The choice of Mary Gordon to tell the story of the 15th-century soldier-saint Joan of Arc for its Penguin Lives series was an editorial inspiration. This accomplished novelist has the scholarly expertise, psychological sympathy and imaginative skill to make the narrative lively and credible. Though the series' brevity forces Gordon to select both scenes and characters economically, she never oversimplifies. She makes clear that this cocky, pure, maddening, unwise girl forgot herself in a cause greater than herself. Joan was talky and self-contradictory. To describe Joan in words is an impossible project, sure to be partial, sure to fail in some way. One of Gordon's strengths is that she recognizes this.
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).