When Fruitful Willis, after years of scraping out a meager living as a bum, discovers that he has been granted a more dignified status as a member of the ‘homeless,’ he stakes a claim on the sidewalk in front of Murray Plotkin’s delicatessen. Murray’s heavy-handed attempts to remove the newly-appointed Willis result in Fruitful engaging the services of an activist lawyer, Herbert Whiffet, to protect his rights.
At roughly the same time, Lawanda de Bourbon, the stunning eighteen-year-old consort of a ruthless gang leader (and everyone else), is gunned down during a drug sweep wearing only a flimsy negligee. James Rodriguez, the rookie patrolman responsible for the shooting, claims she had a gun in her hand, however no gun was found at the scene. The very same Herbert Whiffet is then hired by the de Bourbon family to assure that Lawanda’s rights are protected, albeit post-mortem.
Whiffet seizes upon each of these cases as a vehicle to further the cause, to say nothing of the enhancement of his own status as a champion of his people. Caught in the resulting whirlwind are Cornelia Pembroke, the beautiful star reporter for a local television station, Renee Lieberman-Smith, a crusading assistant district attorney, the Rev. Leotis Chestnut, a veteran of the civil rights movement, and, most importantly, Clarissa Taylor, a single working mother of three who discovers it is her rights and those of her children which are most desperately in need of protection.
Rights is a scathing, hilarious send-up of big-city politics and current social mores which casts an equally unsparing eye on black activists, white liberals, media sensationalists, political opportunists, and various others responsible for creating a society where the wrong people inevitably become the victims.
Racial politics, ethnic hatreds, crime and crack tear apart the multihued fabric of New York City in this hardboiled first novel, which reads more like straight reportage than like satire or fiction. Black activist lawyer Herbert Whiffet, self-appointed champion of the people, uses inflammatory, racially divisive cases to further his career. One of his clients is a homeless black man whose habit of defecating in front of a delicatessen forces the owner into retirement. Whiffet also represents the family of a young black woman shot to death by a Hispanic cop in a drug raid; she was a gang leader's girlfriend, also said to be an informer who slept with police. . In this glum, scathing study Goldstone lambastes white liberals, black rabble-rousers, the media and a colossally inept legal apparatus for creating a system where criminals' rights count more than those of victims. He is also unsparing toward the white, idealistic assistant DA who sleeps with Whiffet, a Jewish TV reporter posing as a WASP, a ghetto drug lord and sundry others.