How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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Prof Yabut

How about a little hint at the criteria used and the reasons for the particular choices, Young Man? Your thought processes are more interesting than your conclusions.

Have you noticed that, no matter how good the story, Grisham's novels almost always fizzle out at the end?

grisham hater

I think John Grisham is one of the literary giants of our time. It is, therefore, foolhardy to even attempt to rate these masterpieces of the English language.


I'm an unapologetic Grisham fan. He's one of the very few authors whose books I buy in hardback as soon as they appear, without having read any reviews, based solely on my regard for the author's past works.

That said (or confessed), I agree with Evan that some of his books are far better than others. After reading some of them, I've set the book down thinking to myself, "Well, this was another one he pounded out to meet his contract with his publisher."

But I've never felt cheated, even by his least-powerful work. One thing he manages to provide consistently, even in his weaker books, is a "voice" that resonates as authentic with me. Some of the resonance is geographical — Southern people and places — but more often it's vocational. From his first book, every Grisham novel I've read has impressed on me that this guy has been a real trial lawyer — and it sounds authentic to me when he talks the talk precisely because he's walked the walk.

Another consistent attraction of his books for me arises from his appreciation for, and vivid illustrations of, the fact that every verdict is the result of a combination of intensely personal efforts being made by highly varied, ideosyncratic, and fallible human beings — not just the lawyers, but also clients, judges, jurors, witnesses, newspaper reporters, bailiffs and court clerks and court reporters. This is equally true whether whether the trial is a civil or criminal one, and whether it's fought out by teams of high-priced lawyers in a big-city courthouse or by two mullets with gravy-stained neckties in a one-horse town. Sometimes their respective contributions and involvement become surprising — the outcome of the trial turns not so much on how the star lawyer did in his closing arguments, but on what the bailiff heard whispered among the jurors as they were filing into the jury room. I'm enough of a populist to enjoy being reminded that everyone puts his trousers or her pantyhose on one leg at a time — and in so doing, sometimes stumbles and then looks around to see if anyone saw.


Beldar: I must say, your comment makes me want to read the Grisham books I haven't read. I've always admired Grishman because it is incredibly difficult for a popular novelist to create a brand name, yet Grisham has done it. He more or less invented a genre of popular novel--the legal thriller--than didn't exist when he wrote The Firm. If the genre did exist, then he should get the credit for popularizing it.

Obviously, Grisham's books are meant to be legal thrillers, not great masterpieces of literature, and they should be judged as such. What's the primarily goal of commercial fiction? To sell books, I guess, and to create an audience for the next book. Judged on this basis, it's another reason I believe Grisham has been very successful.

Anyone who thinks it's easy to write, sell, and successfully market commercial fiction should try it themselves and they'll quickly learn otherwise. I have a lot of regard for anyone who can publish a string of bestsellers. The thing that disappoints me about Grisham--and it doesn't seem like it's bothered anyone else very much--is the inconsistency in the quality of the writing from book to book. It's hard to understand why at least a few of his books seem like first drafts. (A related problem: many of Grisham's first chapters are of much higher quality than the chapters that follow, making me think the first chapters have been revised over and over. If Grisham would devote that much time to the other chapters and write only half as much, I'd be much more eager to read his books before waiting for the reviews.)

Rufus T. Firefly

I can't stomach Grisham. The boy can't write. Turow is okay, nothing special, though. But I love Richard Dooling. I've read all of his books (I think there are four) and enjoyed them all immensely, particularly White Man's Grave.


Grisham's books are the Dick and Jane of legal fiction. See Spot get sued!


Dylan: Is there any legal fiction that gets The Slithery D's seal of approval?


Probably not. I'm going to post about it on my blog.


I must say thanks for teh write-up...but wmay I ask what can one take away from reading John Grisham novels? I have only read KING OF TORTS and overall, I can't say that I learned anything from reading this novel. I hope you may add some insight.



John: In my opinion, there's not much to learn in any Grisham novel. Grisham's books are for entertainment purposes only.

The problem with King of Torts, however, is that it's not even entertaining. As I've said elsewhere on this site, that book belongs in the trash.

Mary Smith

I believe that a good wise witch type magical person may have cast a kind spell and gave John Grisham a dream he may not remeber so there is some truth in the things written about in his books and in "The Summons" so maybe a ghost like in a voodoo spell can get his story across that the real press would cover up because of law suits that it can't all be proven . John Grisham books remind me of a truth that was ridden and how Ray Atlee a law teacher was misunderstood for helping out his bother maybe a wise witch really did cast a good voodoo spell the book should be read with feeling if read at all.

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