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Florida Bar Journal


Terry Lewis Book Reviews

IncognitoIncognito, written after Terry Lewis left the Tallahassee circuit court bench on which he served for 30 years, is clearly his best work. The general rule that an author writes best about what the author has experienced has been broken.

Far from the courtroom, law offices, and sweaty streets of Florida’s capital city, the action (and there is a lot of that!) in Incognito centers around the streets of Philadelphia and New York in revolutionary times when the issue of our future nation’s independence from England was being hotly debated on the streets and in the legislative halls.

Lewis departs from the details of today’s courtroom life and the contemporary world of lawyers and their professional and personal challenges. He has done very well in the past in achieving the difficult task of making interesting and exciting to his readers depositions, legal strategy sessions, pleading issues, and other routine legal matters that can even bore practitioners of the law. Lewis has done that, by and large, by his clever character creation and development.

Incognito continues to show how Lewis creatively brings strong characters to life, but readers are brought into the colonial world of traitors, patriots, murders, and the high life and low life of the period.

The novel focuses on a threat to the leaders of the incipient independent movement in the midst of war. Will the Founders survive long enough to pass the Declaration of Independence? Will Gen. Washington avoid assassination? We know the historical answers to these questions, but Lewis makes the threats real and present. That was a hard task, but with great research and masterful writing, Lewis pulls it off.

The central character of Incognito is a young lawyer whose values are impressive, although not shown on his sleeve. He has great character and selflessness in a time when a great deal of cynical self interest and lack of integrity is present. (That could be today, too, of course). The young man is challenged with a disability that he quietly accepts and handles with great courage. Through this character, Lewis shows us all a legal professional that can serve as a role model. It is important to be skilled in the law, but all the more important to be a person of courage and virtue, and the young Philadelphian is just that.

The young lawyer is threatened in many ways by the murderous, cynical, and scheming English secret agent and provocateur, Incognito, whose code name the book takes as its title. Incognito, the man, seems to personify so many of the evils of today’s political times as he ruthlessly uses people and their kindnesses, weaknesses, skills, and virtues in a vile manner for his treacherous purposes. Incognito, who threatened our democracy in 1776, has all of the malevolent and harmful traits that threaten our democratic experiment in 2021.

Incognito is a great read. Without causing any spoiler alerts, the threat to our nation may rise again as Lewis works on his next novel.

Lonnie N. Groot practices in Daytona Beach Shores.