Saturday, August 01, 2009

Eight Doses of John Grisham

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Don't ask me why, but I've managed to read 7 John Grisham books this year. Officially, I've read 5, and re-read 2, and because its the weekend and there aren't many people reading right now, and its my blog site, I figured I'd talk about them...

I find his books titles to be boring and predictable nowadays. I am expecting "The Indictment", and maybe "The Pardon" and perhaps "The Litigate". Name your legal term, chances are its a John Grisham book.

Let's discuss the bad...

"The Appeal"
So, there's a big verdict against the the fictional Krane Chemical company, a la Erin Brockovich, and the company CEO is determined to do whatever he can do get the courts to overturn the verdict. Aside from the CEO's tactics, the book has parallel plots concerning Wes and Mary Grace Payton, who are realistic in the fact that even though they won the case, its going to take a lot more money (that they don't have) and a lot more time (that they are out of) to get the money awarded.

The book has a great start, and is filled with suspense and intrigue, but the ending? Sucked. Absolutely sucked.

"The Summons"
Law professor Ray Atlee and his deadbeat brother Forrest are called home to Mississippi to discuss their dying father's will and estate. Ray arrives first, finding his father already dead, and boxes containing over $3 million dollars in it, money that he has no idea of the source. He assumes he is the only one who knows of the money, but as he discovers later, someone else knows he has it... and wants it.

The book has a great start, and is filled with suspense and intrigue, but the ending? Sucked. Absolutely sucked.

"The Last Juror"
This book isn't necessarily long, but it takes place over 10 or 12 years, but it seems like 50. This guy named Willie Traylor goes home, buys his hometown newspaper, and ends up turning it into a respectable paper. Well, there's a high profile murder in the town, Willie becomes friends with one of the jurors, some stuff blows up and so on and so on. It feels like there are 187 characters to keep up with, and 185 aren't even remotely worth remembering.

The book overall is not bad. The problem is, it goes in about fifteen different directions... the book has a great start, and is filled with suspense and intrigue, but the ending? Sucked. Absolutely sucked.

Let me say this... fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, I probably voted for Obama. Well, we know the truth on that, so after reading the first two books and getting all into the stories, only to have the last chapters of each practically yell at me, "SUCKAAA!!!!" I stopped reading "The Testament" after 50 pages. It has a very, very good beginning, one that got me in the bookstore, and I purchased on impulse.

I put it down, then went to Wikipedia, and read the entire synopsis. I'm not one of those who will just die if I already know the ending before I read it (see "Leann, The Lovely Steph") and I wanted to make sure I wasn't wasting my time... and sure enough, according to the Wiki synopsis, the ending sucks. Absolutely sucks.

How about we go back to the early stuff?

"Runaway Jury"
A jury is needed to try a case where a widow is suing a tobacco company, because she holds them at least partly responsible for the lung cancer death of her husband. The defendants hire Rankin Fitch, a rough and tough jury consultant with just the right amount of sleaze in him, and they work on that jury selection, taking in particular a guy named Nicolas Easter. Easter then begins to flex his muscles as he shows to both Fitch and to prosecuting attorney Wendall Rohr that he, along with an outside associate, can guarantee a verdict... for the right price.

Thought it was great. The characters are interesting and different, the mystery and motivation behind Easter's power over the jury is slowly revealed through a series of revelations. And the ending? Very well done. Skip the movie.

"The Firm"
Ah, well, you've probably seen the movie, but if you haven't, its a simple book about a young lawyer named Mitch, who accepts a position at a Memphis based firm based on its focus of family values and morals. But of course, all is not as it seems, as Mitch finds out that some of the firm's clients aren't on the up-and-up, and some of them are downright... well, deadly.


This book is brilliant, and is not only my favorite Grisham book, but sits among my favorite 10 or 15 books ever. I re-read this one every few years, and this year's read was my 4th. It just moves fast, tells the story, the bad guys are bad, the good guys are good and its a great read all the way around. The movie is good, but there are several elements changed. The Quaker Oatmeal Man drops the F-bomb though, and its rather scarring.

"The Pelican Brief"
Two Supreme Court Justices are murdered in the span of a few hours... one was much hated, and surprised no one, the other perplexes everyone. Everyone has a theory, no one gets it right until... Darby Shaw puts together her own theory that has a far fetched suspect and a way-out-in-left field conspiracy based on the Louisiana wetlands and the pelican's habitat. Its ridiculous... and when it finds its way into the wrong hands, she finds out its right on point.

When I read this book for the first time in 1993, I didn't notice how liberally biased it was written, and didn't really realize how left-wing John Grisham is. Its probably because in 1993, I didn't really pay attention to much, I watched CNN alot, and thought Clinton was a great guy--in short, I was a uninformed liberal (oxymoron?)

Anyway, in this book--and in his others as well--the word "Republican" and "Conservative" are dirty words, and all the rotten, evil jerkfaces in this book fall into those two categories. The good guys, the ones who are compassionate and care about people and such are the Democrats and libs... so, if you can get past all this (or, depending on who you are, relish this), the book is all kinds of awesome, and runs a very close second to "The Firm" to being my favorite. The movie is pretty good, but after seeing it, its hard to see Grey Grantham as anything other than Denzel. In the book, he's a white guy who hits on Darby, alot.

This trailer is so dated--it made me laugh how cheesy the narrator sounded back in the day...

The Verdict is Still Out On...

"The Broker"
Joel Backman has been in prison for a long, long time because of stolen satellite software and charges of treason. The outgoing president (who Grisham refers to as " idiot... but a clean one...") delivers him a pardon on the urging of some of consultants. The idea is, pardon him, take him overseas and see which country kills him because of the satellite software he still possesses and has hidden.

I'm usually not big on novels that take place primarily on foreign soil--this one pretty much takes place in Italy--but I kinda liked this. The book is light and breezy, it goes fast (I finished it in a two days) and though only the main characters are remotely interesting, the story is kinda fun. The ending isn't all that great, but it isn't terrible.

"The Innocent Man"
This is John Grisham's first work of non-fiction, and if you are a Investigative Discovery/Dateline/truTV junkie like I am, I ate this book up. In the morning of December 8, 1982, the body of Debra Sue Carter, a 21-year-old cocktail waitress in resident of Ada, OK, was found beaten, raped and suffocated in the bedroom of her garage apartment. After five years of false starts and shoddy police work by the Ada police, Ron Williamson—along with his "drinking buddy", Dennis Fritz—was charged, tried and convicted of the rape and murder charges in 1987-1988. Williamson was sentenced to death. Fritz, meanwhile, was given a life sentence.

The book centers around said shoddy police work and its failure to interrogate much more likely suspects (including the guy who actually turned out to be the real killer), the claimed incompetence of the lawyers surrounding the case on both sides and the efforts to free both Williamson and Fritz from The Innocence Project.

It is very obvious from the first 1/3 of the book that both guys are wrongly accused (if the title didn't give it away) but I had to definitely take some of Grisham's criticisms of our legal system and death penalties with a grain of salt. I did a little background Googlation on the subject, and came up with a few sites disputing much of the facts in the book, including a site from Bill Peterson, the prosecuting attorney in the case. Grisham does a bang up job of blasting Peterson through most of the book, and Peterson's site retaliates. Peterson has a huge write up contradicting much of the book, and a fun little webpage where he and Grisham exchange heated letters.

Also, in my looking around the interweb, I think I've discovered that as talented as he is, John Grisham may be a real tool in real life.

Just picked up "The Chamber", and I'm hoping it will be good, since its one of his early novels... however, knowing Grisham now as I do, I have a feeling since much of it revolves around a death row inmate, it will be a scathing indictment on the death penalty.

Either way, its my final Grisham for the year. Nine is enough.


  1. Glad you're finally getting the Grisham bug, albeit 10 years later than everyone else. I'd love to say he "inspired" me to go to law school or something, but truth be told, I stopped reading his books after, I think, "The King of Torts", which, incidentally, is awesome, and I would like that to be my nickname henceforth.
    Politics, liberals, death penalty, blah blah. They're fiction. Try and enjoy them without looking for hidden agendas. (What, you expected me to say something different? =)

  2. I stopped reading Grisham a long time ago because I couldn't take the bad endings. My dealbreaker was "The Broker". Such twists and turns and ups and downs only to be completely let down by the simplest of resolutions.

    Agree about The Firm....excellent reading. My favorite is "A Time To Kill", though.

  3. Ok, just clicked the link to the exchange of letters between the DA & JG. You are so right. What a tool! I have no patience for someone as arrogant as Grisham. Paraphrase: "I read no fan letters", etc. Holy crap. Methinks this guy forgets where he comes from. If I had not give up on Grisham before, I surely have now.

  4. Oh, I agree Brad... if that bothered me much (his liberal leanings) in his writings, then I would have stopped long ago. "The King of Torts", eh? I might pick it up.

  5. I really enjoyed The Chamber. MUCH better than the movie, and the last Grisham I ever read.

  6. I would recommend The Associate. I myself never learned how to read but it was a good listen. Also soon to be a major motion picture starring Shia Saide LaBeouf.


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