- A Time to Kill
- The Firm
- The Pelican Brief
- The Client
- The Chamber
- The Rainmaker
- The Runaway Jury
- The Partner
- The Street Lawyer
- The Testament (1999)
- The Brethren (February, 2000)
- The Painted House (originally published
in six issues of The Oxford American) 2001
- Skipping Christmas (2001)
- The Summons (2002)
- The King of Torts (2003)
- Bleachers (2003)
- The Last Juror (2004)
- The Broker (2006)
- The Innocent Man (2006) Non-fiction
- Playing for Pizza (2007)
- The Appeal (2008)
Photo of John Grisham by Nancy
Jacobs at Southern Literature Festival, Starkville, 1997
By Sean Hosie
John Grisham, Jr. was born February 8,
1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas. His father was a cotton farmer
who moved the family to Southaven, Mississippi,
in 1967. John graduated from Southaven High School in 1973 and
enrolled in Northwest Junior College, Senatobia, Mississippi.
He played baseball there his freshman year. Thinking it was
time to move up, the next year he transferred to Delta State
University in Cleveland, Mississippi, and tried out to play
baseball there (McDavid 14). Grisham fancied himself a great
baseball player and a future Hall of Famer (Grisham 1991 2),
an undiscovered athlete waiting to be signed. However, at Delta
State the competition was harder, and he found he could not
hit a fast ball or curve ball well. He knew that pitchers were
cruel when they spotted weaknesses. His roommates were restless,
and since his baseball career was over anyway, John and his
friends left Delta State at the end of the semester and went
to Mississippi State University in Starkville, Mississippi.
MSU the friends started out in forestry. They had already decided
that if things did not work out, they would go to Appalachian
State. One of his friends wanted to see the mountains. At first
Grisham did not like Mississippi State; he was not interested
in learning. He had transferred from two schools ,and he did
not have very good grades. Almost immediately, he changed his
major to economics. In his first economics class, he witnessed
a class discussion of students and the instructor in which the
students were articulate, prepared, and unafraid of confronting
the professor. He wanted to be part of that. He wanted to grow
up and learn (Grisham. 1991. 3). He discovered that he preferred
accounting to economics. His grades were salvageable. With hard
work he thought he could succeed. He also had thoughts of attending
law school. If he did not get in, he would still have an excellent
degree from Mississippi State University . (Grisham 1991 3).
Grisham graduated with a B.S. in accounting from Mississippi
State University in 1977.
Grisham then studied tax law at the University
of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi. Discovering that
he did not like that specialty, he changed to criminal law.
He graduated in 1981 with a law degree and opened a law practice
in Southaven, Mississippi. He practiced law for almost a decade
and specialized in criminal defense and personal injury Litigation.
His experiences with judges, courts and police have been useful
in writing his novels (Grisham 1992b 3) .
In 1983 the voters of Mississippi's
Seventh District elected John Grisham to represent them in the
Mississippi House of Representatives in Jackson. He began writing
fiction in 1984 while in the legislature and finished his first
book A Time to Kill in 1987. However, it was prejudged
a regional novel and received little national attention (Mitchell
Memorial Library 2). The initial printing was for 5,000 copies
and he sold nearly 1,000 copies to friends and acquaintances
in Mississippi. The same year he began working on a new book,
The Firm, and in 1990 Paramount Pictures paid
him $600,000 for the rights to his new book
(Grisham 1993 2-4). The book, published in 1991 by Doubleday,
spent forty-seven weeks on the NewYork Times best
seller list. John Grisham's writing career skyrocketed and brought
him international fame. Grisham served two terms as a state
representative. In his second term he held positions on important
House committees and was vice chairman of the Appointment and
Elections Committee. Sometimes bored by the frequent inactivity
of the legislature, he introduced a resolution commending Herbert
Khaury (who in actuality was really Tiny Tim)! He served in
the legislature until 1990.
Grisham's first book, A Time to
Kill, is the story of a young rape victim, a ten-year-old
black girl, in Clanton, Mississippi, and the revenge taken by
her father. A major section of the book is the trial that results
after the father kills both men charged with the rape as they
leave the courtroom. Grisham's story was sparked by a trial
he had witnessed in Hernando, Mississippi (Grisham 1992b 3).
It is a story that grips the reader and won't let go until the
last page is finished (Hailey A4). Yet few hard cover copies
were sold in the beginning. Although the book got good local
reviews, it was not noticed nationally (Hailey A4). When Grisham
was writing his second book, The Firm, a scout
for a Hollywood production company read the original manuscript
for it and gave Grisham $600,000 for the movie rights to The
Firm (Grisham 1993 2-4). Because of this publicity and
the acknowledgment that Hollywood was interested in the story,
The Firm, published in 1991, got national attention.
Five hundred fifty thousand hardback copies were sold and seven
million paperback copies were sold. John Grisham became a well-
known author. Now people read A Time to Kill and
people bought 5.5 million paperback copies (Grisham 1993 2-4).
Grisham's next book, The Pelican Brief, sold 1.4
million hardback copies and 5.1 million paperback copies. Since
then Grisham has written The
Client, The Chamber, The Runaway Jury, The Rainmaker
and The Partner.
John Grisham, in an interview, said that
he has no desire to go to Hollywood or to be involved in the
movie productions of his books (1993. 2-4). Grisham and his
wife, Renee Jones, have two children: a son Ty and a daughter
Shea. The Grishams have homes in Oxford, Mississippi, and near
Charlottesville, Virginia. Grisham wants to stay with his family
and not be away from them. Also, he does not like the sex, violence
or profanity that Hollywood puts in the movie productions of
his books. He says that he tries to avoid using graphic sex
or violence in his books and does not include obscenities. His
current favorite past time is Little League baseball, and he
has built a complex of fields for Little League teams in Virginia
where he can be seen marking off the field or helping to keep
John Grisham has now published ten books:
A Time to Kill, The Firm, The
Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber,The
Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The
Partner, The Street Lawyer,and The Testament.
All have been best sellers both in the United States
and in Europe. All his books contain information from politics
and the legal profession. John Grisham writes from his experiences
in both areas. He is also the publisher of the magazine
The Oxford American.
2008 UPDATE: Grisham
has written eleven additional novels: The Brethren (February,
2000), The Painted House (originally published
in six issues of The Oxford American and based on
Grisham's own life) 2001, Skipping Christmas
(2001), The Summons (2002), The
King of Torts (2003), Bleachers (2003),
The Last Juror (2004), The
Broker (2006), The Innocent Man
(2006) Playing for Pizza (2007) and
The Appeal (2008). John Grisham is
no longer involved with The Oxford American.
It was sold to a group in Little Rock, but the magazine ceased
publishing in Little Rock in 2003 and has re-emerged as a nonprofit
quarterly on the campus of University of Central Arkansas.
he's not writing, Grisham devotes time to charitable causes,
including his Rebuild The Coast Fund, which raised 8.8 million
dollars for Gulf Coast relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
He also keeps up with his greatest passion: baseball. He once
dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player and now serves
as the local Little League commissioner. According to his web
site, "the six ballfields he built on his property have
played host to over 350 kids on 26 Little League teams."
He recently (2007) wrote a foreword for his former high school
(Southaven High School) year book.
His newest book The Appeal will come
out in January 2008.
Letter above from Grisham Room exhibit in Mitchell
Library, Mississippi State University. Letter is to Stephen
King from John Grisham.
A Review of The
by Sean Hosie(SHS)
John Grisham's second book, The Firm, was a
hit before it was published in 1991. Paramount
Pictures paid Grisham for the rights to his book in 1990, knowing
that this story had the potential to attract movie audiences.
In the story Grisham details a young lawyer's attempt to get
out of a situation that could get him killed. Mitch McDeere
should not have gotten into this situation in the first place.
He should have known better.
Mitch McDeere wanted it all, and he was on his way to getting
it. He had just signed a contract to work for the law firm of
Bendi, Lambert, and Locke of Memphis, Tennessee, for a salary
of $120,000. The firm was going to pay for his school loans,
arrange a bank loan for a house, and lease a brand new BMW for
him. He should have known better. He should have known you don't
get something for nothing. And, within the next few months,
he would realize that. He would find himself between the FBI,
the firm, and the powerful Morolto crime family.
Mitch was a man from a poor family. He wanted to have money.
prestige. Through hard work and determination, he was able to
graduate from one of the best law schools in the East. He had
three job offers with good salary and benefits promised. When
the law firm of Bendi, Lambert, and Locke called upon him to
interview, he was not impressed. However, he was impressed though
with their three-figure salary offer and benefits. Mitch accepted
their offer and he and his wife, Abby, moved to Memphis. He
was just the type of person the firm wanted: a poor boy, who
would be silent about illegal activities to keep his high salary
and standard of living or so they thought.
Mitch soon discovered that the law firm was involved with
the powerful Morolto crime family. In fact, the Morolto family
was the firm's biggest client. The firm was started by the Morolto
family to launder money and find ways to hide profits from their
illegal operations. The crime family controlled the senior partners
in the firm. The partners knew about the illegal activities
of the crime family, and therefore they were their partners
in crime. The partners made so much money that they kept silent
about the illegal activities. The partners believed Mitch would
also remain silent in return for the money.
Mitch was contacted by the FBI for his help. The FBI wanted
him to give them information on the Morolto family. Mitch was
caught between the firm and the FBI. If he gave the FBI what
they wanted, the FBI would not prosecute him for involvement
in illegal business activities for the family. But Mitch knew
he would never work in a law firm again because, ethically,
he could not release confidential information on clients. The
FBI also told Mitch that if the firm found out he was helping
them, the firm would have him killed just like they had done
in the past with other lawyers they employed. Mitch also knew
that if he helped the FBI, he and his family would live in constant
fear from the Morolto family.
Mitch figured out a plan to get himself out of the situation.
He took millions of dollars from the Morolto fund at the firm.
He also made a deal with the FBI to give him one million dollars
for his information. He arranged for the FBI to get his brother
Ray out of jail also. For this, Mitch promised to copy the files
from the firm for the FBI. If Ray stayed in jail, the crime
family would have a hold on Mitch by threatening to kill his
brother. His brother also helped him carry out his plans.
copied the client files that the FBI wanted but kept the files
for himself. He made a video tape about what he knew of the
Morolto family and their businesses. He left it with the files
in a motel room. He then escaped with his wife and brother to
Little Cayman Island by boat. A friend told the FBI where the
files and tapes were. Mitch, his wife, and brother planned to
remain on Little Cayman Island. They had plenty of money to
live on, and no one knew they were there. They read later that
over half the members of the law firm had been arrested and
indicted. Thirty-one members of the Morolto family were also
arrested by the FBI. Mitch saw himself as very lucky. He was
alive. The FBI and the Morolto family did not know where he
was. He also became aware of the fact that you don't get something
for nothing. He almost paid for what he got with his life.
I was held in suspense throughout most of this story. I was
not always sure of what Mitch was planning to do. At times I
thought he would not be able to save himself or his family.
This is a good story about the corruption of wealth and how
difficult it is to give up a rich life style. It is a good mystery
story because you are always wondering what will happen next.
I learned new information about the legal profession and tax
laws. I also learned more about what it would be like to live
in Memphis, Tennessee, and the Cayman Islands--especially if
you had lots of money to spend!
A Review of A Time to Kill
by Sanford Johnson (SHS)
"There are crimes of race and creed and color, so when people
outside of Clanton hear that a black man has killed two whites,
the town is filled with an angry mob determined to tear down,
burn and destroy anything and anyone that opposes them."
This is an excerpt from John Grisham's first book, A Time
to Kill. Upon its initial publishing in 1989, it received
very little critical attention, but the overwhelming success
of The Firm sparked interest in Grisham's first
novel. A Time to Kill is based on actual courtroom
experiences Grisham faced while he was a lawyer in Southaven,
A Time to Kill is the story of Jake Brigance,
a white small-town lawyer who defends Carl Lee Hailey, a black
man who took an M-16 and killed the two white guys who raped
and tortured his ten-year-old daughter. Before long, everybody
in Clanton, Mississippi, from the NAACP to the Ku Klux Klan,
is involved in the case. "The People versus Carl Lee Hailey"
divides the black and white residents in the small town and
quickly becomes the small town version of the O.J. trial. The
prosecution wants the all-white jury to believe that Carl Lee
Hailey is a cold-blooded murderer and that this was merely an
act of revenge, but Brigance asks the hard-to-answer question,
"If you were in Carl Lee Hailey's shoes and your daughter was
raped, wouldn't you do the same thing if you knew the rapist
would go free?" This question was especially tough for Brigance
to answer because he had a daughter around the same age as Hailey's.
Once he found the answer, and the Klan burned down his house,
he knew that he couldn't let Carl Lee Hailey go to jail for
something he would have done himself.
A Time to Kill is not just a courtroom novel,
but an exploration of the often turbulent relationship between
blacks and whites in the South. It wouldn't be as dramatic if
it weren't for the fact that a "black person's relative or loved
one is attacked or murdered by a white person, white person
goes to trial, and white person goes free by all white jury"
scenarios used to happen frequently. Since Carl Lee Hailey probably
saw this happen time and time again, he figured that the only
way these two men would face justice is if he took the law into
his own hands. I recommend this book as an excellent courtroom
drama as well as an insight into the changing black\white relationships
in the south today.
A Summary of A Time to Kill
by Lindsey Baddley (SHS)
On the outskirts of the small town of Clanton, Mississippi,
a ten-year-old black child,
Tonya Hailey, is on her way back from a market about a mile
from her house when two white men kidnap her. Tonya is brutally
raped and beaten and then dumped into a ravine left for dead.
Somehow, Tonya manages to survive and identify the men and their
truck. Because of the description, the town sheriff Ozzie Walls
knows immediately who they are. Days later, as both rapists
leave the courtroom, Tonya's father, Carl Lee Hailey, shoots
and kills them. Faced with the gas chamber, Carl Lee hires Jake
Brigance, a young ambitious lawyer, but Jake may be taking on
more than he bargained for because Carl Lee's prosecutor, judge,
and victims are all white. For ten days, an entire nation is
consumed by the events. Almost killed by the KKK, Jake manages
to hang on and still fight to save his client's life and then
his own. With help from Ellen Roark, a law student at Ole Miss,
Jake Brigance is able to prove to the court and jurors that
Carl Lee Hailey is not guilty. Even though everyone's life would
certainly not go back to normal, at least Carl Lee Hailey would
know that he had done what he thought was right, and he had
beaten the system. Although a lot of other fathers in the town
said that it was wrong of him to take the law into his own hands,
they probably would have felt the same way as Carl Lee Hailey
did and would have committed the same crime if their little
girl had gone through the trauma that Tonya experienced.
A Review of The Client
by Matt Huddleston (SHS)
The novel The Client by John Grisham
is filled with evil and sleaziness; but in the end, good triumphs.
The main character experiences many hardships, but finds consolation
in his lawyer and the importance of trust. Mark, an eleven-year
old, lives in an abusive household with an eight-year old brother,
Ricky. Mark smokes regularly, and Ricky thinks he is cool. His
father is an alcoholic who beats both boys and their mother.
These hardships help Mark to triumph in the end because of his
maturity and his experience with tough situations.
setting begins in the busy city of Memphis, Tennessee, and,
as the story progresses, moves to New Orleans, Louisiana. The
novel begins in the woods behind their trailer as Mark and Ricky
are walking down the path to smoke cigarettes. Then, a black,
shiny Lincoln creeps towards them. Mark and Ricky hide, only
to see a prominent lawyer, Jerome "Romey" Clifford, commit suicide.
Ricky goes into shock and is taken to a hospital. Romey is the
lawyer for Barry "The Blade" Muldanno, a member of the mob who
has killed U.S. Senator Boyd Boyette. The mob finds out about
Romey's death and Mark, who had briefly chatted with the deceased
lawyer. The boy then goes on a quest to find Boyette's hidden
The novel is written in third person point of view. John Grisham
uses characterization to make you love or hate the people. The
plot is uplifting because despite the hardships Mark may face,
he always finds a way to overcome them. Grisham wrote this novel
to entertain, but also to express his feelings about the American
legal system. The setting is not extremely important, but is
close to John Grisham's childhood home, so he knows the area.
He also describes the characters' inner and outer traits and
The title of this novel is very significant. Throughout the
novel, Grisham portrays the companionship of a lawyer and their
client. For example, Mark's lawyer, Reggie Love, breaks laws
in order to help the eleven-year old succeed in his quest to
find the dead senator's body. I believe Grisham is proving that
no matter how many bad people and lawyers there are, there are
always good people and lawyers that will overcome and win. The
bad ones just win every once in a while.
The Client's theme is unquestionably important
as Mark and Reggie become closer as they get further along in
their quest. The theme is about life's difficulties and problems,
and how a good friend or advisor can help. I believe that Grisham
is trying to state that no matter how big a conflict may become,
that a true friend will come through for you.
In conclusion, I enjoyed this novel very much because of Grisham's
talented methods of keeping the reader interested throughout
the novel. I consider Grisham to be an excellent writer with
a great knowledge of the legal system and a grasp of interpersonal
relationships. The book, although law-related, is easy to read
because of his writing style. Now nationally known, John Grisham
stands out as one of the most famous Mississippi writers.
John Grisham Room at Mississippi State is an impressive,
interesting place to visit.
Grisham's official home page.
Grisham's alma mater, Mississippi State Universiy, provides
biography and links for its most famous graduate.
interviews Grisham on his new book The Brethren,
his subjects, his literary influences, and more.
reviews by many readers of The Rainmaker
if you scroll down the page.
Salon: William Faulkner and John Grisham battle it out for the
soul of the South's most bookish city (1997).
two of Mississippi Churning (above)
Photo of advertisement for film
Mickey with original screen story
by John Grisham. Poster is from John Grisham Room exhibit at
Bailey, Lolly. "It's a time to read."
Desoto Times July 13, 1989 Sec. A: 4.
Grisham, John. . " John Grisham : A
Self -Interview" USA Weekend (July 2, 1993): 2-4.
Grisham, John. (1992). "Introduction."
Inside Dudy Noble---: A celebration of MSU Baseball. 5th ed.
Ed. Steve Ellis. Louisville: Harmony House Publishers, 6.
Grisham, John. "The best laid plans."
Mississippi State University Spring Commencement Exercises,
Saturday, May 16, 1992: John Grisham's Remarks to Graduates,
Mississippi State, MS: The University.
Grisham, John. "Journey's end." Mississippi
State Alumnus 68 (Winter, 1991) 14-15.
Kornegay, Jamie. "While waiting on Grisham's
third book, try the first one." The Panolian , October
9, 1991 , 3.
McDavid, Sammy. "A time to write." Mississippi
State Alumnus 65 (Winter, 1990): 13-16.
Mitchell Memorial Library - John Grisham
Papers. (1996). "For posterity." Mississippi State University
Libraries, Special Collections, Manuscripts Division, Mississippi
State, MS: author, 1-4.
Shirley, Aleda, Susan M. Glisson, and
Ann J. Abadie, eds. Mississippi Writers II, Mississippi State,
MS: Center for the Study of Southern Culture, 1995.
Pate, Nancy. (1993) "Amid the best-selling
chaos, John Grisham seeks a normal life." The Birmingham
News 6 June, sec. C: 1-2.
Grisham, John; A Time to Kill. Wynwood Publishing,