In her book, the truth comes through as vividly as in her sketches
“Andy Austin does a remarkable job as a Chicago courtroom artist, and in her book, the truth comes through as vividly as in her sketches.”
—Studs Terkel, author and oral historian
The engaging, incisive, and consistently interesting view of renowned courtroom artist Andy Austin
“For those who think they’ve seen and read everything about what goes on in court, here is a new perspective: the engaging, incisive, and consistently interesting view of renowned courtroom artist Andy Austin.”
—Scott Turow, author
Gripping, beautifully written
“Gripping, beautifully written, Rule 53 is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the tangled threads of the high-profile courtroom cases that have shaped our country’s direction for the last four decades. Andy Austin, as ABC’s Chicago courtroom artist, had a front-row seat at every major trial from the 1969 Chicago 7 spectacle through Muhammad Salah’s recent acquittal on terrorism charges."
—Sara Paretsky, author of the V.I. Warshawski detective novels
No one has ever drawn a better courthouse portrait, in words and pictures, of the courtroom in action
"Austin, a gifted courtroom artist with a clear eye and a fine ear, captures, in fast moving words, the compelling drama of big trial. No one has ever drawn a better courthouse portrait, in words and pictures, of the courtroom in action. The book should have been twice as long. Don't miss this."
—U.S. District Court Judge James B. Zagel
Quick mind, quick eye...the drama, the humanity, and even the humor
“I like Andy Austin’s quick mind and quick eye. She sees the drama, the humanity and, yes, even the humor in Chicago’s greatest theaters—its courtrooms. Her memoirs, beautifully illustrated, provide an amazing look at the inner workings of America’s most ebullient city.”
—Jon Anderson, Chicago Tribune
A triumph of sympathetic intelligence that reveals more about human beings than many a fine novel and is at least as engrossing
"For years, Chicagoans have known Andy Austin as the brilliant courtroom artist whose sketches revealed not just the appearance of judges, lawyers, jurors, defendants and plaintiffs but their characters. Now it turns out that this brilliance has concealed literary brilliance. It seems that while Andy Austin was sketching away, her intelligence and sympathy were penetrating the nature of what was happening in the courtroom, the essential character of those involved, their relationship to each other and to the complex world in which they functioned or malfunctioned. She has worked for years to bring all this into a book and here it is, a triumph of sympathetic intelligence that reveals more about human beings than many a fine novel and is at least as engrossing."
—Richard Stern, Almonds to Zhoof, Pacific Tremors
By any standard, this is sharp, incisive writing
"Andy Austin is a chic woman who has been a Chicago courtroom sketch artist for 40 years. Her memoir is called Rule 53; the title refers to a federal statute that prohibits photography in courtrooms. Hence the role of sketch artists, who work with newspapers and TV stations to provide the public with not just the faces of specific participants, but the emotional essence of key moments as trials unfold....Over the years she's worked on a lot of high-profile trials: Bobby Seale, Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden and the rest of the Chicago 8/Chicago 7; disgraced Illinois governor Otto Kerner; inept American spy William Kampiles; conspiracy & murder proceedings against gangs as varied as the Mob and the El Rukns; arrogantly corrupt judge Thomas Maloney; and, most famously, perhaps, suburban serial killer John Wayne Gacy. As anticipated, Austin provides an ongoing primer on the responsibilities of courtroom artists. The job is a demanding and challenging one that must be performed well under ceaseless pressure. This aspect of the memoir is interesting and frequently dramatic, but the most profound pleasure is the sharp insight of Austin's prose. When describing a well-connected state senator named John D'Arco, Austin writes, 'I was struck by how small and neat he was, like a well-designed pocketknife.' She remembers that one witness at a Mob trial 'came limping in on a cane. Hunched over in rumpled, pale silk clothes, hair parted in the middle like a 1920s movie star, he could have been a burnt-out playboy, someone you might see hobbling along the boardwalk at a second-rate European spa. He had an out-of-season look about him.' Later, Austin describes 'Toomba,' an El Rukn member she'd sketched earlier, as now appearing 'sleeker and more satanic. It wasn't just that he was dressed in black; it was because he wasn't wearing the big round glasses that had made him look like a schoolteacher. . . . now that I could see his eyes, he seemed more truly mad.' And when recalling Bob McGee, a co-defendant in the Maloney case, Austin says that the man 'looked worse than ever. Even his nose looked guilty. He kept trying to arrange his features in a neutral configuration and only made them worse.' By any standard, this is sharp, incisive writing. The various picture and word portraits of Austin's subjects come together in a mosaic of courtroom procedure as it's carried out in Chicago, a city that punishes wrongdoing as vigorously as it sometimes rewards it. We come away with useful impressions of the roles of DAs and defense attorneys; judges and bailiffs; defendants and the aged "court buffs" who spend their days in the observers' sections, soaking up every detail and passing skewed judgment on participants who impress or disappoint them. The criminal justice system is complex, even baroque, but at the heart of it are real people who, knowingly or unwittingly, have revealed themselves to Austin's scrutiny. She misses very little."
—David J. Hogan, Amazon, 4 stars
"This is a fascinating picture of the underworld scene through the years from a unique perspective—a courtroom artist of great ability both as an artist and writer. It is a great read whether you are acquainted with the goings-on of the Chicago mob or not. The text is erudite and knowledgeable and the artistry fine, indeed. Run; don't walk, to find a copy."
—Dr. Bill, Amazon, 5 stars
A riveting ride...fast and funny and appaling
"Andy Austin takes us on a riveting ride through 30 years of the Chicago underworld as seen from her perch right next to them as defendants—drawing their portraits for TV use in covering their trials. Rule 53 brings back the Chicago 7, assorted Mafia figures, and the street gang leaders who transformed the city: she shows them all in her sketches in prose as well as in drawings. A fast and funny and appalling story, great for anyone interested in Chicago and the way the U.S. justice system works and doesn't work."
—Joanne Omang, Amazon, 4 stars
Refreshing, charming, and packed with sketches
"The 1960s were a turbulent time in America, with controversy around every corner. Rule 53 is a new perspective on the decade through the eyes of a courtroom sketch artist. The author saw countless pivotal cases and strange characters from all walks of life in an era when people began to stand up and speak out for their rights. Refreshing, charming, and packed with sketches from over the years, Rule 53 is a top pick for community library memoir and art collections."
—Midwest Book Review, July 13, 2008, 5 stars
A gem...a dazzling panoramic history of the dark side of this great city
"Andy Austin's Rule 53 is a gem. From her unique vantage point as an on-the-scene witness to a series of Chicago's gaudiest criminal trials since 1969, Austin's book offers the reader a dazzling panoramic history of the dark side of this great city's recent history. Her day job as an artist for a television station was to swiftly capture the amazing assortment of audacious trouble makers, crooked politicians, deranged murderers, dangerous spies, white collar criminals and violent gang members—white and black—who were brought into the the courts of Chicago. But her "night" job, it turns out, was to thoughtfully and elegantly reflect on the fascinating mindsets of all those who in one way or another were key players in these always dramatic trials—the criminals, the prosecutors, the defense attorneys and the judges. Austin more than accompished her mission."
—David Burnham, Amazon, 4 stars
Best Chicago read on mobsters and crooked politicians
"This should be made into a movie! I've read Rule 53 and now bought it for several friends. We all absolutely love it. The author was able to get across wonderful tidbits and really tell a good tale in the courtroom. All the while, it tells the story of Chicago's storied past, filled with mobsters and serial killers. You get a historical snapshot without it feeling like you're reading about history. The author keeps it dramatic and funny. At times, it can be pretty shocking. It's amazing what a courtroom artist—someone whom killers and crooks confide in—can pick up in a courtroom."
—News Hound, Amazon, 5 stars