January 25, 2008
Critics have acclaimed John Grisham's novels for their detailed portrayal of the intricacies of our legal and political systems with a sinister twist. Grisham's ability to portray the worlds of law and politics comes from experience he has been both a trial lawyer and served in the Mississippi House of Representatives from January 1984 to September of 1990. As Grisham notes "All my books are based, in some degree on something that really happened. There's an element in truth in all these books."
After 18 novels, John Grisham turned to non-fiction for the first time in his career. THE INNOCENT MAN was Grisham's investigation into why Ron Williamson and another man were wrongly convicted of a 1982 murder, and why he spent eleven years on death row before D.N.A. evidence finally set him free. Grisham has lent his talents to the Mississippi branch of The Innocence Project and speaks on this issue around the country:
>More on exonerations and The Innocence Project
We've sent 130 men to death row to be executed in this country, at least 130 that we know of, who have later have been exonerated because they were either innocent, or they were not fairly tried. That's 130 people that we've locked down on death row. And they've spent years there, including Ron Williamson, the guy I wrote about. Well, you know, if that doesn't bother you, go to death row. Go see a death row. Go look at one.
In his latest novel Grisham has turned his attention to the issue of judicial selection in America. He says THE APPEAL has more politics in it than any previous novel and plenty of legal intrigue too, of course.
This is about the election of a Supreme Court justice in the state of Mississippi. Thirty some odd states elect their judges, which is a bad system. Because if they allow private money, just like the campaign we're watching now for president, you got corporate people throwing money in. You got big individuals. You got cash coming in to elect a judge who may hear your case. Think about that. You've got a case pending before the court and you want to reshape the structure of the court, well, just to get your guy elected.
Born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn't have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears and majored in accounting at Mississippi State University. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade in Southaven, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. In 1983, he was elected to the state House of Representatives and served until 1990.
One day at the DeSoto County courthouse, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl's father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A TIME TO KILL and finished it in 1987. Initially rejected by many publishers, it was eventually bought by Wynwood Press, who gave it a modest 5,000 copy printing and published it in June 1988.
The day after Grisham completed A TIME TO KILL, he began work on another novel. Grisham sold the film rights to this second work THE FIRM to Paramount Pictures for $600,000. Since first publishing A TIME TO KILL in 1988, Grisham has written one novel a year (his other books are THE FIRM, THE PELICAN BRIEF, THE CLIENT, THE CHAMBER, THE RAINMAKER, THE RUNAWAY JURY, THE PARTNER, THE STREET LAWYER, THE TESTAMENT, THE BRETHREN, A PAINTED HOUSE, SKIPPING CHRISTMAS, THE SUMMONS, THE KING OF TORTS, BLEACHERS, THE LAST JUROR, and THE BROKER) and all of them have become international bestsellers. There are currently over 225 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 29 languages. Nine of his novels have been turned into films.
Guest photo by Robin Holland.
Published on January 25, 2008.