From prosecuting (and defending) murderers in the Bronx to handling the public and private problems of Manhattan’s elite, Mouthpiece recounts the colorful adventures of New York City’s ultimate legal operator.
“In the pages before us, the Counselor tells a saga’s worth of tales of the city. As the saying goes, he’s got a million of them.” —Tom Wolfe, from his Introduction
Edward Hayes is that unusual combination: the likable lawyer, one who could have stepped off the stages of Guys and Dolls or Chicago. Mouthpiece is his story—an irreverent, entertaining, and revealing look at the practice of law in modern times and a social and political anatomy of New York City. It recounts Hayes’s childhood in the tough Irish sections of Queens and his eventual escape to the University of Virginia and then to Columbia Law School. Not at all white-shoe-firm material, Hayes headed to the hair-raising, crime-ridden South Bronx of the midseventies—first as a homicide prosecutor and then as a defense attorney seeking to free the same sort of people he formerly had put in jail.
Tom Wolfe immortalized this setting in The Bonfire of the Vanities. Ed Hayes was his guide, and he served as the model for the scrappy defense lawyer Tommy Killian. Eventually, Hayes moved his practice to Manhattan, using his neighborhood white boy instincts and connections and the rough-and-tumble techniques learned in the Bronx on behalf of the rich and powerful and famous. From a high-stakes legal shootout over the Andy Warhol estate to working to secure financial justice for the families of the World Trade Center victims, Hayes has been behind the scenes of how New York City really operates.
For the tens of millions fascinated by New York’s unique blend of glitter and grime, of idealism and corruption, of avarice and ambition, Mouthpiece provides the ultimate close-up of high-stakes Gotham gamesmanship.
Despite an effusive introduction by Tom Wolfe, who based the defense lawyer in The Bonfire of the Vanities on Hayes, many will be disappointed by this memoir. Hayes, a prominent attorney best known for his role in the Mafia cops case, has led a colorful life and deserves credit for overcoming a childhood that regularly featured beatings by his drunken father. The energetic, street-smart voice of the kid from working-class Queens who made good can be charming, but the blunt stereotypical statements and personal assessments are bound to offend: for example, "Latin women are the greatest gift God gave the world"; "she has the emotional range of a returned garment or a canceled sale at Bergdorf's." These flaws and the frequent dropping of prominent names overwhelm the genuinely dramatic experiences Hayes had - as a prosecutor, defense lawyer and as defender of Andy Warhol's estate and of Daniel Libeskind's vision for the World Trade Center site. (On sale Feb. 7)