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In one of the last conversations that Stanford Law School professor Paul Goldstein had with his ailing mother, he told her that his novel, “Havana Requiem,” had won an award called the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.
“She instantly engaged and said, ‘Harper Lee! “To Kill a Mockingbird”! Why that’s wonderful, Paul,’” Goldstein recalled recently during his brief acceptance speech. His mother died last month at age 100.
The award, named for the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” is sponsored by the ABA Journal and the University of Alabama School of Law and is given each year for the novel that best exemplifies the role of lawyers in society.
Goldstein’s book chronicles efforts by a lawyer, recovering alcoholic Michael Seeley, to help a group of aging Cuban jazz musicians and their families reclaim copyrights to their works. When his main client, Héctor Reynoso, goes missing, Seeley begins to realize that there is more to the story than music. He discovers a far deeper conspiracy that might include both the Cuban secret police and his former law firm.
Goldstein said he was deeply honored to receive an award that bears the name of such a distinguished author.
“My personal celebration after learning that ‘Havana Requiem’ had won the Harper Lee Prize was to reread ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’’’ he said. “It had been some years since I had read it last. … It was just absolutely a joy and nostalgic, to be sure, to be captivated once again by the magic of those pages. It is absolutely an enduring, very special magic.”
Goldstein, 70, writes and lectures on intellectual property issues and is the author of two other novels, “Errors and Omissions” and “A Patent Lie.” He has been the Lillick professor of law at Stanford Law School since 1985. In addition to teaching, Goldstein is a member of the bars of New York and California, and since 1988, he has been of counsel to the law firm of Morrison & Foerster, where he advises clients on major intellectual property lawsuits and transactions.
Judges for the contest included best-selling authors, Michael Connelly and Richard North Patterson; syndicated talk show host Katie Couric; Morris Dees, co-founder and chief trial counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center; and Sharon Malone, a physician married to Attorney General Eric Holder and sister of University of Alabama alumna Vivian Malone Jones, one of the first two African-Americans admitted to and first to graduate from the University of Alabama. Past winners include Connelly and John Grisham.
For the second consecutive year, the Harper Lee Prize award ceremony was held in conjunction with the National Book Festival on Sept. 21-22 in D.C.