The Florida Bar

Florida Bar Journal

Miami Memoirs

By Lewis M. Ress Book Reviews

Cover of Miami MemoirsLife is a journey, they say, and in Miami Memoirs, attorney emeritus Lewis M. Ress takes us on an episodic journey through the times and places that have defined a life well lived — one that is still in progress. The author, running marathons in his 80s, is a natural born storyteller, and the stories are populated by characters from his family, friends, clients, colleagues, and adversaries.

As in Mr. Ress’ first book, Strange Cases and Wild Tales, the stories are brief. The writing is concise. In spare prose he brings the characters to life and puts the reader at the scene. Like Miami in 1956, when the young unemployed lawyer drove into town with a new wife and no prospects: “Despite the pastel-colored houses and the tall palm trees, there was a certain desolated empty, flat, unfinished feeling in Miami. Maybe it was the pervasive heat, but there was very little traffic and everything moved in a glaze, in a haze, in a torpor.”

I like a good plot, and Ress delivers. Like the yarn about his college pranks with a classmate who later, after becoming a Mossad agent, denied recognizing him during a chance encounter on the courthouse steps. Or his description of the beauty of his beloved Cornell University campus, which sent me on a virtual tour. (He was right!)

Other noteworthy mentions include the tale of how our hero became an unlikely marksman and his misadventures in service after World War II; the mystery of his elderly Aunt Ida, who left a most unlikely estate; and an homage to his mother that betrays where the author got his talent as a storyteller. There’s the remembrance of an unsuccessful run for Congress, and why it mattered; the rise and fall of the misbegotten Second National Bank, and much more than can be mentioned here.

It’s a good read, and if compassion, empathy, talent, and brains are important, this legal memoir deserves a place on the shelf, and a berth for your summertime reading.

Mark Wolin is a member of The Florida Bar.