I still remember my first encounter with Grisham. I was working as a financial analyst at Eli Lilly in Indianapolis, when a couple of the cool guys, the department heads a few years my senior, told me their story. They’d been on a weekend road trip, but had sat in the car for an hour after reaching their destination to hear the conclusion of The Firm.
I, of course, ran out and got my own copy. Sat riveted. Then passed on the recommendation. That’s how books become blockbusters and authors become famous. Word of mouth.
Twenty-five years later, Grisham’s tagline is “America’s Favorite Storyteller.” After rereading his greats for the Nth time this past month, I’d have to agree. The Firm, The Runaway Jury, A Time to Kill, etc. are downright riveting every time you read them. Nobody tells stories better.
While most readers are familiar with his stories, oddly enough, few know Grisham’s characters. You don’t read his novels to spend time with a particular person, a Bosch or Plum or Reacher, but rather an environment and an event. Among the majors, very few have pulled that tactic off. Now Grisham is changing that, and frankly I’m a bit worried it will be like Michael Jordan playing baseball.
With The Rogue Lawyer, Grisham has introduced his first series character. I didn’t know that was his intent at the time I read it. I was very disappointed as a result. I’d expected a classic Grisham legal thriller, a plot-driven novel woven around an event. Instead, readers receive what’s essentially a lawyer’s diary, with little dialogue and no grand confluence or twist. Then I learned what he was up to: Grisham interview here.
Now, as both a reader and a writer, I’m very eager to see what America’s Favorite Storyteller can do with a series character. I just hope John can find a way to weave Sebastian Rudd into one of his classic, plot-driven legal thrillers. I’m eager to be riveted again.