"I seriously doubt I would ever have written the first story had I not been a lawyer. I never dreamed of being a writer. I wrote only after witnessing a trial." -- John Grisham
John Ray Grisham, Jr. (born 8 February 1955) is an American author, best known for his popular legal thrillers. He's a Galaxy British Book Awards winner and one of only two authors to sell two million copies on a first printing.
John Grisham graduated from Mississippi State University before attending the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1981 and practiced criminal law for about a decade. He also served in the House of Representatives in Mississippi from January 1984 to September 1990.Beginning writing in 1984, he had his first novel A Time To Kill published in June 1989.As of 2008, his books had sold over 250 million copies worldwide.
Grisham's first best seller was The Firm. Released in 1991, it sold more than seven million copies. The book was adapted as a feature film. In addition, seven more of his novels: The Chamber, The Client, A Painted House, The Pelican Brief, The Rainmaker, Runaway Jury, and A Time to Kill, were adapted as movies. His books have been translated into 29 languages and published worldwide.His other best-selling books include The Testament, The Summons and The Broker.
"I have learned not to read reviews. Period. And I hate reviewers. All of them, or at least all but two or three. Life is much simpler ignoring reviews and the nasty people who write them. Critics should find meaningful work."
John Grisham, the second oldest of five siblings, was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to Wanda Skidmore Grisham and John Grisham. His father worked as a construction worker and a cotton farmer, while his mother was a homemaker.The family relocated frequently, until they decided to settle in the town of Southaven in DeSoto County, Mississippi; Grisham was four then. As a child, Grisham wanted to be a baseball player.Despite the fact that Grisham's parents lacked formal education, his mother encouraged her son to read and prepare for college.
He went to the Northwest Junior College in Senatobia, Mississippi and later attended Delta State University in Cleveland.Grisham drifted so much during his time at the college that he changed colleges three times before completing a degree.He graduated from Mississippi State University in 1977, receiving a BS degree in accounting. He later enrolled in the Ole Miss Law School to become a tax lawyer, but his interest shifted to general civil litigation. He graduated with a specialty in criminal law.
Grisham married Renne Jones on 8 May 1981, and the couple have two children together: Shea and Ty. The "family splits their time between their Victorian home on a farm" outside Oxford, Mississippi, "and a home near Charlottesville, Virginia."In 2008, he and his wife bought a condominium at McCorkle Place in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
John Grisham as a teenager started working for a nursery - 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; he "never drew inspiration from that miserable work."
Through a contact of his father, he managed to find work on a highway asphalt crew in Mississippi. He was seventeen then. It was during this time, that an unfortunate incident got him "serious" about college. A fight had broken out among the crew on a Friday, with gun fire that Grisham ran to the restroom to escape. He didn't come out until the police had "hauled away rednecks". He hitchhiked home and started thinking about college
His next work was in retail, where he was a salesclerk at a department store, in the men's underwear section, which he described as "humiliating". After deciding to quit, he stayed when offered a raise. He was given another raise after asking to be transferred to toys and then to appliances. A confrontation with a company spy posing as a customer convinced him to leave the store.
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.
Law and politics
Grisham practiced law for about a decade, also winning election as a Democrat in the Mississippi state legislature from 1983 to 1990 at an annual salary of $8,000.By his second term at the Mississippi state legislature, he was not only the vice-chairman of the Apportionment and Elections Committee but also a member of the Military Affairs Committee, Judiciary A and the Insurance.
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. His official site states that "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."
Each year after being elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives, Grisham would spend from January to March in the state capitol dreaming of a big case.
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. Musing over "what would have happened if the girl's father had murdered her assailants", Grisham 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. The day after Grisham completed A Time to Kill, he began work on his second novel, the story of an ambitious young attorney "lured to an apparently perfect law firm that was not what it appeared." The Firm remained on the The New York Times' bestseller list for 47 weeks, and became the bestselling novel of 1991.
Beginning with A Painted House in 2001, the author broadened his focus from law to the more general rural South, but continued to write legal thrillers.
On September 28, 2007, former Pontotoc County, Oklahoma District Attorney Bill Peterson, former Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agent Gary Rogers, and criminalist Melvin Hett filed a civil suit for libel against Grisham and two other authors. They claimed that Grisham and the others critical of Peterson and his prosecution of murder cases conspired to commit libel and generate publicity for themselves by portraying the plaintiffs in a false light and intentionally inflicting emotional distress. Grisham was named due to his publication of the non-fiction book, The Innocent Man. He examined the faults in the investigation and trial of defendants in the murder of a cocktail waitress in Ada, Oklahoma, and the exoneration by DNA evidence more than 12 years later of wrongfully convicted defendants Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz. The judge dismissed the libel case on September 18, 2008, saying, "The wrongful convictions of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz must be discussed openly and with great vigor."
The Mississippi State University Libraries, Manuscript Division, maintains the John Grisham Room, an archive containing materials generated during the author's tenure as Mississippi State Representative and relating to his writings.
Grisham's lifelong passion for baseball is expressed in his novel A Painted House and in his support of Little League activities in both Oxford, Mississippi, and Charlottesville, Virginia. He wrote the original screenplay for and produced the baseball movie Mickey, starring Harry Connick, Jr.. The movie was released on DVD in April 2004. He remains a fan of Mississippi State University's baseball team and wrote about his ties to the university and the Left Field Lounge in the introduction for the book A Celebration of MSU Baseball.
Grisham is well known within the literary community for his efforts to support the continuing literary tradition of his native South. He has endowed scholarships and writers' residencies in the University of Mississippi's English Department and Graduate Creative Writing Program. He was the founding publisher of the Oxford American, a magazine devoted to literary writing. The magazine is famous for its annual music issue, copies of which include a compilation CD featuring contemporary and classic Southern musicians in genres ranging from blues and gospel to country western and alternative rock.
In an October 2006 interview on the Charlie Rose Show, Grisham stated that he usually takes only six months to write a book and that his favorite author is John le Carré.