John Grisham

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John Grisham
John Grisham 2009.jpg
John Grisham in 2009
BornJohn Ray Grisham Jr.
(1955-02-08) February 8, 1955 (age 64)
Jonesboro, Arkansas, U.S.
Education Mississippi State University (BS)
University of Mississippi School of Law (JD)
Genres Legal thriller
Crime fiction
Southern Gothic
Renee Grisham(m. 1981)
ChildrenShea Grisham (born 1986) [1]
Ty Grisham (born 1983) [1]
Member of the MississippiHouseofRepresentatives
from the 7th district
In office
Personal details
Political party Democratic

John Ray Grisham Jr. ( /ˈɡrɪʃəm/ ; born February 8, 1955) [2] [3] is an American novelist, attorney, politician, and activist, best known for his popular legal thrillers. His books have been translated into 42 languages and published worldwide.

The legal thriller is a subgenre of thriller and crime fiction in which the major characters are lawyers and their employees. The system of justice itself is always a major part of these works, at times almost functioning as one of the characters. In this way, the legal system provides the framework for the legal thriller much as the system of modern police work does for the police procedural.


Grisham graduated from Mississippi State University and received a J.D. degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1981. He practiced criminal law for about a decade and served in the Mississippi House of Representatives from January 1984 to September 1990. [4]

Mississippi State University public university in Starkville, Mississippi, USA

The Mississippi State University for Agriculture and Applied Science, commonly known as Mississippi State University (MSU), is a public land-grant research university adjacent to Starkville, Mississippi. With 21,353 students at its main campus, it is the largest campus by enrollment in the state. It is classified in the category of "R1: Doctoral Universities – Very High Research Activity" by the Carnegie Foundation and has a total research and development budget of $239.4 million, the largest in Mississippi. It is listed as one of the state's flagship universities.

Juris Doctor The Juris Doctor degree (J.D. or JD), also known as the Doctor of Jurisprudence degree (J.D., JD, D.Jur. or DJur), is a graduate-entry professional degree in law and one of several Doctor of Law degree

The Juris Doctor degree, also known as the Doctor of Jurisprudence degree and sometimes erroneously rendered as "Juris Doctorate," is a graduate-entry professional degree in law and one of several Doctor of Law degrees. The Juris Doctor is earned by completing law school in Australia, Canada, the United States, and some other common law countries. It has the academic standing of a professional doctorate in the United States, a master's degree in Australia, and a second-entry, baccalaureate degree in Canada.

The University of Mississippi School of Law, also known as Ole Miss Law, is an ABA-accredited law school located on the campus of the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi. The School of Law offers the only dedicated aerospace law curriculum in the United States from an ABA-accredited school. The University of Mississippi School of Law is also the only school in the United States, and one of only a handful in the world, to offer a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Air and Space Law.

His first novel, A Time to Kill, was published in June 1989, four years after he began writing it. As of 2012, his books have sold over 275 million copies worldwide. [5]

<i>A Time to Kill</i> (Grisham novel) novel by John Grisham

A Time to Kill is a 1988 legal thriller by John Grisham. It was Grisham's first novel. The novel was rejected by many publishers before Wynwood Press eventually gave it a modest 5,000-copy printing. When Doubleday published The Firm, Wynwood released a trade paperback of A Time to Kill, which became a bestseller. Dell published the mass market paperback months after the success of The Firm, bringing Grisham to widespread popularity among readers. Doubleday eventually took over the contract for A Time to Kill and released a special hardcover edition.

A Galaxy British Book Awards winner, Grisham is one of only three authors to sell two million copies on a first printing, the other two being Tom Clancy [6] and J. K. Rowling. [7]

Tom Clancy American author

Thomas Leo Clancy Jr. was an American novelist best known for his technically detailed espionage and military-science storylines set during and after the Cold War. Seventeen of his novels were bestsellers, and more than 100 million copies of his books are in print. His name was also used on movie scripts written by ghostwriters, nonfiction books on military subjects, and video games. He was a part-owner of the Baltimore Orioles and vice-chairman of their community activities and public affairs committees.

J. K. Rowling English novelist

Joanne Rowling, , writing under the pen names J. K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith, is a British novelist, philanthropist, film producer, television producer and screenwriter, best known for writing the Harry Potter fantasy series. The books have won multiple awards, and sold more than 500 million copies, becoming the best-selling book series in history. They have also been the basis for a film series, over which Rowling had overall approval on the scripts and was a producer on the final films in the series.

Grisham's first bestseller, The Firm , sold more than seven million copies. [2] The book was adapted into a 1993 feature film of the same name, starring Tom Cruise, and a 2012 TV series which continues the story ten years after the events of the film and novel. [8]

A bestseller is, usually, a book that is included on a list of top-selling or frequently-borrowed titles, normally based on publishing industry and book trade figures and library circulation statistics; such lists may be published by newspapers, magazines, or book store chains. Some lists are broken down into classifications and specialties. An author may also be referred to as a bestseller if their work often appears in this category. Well-known bestseller lists in the U.S. are published by Publishers Weekly, USA Today, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Most of these lists track book sales from national and independent bookstores, as well as sales from major internet retailers such as and Barnes & Noble.

<i>The Firm</i> (novel) novel by John Grisham

The Firm is a 1991 legal thriller by American writer John Grisham. It was his second book and the first which gained wide popularity; in 1993, after selling 1.5 million copies, it was made into a namesake film starring Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman and Jeanne Tripplehorn. Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, came into prominence afterwards due to this novel's success.

<i>The Firm</i> (1993 film) 1993 film by Sydney Pollack

The Firm is a 1993 American legal thriller film directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Tom Cruise, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Holly Hunter, Hal Holbrook and David Strathairn.

Eight of his other novels have also been adapted into films: The Chamber , The Client , A Painted House , The Pelican Brief , The Rainmaker , The Runaway Jury , Skipping Christmas , and A Time to Kill . [9]

<i>The Chamber</i> (novel) novel by John Grisham

The Chamber (1994) is a legal thriller written by American author John Grisham. It is Grisham's fifth novel.

<i>The Client</i> (novel) novel by John Grisham

The Client (1993) is a legal thriller written by American author John Grisham, set mostly in Memphis, Tennessee and New Orleans, Louisiana. It is Grisham's fourth novel.

<i>A Painted House</i> novel by John Grisham

A Painted House is a 2001 novel by American author John Grisham. It was made into a television film in 2003, starring Scott Glenn and Logan Lerman.

Early life

Grisham, the second of five siblings, was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to Wanda (née Skidmore) and John Ray Grisham. [4] His father worked as a construction worker and a cotton farmer, and his mother was a homemaker. [10] When Grisham was four years old, his family settled in Southaven, Mississippi. [4]

As a child, he wanted to be a baseball player. [9] In A Painted House , a novel with strong autobiographical elements, the protagonist - a seven-year old farmer boy - manifests a strong wish to become a baseball player. As noted in the forward to Calico Joe , Grisham gave up playing baseball at the age of 18, after a game in which a hostile pitcher aimed a beanball at him, and narrowly missed doing the young Grisham grave harm.

Grisham has been a Christian since he was eight years old, and has described his conversion to Christianity as "the most important event" in his life. After leaving law school, he participated in some missionary work in Brazil, under the First Baptist Church of Oxford. [11]

Although Grisham's parents lacked formal education, his mother encouraged him to read and prepare for college. [2] He drew on his childhood experiences for his novel A Painted House . [4] Grisham started working for a plant nursery as a teenager, watering bushes for $1.00 an hour. He was soon promoted to a fence crew for $1.50 an hour. He wrote about the job: "there was no future in it". At 16, Grisham took a job with a plumbing contractor but says he "never drew inspiration from that miserable work".[ citation needed ]

Through one of his father's contacts, he managed to find work on a highway asphalt crew in Mississippi at age 17. It was during this time that an unfortunate incident got him "serious" about college. A fight with gunfire broke out among the crew causing Grisham to run to a nearby restroom to find safety. He did not come out until after the police had detained the perpetrators. He hitchhiked home and started thinking about college. His next work was in retail, as a salesclerk in a department store men's underwear section, which he described as "humiliating". By this time, Grisham was halfway through college. Planning to become a tax lawyer, he was soon overcome by "the complexity and lunacy" of it. He decided to return to his hometown as a trial lawyer. [12]

He attended the Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia, Mississippi and later attended Delta State University in Cleveland. [4] Grisham drifted so much that he changed colleges three times before completing a degree. [2] He eventually graduated from Mississippi State University in 1977, receiving a B.S. degree in accounting. He later enrolled in the University of Mississippi School of Law to become a tax lawyer, but his interest shifted to general civil litigation. He graduated in 1981 with a J.D. degree. [4]


Law and politics

Grisham practiced law for about a decade and won election as a Democrat in the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1984–90, at an annual salary of $8,000. [4] [13]

Grisham represented the seventh district, which included DeSoto County. [14] By his second term in the Mississippi state legislature, he was the vice-chairman of the Apportionment and Elections Committee and a member of several other committees. [2]

Grisham's writing career blossomed with the success of his second book, The Firm, and he gave up practicing law, except for returning briefly in 1996 to fight for the family of a railroad worker who was killed on the job. [2] His official website states: "He was honoring a commitment made before he had retired from the law to become a full-time writer. Grisham successfully argued his clients' case, earning them a jury award of $683,500 — the biggest verdict of his career." [10]

Writing career

This house in Lepanto, Arkansas, was the house used in the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie A Painted House. Lepanto AR 26.jpg
This house in Lepanto, Arkansas, was the house used in the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie A Painted House.

Grisham said the big case came in 1984, but it was not his case. As he was hanging around the court, he overheard a 12-year-old girl telling the jury what had happened to her. Her story intrigued Grisham, and he began watching the trial. He saw how the members of the jury cried as she told them about having been raped and beaten. It was then, Grisham later wrote in The New York Times , that a story was born. [12]

Musing over "what would have happened if the girl's father had murdered her assailants", [10] took three years to complete his first book, A Time to Kill. Finding a publisher was not easy. The book was rejected by 28 publishers before Wynwood Press, an unknown publisher, agreed to give it a modest 5,000-copy printing. It was published in June 1989. [2] [15]

The day after Grisham completed A Time to Kill, he began work on his second novel, The Firm. [10] The Firm remained on The New York Times' bestseller list for 47 weeks, [2] and became the bestselling novel of 1991. [16]

Beginning with A Painted House in 2001, Grisham broadened his focus from law to the more general rural South but continued to write legal thrillers. He has written sports fiction and comedy fiction. He wrote the original screenplay for and produced the 2004 baseball movie Mickey , which starred Harry Connick Jr. [ citation needed ]

In 2005, Grisham received the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award, which is presented annually by the Tulsa Library Trust. [17]

In 2010, Grisham started writing a series of legal thrillers for children aged 9 to 12 years. It features Theodore Boone, a 13-year-old who gives his classmates legal advice ranging from rescuing impounded dogs to helping their parents prevent their house from being repossessed. He said, "I'm hoping primarily to entertain and interest kids, but at the same time I'm quietly hoping that the books will inform them, in a subtle way, about law." [18]

He also stated that it was his daughter, Shea, who inspired him to write the Theodore Boone series. "My daughter Shea is a teacher in North Carolina and when she got her fifth grade students to read the book, three or four of them came up afterwards and said they'd like to go into the legal profession." [18]

In an October 2006 interview on the Charlie Rose show, Grisham stated that he usually takes only six months to write a book, and his favorite author is John le Carré. [19]

In 2017, Grisham released two legal thrillers. Camino Island was published on June 6, 2017. [20] The Rooster Bar, published on October 24, 2017, was called his most original work yet, in The News Herald . [21]

Southern settings

Several of Grisham's legal thrillers are set in the fictional town of Clanton, Mississippi, in the equally fictional Ford County, a northwest Mississippi town still deeply divided by racism. The first novel set in Clanton was A Time to Kill .

Other stories set there include The Last Juror , The Summons , The Chamber , and Sycamore Row . The stories in the collection Ford County are also set in and around Clanton. Other Grisham novels have non-fictional Southern settings, for example The Runaway Jury and The Partner , are both set in Biloxi, and large portions of The Pelican Brief in New Orleans.

A Painted House is set in and around the town of Black Oak, Arkansas, where Grisham spent some of his childhood.

Personal life


Grisham married Renee Jones on May 8, 1981. The couple have two children together: Shea and Ty. [4] Ty played college baseball for the University of Virginia. [22]

Real estate holdings

The family splits their time among their Victorian home on a farm outside Oxford, Mississippi, [10] a home in Destin, Florida [23] and a condominium at McCorkle Place in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, purchased in 2008. [24]


As a Baptist, he advocates the separation of church and state. [25] He once said, "I have some very deep religious convictions that I keep to myself, and when I see people using them for political gain it really irritates me." [26]


Grisham has a lifelong passion for baseball demonstrated partly by his support of Little League activities in both Oxford and in Charlottesville. In 1996, Grisham built a $3.8 million youth baseball complex. [27]

As he notes in the forward to Calico Joe, Grisham himself stopped playing baseball after a ball thrown by a pitcher nearly caused him a serious injury. This experience left Grisham with an abiding dislike of pitchers.

He remains a fan of Mississippi State University (MSU)'s baseball team and wrote about his ties to the university and the Left Field Lounge in the introduction for the book Dudy Noble Field: A Celebration of MSU Baseball .[ citation needed ]

Since moving to the Charlottesville area, Grisham has become a supporter of Virginia Cavaliers athletics and is regularly seen sitting courtside at basketball games. [28] Grisham also contributed to a $1.2 million donation to the Cavalier baseball team in Charlottesville, Virginia, which was used in the 2002 renovation of Davenport Field. [29]

Political activism

Grisham is a member of the board of directors of the Innocence Project, which campaigns to free and exonerate unjustly convicted people on the basis of DNA evidence. [30] The Innocence Project contends that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events but instead arise from systemic defects. Grisham has testified before Congress on behalf of the Innocence Project. [31]

Grisham has appeared on Dateline NBC , [32] Bill Moyers Journal on PBS, [33] and other programs. He wrote for The New York Times in 2013 about an unjustly held prisoner at Guantanamo. [34]

Grisham opposes capital punishment, a position very strongly manifested in the plot of The Confession . [35] [36] [37] [38] He believes that prison rates in the United States are excessive, and the justice system is "locking up far too many people". Citing examples including "black teenagers on minor drugs charges" to "those who had viewed child porn online", he controversially added that he believed not all viewers of child pornography are necessarily pedophiles. After hearing from numerous people against this position, he later recanted this statement in a Facebook post. [39] [40] [41]

The Mississippi State University Libraries, Manuscript Division, maintains the John Grisham Room, [42] an archive containing materials generated during the author's tenure as Mississippi State Representative and relating to his writings. [43] In 2012, the Law Library at the University of Mississippi School of Law was renamed in his honor. It had been named for more than a decade after the late Senator James Eastland.

In 2015, Grisham, along with about 60 others, signed a letter published in the Clarion-Ledger urging that an inset within the flag of Mississippi containing a Confederate flag be removed. [44] He co-authored the letter with author Greg Iles; the pair contacted various public figures from Mississippi for support. [45]

Awards and honors


A complete listing of works by John Grisham: [49]

Denotes stories not in the legal genre


Short stories



Feature films


See also

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