewhat unfair to many, particularly minorities.
The part that should be read with even more great interest than any other part of the book is in Chapter Five; where the action is taking place in 1968, and there is a determined public defender about to try his first jury trial. His client is African-American, and from an area where the majority of the population of the judicial district population is mostly black. When the jury panel of 200, from which 12 will be picked, is led into the courtroom, all 200 are white.
In this book, readers will be reminded of the virtuous qualities of Atticus Finch when learning about the public defenders in our justice system. For anyone interested in the U.S. justice system, this would be a pivotal and a sensible choice as a read to pick up. It would be perfect for lawyers who really want to understand about parts of the U.S. legal system. President Obama recently said, “That history can’t be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past -- how to break the cycle. A roadway toward a better world.”
Gideon’s Children is a book worthy of your time, whether for those cosy winter evenings at home or a perfect read in the quieter moments to ponder over life. It becomes quite clear in the book that the author’s generation has endured so much in times which we should not forget but rather learn from and make sure that such bad times don’t happen again.
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