March 20, 2017

Playwright’s first novel captures timely insight on workings of Supreme Court

CHICAGO, March 20, 2017 — Anton Piatigorsky, a Canadian-American playwright, librettist and short story writer, tells the behind-the-scenes story of the lives and interplay of U.S. Supreme Court justices in his debut novel “Al-Tounsi.”

“A wonderful read ... a powerful reminder that justices are human and that,  as much as the law, determines how important cases are decided.”
— Erwin Chemerinsky, dean, University of California, Irvine School of Law

Playwright’s first novel captures timely insight on workings of Supreme Court

CHICAGO, March 20, 2017 — Anton Piatigorsky, a Canadian-American playwright, librettist and short story writer, tells the behind-the-scenes story of the lives and interplay of U.S. Supreme Court justices in his debut novel “Al-Tounsi.”

The book, released this month by Ankerwycke, the consumer imprint of the American Bar Association, captures the inner workings of the high court as it considers a potential landmark case involving the rights of detainees held in confinement at an overseas military base.

Inspired by a true case from 2008 addressing Guantanamo Bay, the fictional lawsuit of Al-Tounsi v. Shaw pits Majid Al-Tounsi, an Egyptian prisoner, against the fictional president of the United States. It challenges U.S. laws that apply to noncitizens under wartime circumstances and the extent of executive power.

As the highly watched case maneuvers through the offices of the individual justices, the novel explores in detail how the personal life dramas, career rivalries and political sympathies of members of the high court converge and collide with their philosophies to create the most important legal decisions of our time.

With the scheduled March 20 opening of U.S. Senate hearings on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, the national spotlight shifts to the U.S. Supreme Court and the related partisan divide over the seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2016. In addition, the book is being released amid debate on the rights of noncitizens, highlighted by recent presidential executive orders and other immigration matters.

“Many federal officials have been put in a terrible position,” Piatigorsky said. “On one hand, they are sworn to uphold the law, which often includes the orders of the executive. On the other hand, they have a deep knowledge of the principles of democracy and the norms of the American republic, and they are sworn to uphold those as well. When those two duties contradict each other entirely, a crisis arises inside each and every good person. ‘Al-Tounsi’ is, primarily, the story of a Supreme Court justice who suffers that exact crisis, and who figures out a way to resolve it with dignity and intelligence.”

Piatigorsky, author of a collection of short stories about 20th Century dictators as teenagers titled “The Iron Bridge,” is the recipient of two Toronto-based Dora Mavor Moore Awards for best new play and numerous other nominations. His plays include “Eternal Hydra” and “Breath In Between” as well as the opera “Airline Icarus,” which had a song that won a 2015 Juno, Canada’s music awards. He was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, and now lives in Toronto.

Title:                            “Al-Tounsi: A Novel”
Publisher:                    Ankerwycke Books
Pages:                         359
Binding:                      Paperback
ISBN:                           978-1-63425-609-4
Price:                           $16.95
E-book:                        978-1-63425-610-0 ($9.99)
Orders:                       
Order the book at shopaba or call 800-285-2221.

What others are saying about “Al-Tounsi”:

“This remarkable book marries a sophisticated understanding of the law to an even deeper grasp of human nature. The result is revelatory: insight into both current legal issues and the timeless problems of being human.” — Kermit Roosevelt, professor of law, University of Pennsylvania Law School and author of “Allegiance: A Novel”

“‘Al-Tounsi’ is at once a remarkable novel of the law and a remarkable novel of human relationships. The Supreme Court is the pinnacle of American jurisprudence, but it's also a very small and very intimate workplace, staffed by nine erratic geniuses. In ‘Al-Tounsi’ it's all on display, along with one searingly familiar case about wartime detainees.” — Ben Winters, author of “Underground Airlines”

Editor’s note: Author interviews and review copies of this book are available by emailing Dean Pappas at Dean.Pappas@americanbar.org. If you publish a review of this book, please send tear sheets or a copy for our files to Dean Pappas, ABA Book Publishing, 321 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60654.

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