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John Grisham: The Writer in Black

John GrishamThe first novel of John Grisham I read was The Firm, a story etched in a lawyer’s life. Something John plucked out from his own life.

John Grisham, born in Arkansas, US, in 1955 is a former attorney and politician. Nothing more need be said about his launch of career as a legal thriller writer. His first work, A Time to Kill, after getting rejection letters so many times, got published in 1988, and was not at all a successful novel. Not even 5000 copies were in print it. And it just went unnoticed in the stream of best sellers at that time.

However, the day he finished this novel, he had started his new work, based on an attorney inducted to a corrupt law firm, with connections to Mafia groups. This story, titled The Firm, came out to be the seventh best seller for the year 1991. That was just the beginning.

More than forty weeks in bestseller list, The Firm made a fortune for Grisham and allowed him to quit his job as attorney to concentrate on full time writing. His later products were all bestsellers, and in a row, his five novels became the topmost best sellers. And Publishers’ Weekly ranked him as the “Best selling novelist of the 90’s.”

After the success of his third novel, The Pelican Brief, A Time to Kill was republished, this time to be a terrifically successful best-seller. Yes, the name speaks for itself! Besides these, almost all of his novels have been adapted into film, and they have been successful films as well. Tom Cruise played many top roles.

Grisham is an enthusiast in baseball, and if you read A Painted House, Bleachers, etc., you will see this passion in action. In 1996, Grisham reappeared in courtroom to represent a client to whom he had made a commitment before retiring from law as a writer. And as his characters in legal thrillers, he successfully argued the case and won it for his client. He earned a jury award of $683,500.

The Firm, the first Grisham novel I read, is a wonderful read all by itself, in terms of suspense, thrill, and legal aspects. It’s about Mitchell McDeere (Tom Cruise played the part in the film), a law school fresher, who gets recruited by a Memphis-based corrupt law firm. Though maintains low profile, the law firm offers him the highest salary he could get as a tax lawyer. After some initial incidents that take lives of his coworkers, Mitchell realizes the dangerous intents of his firm. He decides to go against it. In the later parts, FBI plays significant parts, while he and his wife work out plans to overthrow the firm. Altogether, it’s a brilliant read.

Here is a list of Grisham works you should read.

The Appeal

The Innocent Man: His sole nonfiction

Playing for Pizza

The Testament


The Broker

A Painted House

The Brethren

The Partner

The Street Lawyer : Must read!

The Last Juror

A Time to Kill

The Rainmaker

The Client

The Firm : Must read!

The Runaway Jury

The Pelican Brief : Must read!

The Chamber

If I missed anything, please let me know by commenting.

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008


  1. Wow, there's more there than I actually realised or had heard of. I love Grisham's books and the legal fiction genre in general.

    I'm actually reading a book at the moment that reminds me a lot of earlier Grisham works. It's called Lifetime Loser by James Ross, about a guy who runs a worn-out golf course until his sleazy partner screws him over and he has to fight back for what's his through the legal system.

    It's a great first time novel by James, complete with all the deceit, corruption, and sleazy characters you need to keep the pages turning.


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