On Bookreporter.com, I have often commented on the admirable
quality of John Grisham, a writer who refuses to be constrained
within the writing style that has brought him fame, fortune and
annual placement on bestseller lists around the globe. Throughout
the past decade, I have had the opportunity to review more than a
dozen Grisham novels as well as a work of nonfiction for
Bookreporter.com. When one thinks about Grisham, stories
surrounding lawyers come to mind, but he refuses to be pigeon-holed
in that single genre. Certainly, he is known for novels that focus
on the law, but every now and then, he elects to follow a different
writing path. His new subject might be football, Italy, or life in
his native Mississippi. You cannot stereotype John Grisham.
FORD COUNTY is a collection of seven stories focusing on
characters from the Mississippi community first discovered in
Grisham’s debut novel, A TIME TO KILL. They cover subjects
familiar to his readers: attorneys, the death penalty, and life in
the rural South. Grisham has suggested that the stories in this
collection represent plots that could not sustain full-length
novels. “I’ve had dozens of ideas for Ford County
novels,” he observes, “almost all of which peter out
for one reason or another. The good stories stick, but
they’re always long enough to become novels.”
Regardless of length, the stories that comprise FORD COUNTY are
vintage John Grisham: thoughtful, sometimes humorous, often
touching, and a joy to read.
Many of the stories reflect Grisham’s personal interests,
such as capital punishment, which has become one of his passions.
In “Fetching Raymond,” Inez Graney and two of her sons
are travelling to Parchman Prison to visit the youngest family
member, the titular Raymond. Convicted of the murder of a Ford
County Deputy Sheriff, the youngest brother has been on death row
for 11 years. As his appeals are exhausted, this could be the last
time they will have the opportunity to see him. The family visit
provides readers with Grisham’s view of the madness that is
It would not be a representative Grisham collection without
something about the law, the subject that brought him acclaim from
readers around the globe. Two stories here focus on legal issues.
“Fish Files” is an opportunity for Grisham to expose an
issue dear to his heart: the battle between legal ethics and money.
Mack Stafford is a struggling, small-town attorney who receives an
unexpected phone call that could settle some worthless personal
injury cases for more money than he can fathom. The opportunity to
change his life is more than Stafford can handle.
“Michael’s Room” is provoking but disturbing.
One evening, on his way home from work, attorney Stanley Wade is
abducted by a man who he recognizes but cannot place. Those of us
who practice law in smaller communities know well the experience of
noticing someone from a courtroom meeting but being unable to
remember any other details of the encounter. For Wade, the
specifics are violently recalled. The losing family in a civil
lawsuit where Wade represented a doctor charged with malpractice
decides that they will obtain some revenge from the man who
engineered their courtroom defeat. Attorneys, those who have served
on a jury, or anyone who has been a party to a lawsuit will find
this story insightful.
When Grisham ventures into new territory, he continues to
exhibit his talent as a storyteller. “Blood Drive” is
the laugh-out-loud adventure of three men from Clanton who travel
to Memphis to assist an injured hometown acquaintance by donating
blood. You will visualize the actors who will portray the
characters in the movie version of the story. “Funny
Boy,” the final selection in FORD COUNTY, is a story of
bigotry and tenderness that speaks volumes in an understated
John Grisham has written 21 novels and one work of nonfiction.
More than 250 million copies of his books have been sold worldwide.
One might expect that somewhere in that writing would be a dull,
uninteresting book, but I have yet to read it. Grisham’s
venture into short stories provides readers with an invigorating
and entertaining collection that prove once again that a
bestselling author can also be an outstanding writer.
Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on January 22, 2011