John Grisham: the king of legal thriller

I don’t remember exactly when I happened to read my first book by John Grisham, nor which one it was, but it certainly was at the beginning of the nineties and soon he became one of my favourite authors. To date as I check the long list of his novels, if you exclude the children series Theodore Boone and some of which I saw the film version (and that’s why I left them aside for now), I find that I haven’t read only six, including the short story collection “Ford County” and one of his sports novels, that don’t interest me particularly.

Grisham is a real lawyer who in the late 80s decided to try his hand at writing with “A Time to Kill”, a novel which was adapted into a famous movie with Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, and Kevin Spacey. His second novel, “The Firm” (this also became a movie, starring Tom Cruise, and more recently a TV series, to which the poster below is referred), became a bestseller and marked the beginning for him to a drastic change of career.

His books are labelled as legal thrillers, but in fact what really unites them is the fact that within them there is almost always a legal element (the result of his background) that is only used as an excuse to tell the stories of people. Some of his novels have actually a rhythm, a suspense, and the ending expected in thrillers, especially the first part of its production, but going forward in his career Grisham has increasingly often written stories focused on a moral and with a realistic ending and, therefore, not always entirely positive for the protagonists. The latter category includes novels like “The Testament” or “The Appeal”.

Grisham has also tried to move away entirely from the legal topic with “Skipping Christmas”, “Bleachers”, and “Playing for Pizza”. The first might be called a humour novel, although I admit I hated the ending, which I didn’t find funny at all. The second is strongly focused on football (the US meaning of this word), a sport that I barely know, and this hasn’t allowed me to appreciate it that much. I decided not to read the third one (or, if I read it, I must have removed it from my mind!), because it’s about the same topic.

A Painted House”, published in 2001, belongs to literary fiction, although the legal topic makes a small appearance. It is a very special novel, since the story is told by a seven-year-old child. The author wrote it well before he became famous and, thanks to his fame, he could later have it published.
I remember reading this book in the period when it was published and having particularly liked it. It opened my eyes to the talent of Grisham in the narrator’s role that goes beyond the labels affixed to his novels.

My favourite of his work is, without a doubt, “The Runaway Jury”, which is definitely a legal thriller. The story is about a lawsuit filed against a cigarette manufacturer on behalf of the wife of a man, a smoker, died of lung cancer. Beside this topic of great interest is the legal theme developed by the plot: the dynamics of a jury in a lawsuit of this kind, since its formation up to all the intrigues for steering the verdict.
From this novel a movie with John Cusack, Rachel Weisz, Dustin Hoffman, and Gene Hackman was then produced.
If you have never read a book by Grisham, this is definitely the one that I recommend.
My latest reading of his, however, is “Sycamore Row”, where the legal subject is accompanied by that of racism, already seen in “A Time to Kill”, of which it is a kind of sequel.

Among my reviews you can find in this blog, I suggest: “TheLitigators”, “TheConfession”, and “TheAssociate”.

Finally, I tell you a little fun fact. Grisham and I, despite being so distant to each other as authors, both for topics and, above all, for copies sold (!), have however become rivals for the second place in the US Kindle Store towards the end of last October 2015, I with my “The Mentor” and he with his “Rogue Lawyer”. Of course, then between the two books there was also another negligible difference: his book cost over seven times mine (which at that time was promoted at a low price)!
However, being up there with him, who is one of the authors from whom I always draw inspiration, was a great emotion that I did not think I would have ever had the good fortune to experience.