Saturday, January 4, 2014

Grisham one of a kind book writer.

If I see a book by John Grisham I’ve never read, I’ll enjoy reading it.
I like how most of Grisham’s books deal with legal and moral issues in small towns of the South. The pithy dialogue he writes for his individualistic, flamboyant characters entertain.

I’m reading his latest novel now, “Sycamore Row.” It’s about what happens when a wealthy white man, close to death from cancer, hand-writes  a new will the day before he hangs himself from a tree.  He bequeaths 90% of his $20,000,000 fortune to his black housekeeper.  With that Grisham creates high impact word pictures of racism in the South, greed among the deceased man’s children, and conflict as attorneys contest the handwritten will. Most of Grisham’s books teach lessons on how the legal system works. He incorporates the drama of stories into structures of the law.

John Grisham

Grisham’s “The Painted House” was a memorable book to read. Unlike the legal drama, the book tells a story amid cotton farming in the South of the early 1950s. One reason I liked it was because a boy narrates the story and the book speaks in the vernacular of the time and place.
The cotton crop needs harvesting. Mexican workers arrive in cattle cars. Ozark Hill people arrive and put a tent on the front lawn of the family house. Grisham’s familiarity with little while growing up enables him to write well the backdrops of poverty in many of his books.

He entertains with telling details expertly thrown into the mix of his novels. He amusingly shows how people pretend. I don’t find wasted or hazy words in his writing. Grisham wrote thirty two published books and nine the film industry made into movies.

Two other memorably enjoyed books by Grisham are “The Runaway Jury” and “The Street Lawyer.”  The first tells an intriguing story as two opposed interests outside the legal system vie to manipulate jurors to win a verdict. The second tells a story about a corporate lawyer who changes his values and starts practicing law for homeless people.

Grisham brings to life the culture of segregation and country characteristics of what life probably is like in the rural South. He was born in Arkansas and raised in the South. He lives in the South now and knows its characteristics. Grisham in his early years traveled from place to place in the South with his family, until settling in Southhaven, DeSoto County, Mississippi. His father did construction and cotton farming. Grisham worked in a nursery watering plants, as a plumber’s helper, as a sales clerk in a department store and in a road crew spreading asphalt.

He first graduated from Mississippi State University with a BS in accounting, and in 1983 with a JD from the Mississippi State University School of Law. He returned to his hometown of Southhaven and practiced law for the next decade. Sometimes he was chosen by courts to represent indigent clients and gained valuable experience in civil and criminal law. He served from 1983 to 1990 as a Democrat in the Mississippi House of Representatives.

Grisham is on the Board of Directors of the Innocence Project, a national organization which advocates for DNA testing to prove the innocence of wrongfully convicted prisoners.

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