John Grisham is one of America’s best-selling author, he said one day, “I started thinking that it would be nice to have a novel sitting on my desk, something I could point to and say, ‘Yeah, I wrote that’” (Authors 97). Grisham’s life has influenced his fourteen back-to-back best-sellers (Authors 96). His books have been influenced by his previous job as a lawyer; his settings, the places he lived or visited; and there were also many other influences.
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Most of Grisham’s books were influenced by his previous job as a lawyer. Grisham started off being a tax attorney, but then changed to criminal law. Soon he grew tired of this field too and switched to civil law. He won a lot of cases in this field but eventually lost interest in it too (Authors 96). Even though Grisham was no longer a lawyer, courtroom drama was a main topic in most of his books. Grisham’s first book, A Time to Kill was influenced by a trial he attended. He witnessed, a girl testifying against a man that raped her. Grisham couldn’t stop thinking about this case, and he wanted to know what would happen if the girl’s father had actually killed his daughter’s rapist (Authors 97). It took Grisham 3 years to write his first novel. He would get into work very early to write for an hour or two until work started (Current 222).
Grisham wrote many other books that were influenced by his law experience. The Firm was about a man named Mitchell McDeere, a new lawyer fresh out of Harvard Law School, gets himself into trouble with the curiosity of his new firm. Since he becomes so curious his firm and the authorities ask McDeere to work as a spy within his firm (Authors 98). Another legal thriller called the Pelican Brief was about an attractive female law student named Darby Shaw. Throughout the book Darby is trying to figure out a theory as to why people commit crimes. This eventually got Darby into a lot of trouble with the law firm that were responsible for all the killings. Even though she still courageously continues explore her theory, she finds herself scared for her life from this firm (Authors 99). The Runaway Jury is about a man, who smoked a lot, for about 30 years, and died. Then, his wife decided to sue several large tobacco companies. The defending tobacco company hires a man, Rankin Fitch, to try to persuade the jury to acquit them of the crime that they are accused of. However Rankin is soon challenged by Nicholas Easter who is on the jury. Easter has a stronger influence on the jury than Fitch does. The Summons is a book about a law teacher who receives a letter from his nearly dead father just after a traumatic divorce. The letter requests him to come to claim millions of dollars that he left to him (Author 103). Most of Grisham’s books were about “disenchanted attorneys who are bucking the establishment” (Ferranti 42) and courtroom drama.
Mostly all of Grisham’s books were set in a Southern town or in Brazil. Since Grisham grew up in the south most of his books were set there (Current 221). The Runaway Jury, The Summons, and A Time to Kill were all set in a town on the Mississippi Gulf (Authors 100). A Time to Kill was set in the fictional town of Ford County, Mississippi (Current 222). The Painted House was set in the Arkansas Delta, where Grisham was born. It is about one harvest season narrated by a boy whose father and grandfather are both cotton farmers (Authors 102). Grisham also had one novel, The Testament, which was set in Brazil. It was about a man living in Brazil searching for his spirit. It was easy for him to write about Brazil because he traveled there often to do mission work for the poor by building houses, and because of this he knows a lot about the country (Authors 101).
As well as his law experience and settings, Grisham’s novels had many other influenced. The Firm was inspired by the Writers Digest. One day, he found guidelines in it on how to make his book better (Authors 97). Personal experience also plays a big part in a lot of Grisham’s novels (Ferranti 42). A Painted House was Grisham’s first book not about lawyers. This book was about the fictional life of a seven year old boy. Grisham says the boy is very much like him, but the story is not quite the same (Authors 100). Grisham says that he couldn’t write a novel that would embarrass him in front of his children who would read his books when they get older. This means that there is no sex, profanity, or violence in any of his books (Ferranti, 43).
Grisham said his childhood and different people also influenced his writing. When he was a child he didn’t watch much television because his mother didn’t like it. In effect, Grisham turned to books and was taught to read earlier and spent most of his time doing so (Academy 3). Because of his love for books at an early age, this made him become a writer later in life. Another person who helped inspire Grisham was his twelfth grade English teacher. She made his class read a lot of good books written by mostly American writers. This was when he figured out his favorite authors. His most favorite was John Steinbeck. Steinbeck was also an inspiration to Grisham. He once said that he would “love to be able to write this clearly” (Academy 4).
In conclusion, there were many events, people, and experiences that influenced what Grisham wrote about in his books. Grisham worked as a lawyer for many years and this caused him to write many court room drama based novels. Grisham lived in the south for his whole life, and he also visited Brazil, this impacted the settings of his novels greatly.
“John Grisham.” Authors and Artists for Young Adults. Vol. 47. Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2003.
Ferranti, Jennifer. “Grisham’s Law.” The Saturday Evening Post March/April 1997 42-45.
Judith Graham, ed. Current Biography Yearbook, New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1993.
“John Grisham.” Academy of Achievement. 1995. 1 May 2004 <http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/pag/gri0int-1>
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