It’s 1984. In the state capitol of Jackson Mississippi, an attorney and newly elected congressman by the name of John Grisham is witnessing a trial involving the brutal sexual assault of a twelve year old girl.
“Her testimony was gut-wrenching, graphic, heartbreaking and riveting. Every juror was crying,” Grisham wrote, many years later in the New York Times. “I remember staring at the defendant and wishing I had a gun. And like that, a story was born.”
It took him four years to get that story on the shelves but the modestly successful A Time to Kill became the first brick in an impressive edifice of bestsellers by John Grisham. In many ways echoing To Kill a Mockingbird, the book centres around the trial of an African-American man who murders his daughter’s rapists in cold blood. Looking to avoid the death penalty, he turns to lawyer Jake Brigance and his team, who must contend with corrupt officials and institutional racism on their road to a verdict.
The book was turned into a memorable film in 1996 starring Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock (two stars still going strong in 2013) and was one of many top-drawer legal thrillers inspired by Grisham’s work. In fact, it’s quite alarming how successfully his books have been adapted for the big screen. Part of that success comes from his strong sense of character and the fact that his stories aren’t really about courtroom intrigue; they simply use legal procedure as a means to slowly unveil a story.
Twenty four years after the publication of his debut novel, Grisham has returned to Ford County, Mississippi for a new Jake Brigance novel entitled Sycamore Row. To celebrate its release, we have this very special message from the man himself:
You heard what he said! We’ve got a load of quality titles in our John Grisham Collection including great films like:
The Firm (1993)
There was a point in Tom Cruise‘s career where the only character he played was a ‘young hot-shot whatever’. In The Firm, he’s a young hot-shot lawyer from Harvard who’s lured to a big firm in Memphis with promises of wealth and power. His boss (Gene Hackman) is able to deliver on these promises but also neglects to explain how the partnership is deeply connected with the mob and gathers blackmail material on each of their employees. Whoops! Guess he should’ve asked some questions at the interview!
The Pelican Brief (1993)
When two US Supreme Court justices are assassinated, the public-at-large are led to believe that the killings were politically motivated. When a young hot-shot law student (Julia Roberts) stumbles upon a report connecting the two judges to an environmental ruling, she finds out there are darker, greedier forces at work. In a common Grisham motif, a little knowledge is a very dangerous thing indeed as she becomes their next target.
The Client (1994)
Susan Sarandon was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as Reggie Love, a southern lawyer and recovering alcoholic who puts everything on the line to protect her client: a young boy who has witnessed something that the local mob wishes he didn’t. It’s up to her to protect the child from charismatic District Attorney (Tommy Lee Jones), who is looking to use the boy for his own political gain even if it means putting him in harm’s way!
In the high court judgment of Jones v Sarandon, the only winner is us: the audience!
The Chamber (1996)
Chris O’Donnell takes the Cruise role as the young hot-shot lawyer. Working for a big city firm, he threatens to derail his burgeoning career by representing his own grandfather (Gene Hackman), a Klansman on death row for a racially-motivated bombing in the 1960s. It’s a crackerjack set-up with a number of compelling twists and turns along the way. As with A Time to Kill, it finds Grisham investigating the root of modern racism in America’s Deep South while getting his word in about the death penalty. Also note: this is Hackman’s second appearance on this list!
Runaway Jury (2003)
It’s the final entry in Gene Hackman‘s Grisham trilogy. He plays a jury selection expert tasked with winning a massive firearms case by selecting individuals sympathetic to his clients’ cause. He makes an enormous mistake, however, when a jury member (John Cusack) turns out to be a professional grifter, who offers to sell the verdict to the highest bidder. As the lead defense council, Dustin Hoffman is in fine, subtle form opposite a blustering Hackman in his last great performance.
On top of this tremendous collection, we’re also pleased to host one of our most exciting competitions yet!
If you head to the competition page and enter your details, you will stand a chance to win a weekend trip to New York City to go and see A Time to Kill on Broadway!
So go ahead and enter now!
Sycamore Row is now available in hardback