The Racketeer by John Grisham

The Racketeer by John Grisham Purchase:

    The Racketeer is guilty of only one thing: keeping us engaged until the very last page.”—USA Today

    IN THE HISTORY of the United States, only four active federal judges have been murdered. Judge Raymond Fawcett has just become number five. His body is found in his remote lakeside cabin. There is no sign of forced entry or struggle. Just two dead bodies: Judge Fawcett and his young secretary. And one large, state-of-the-art, extremely secure safe, opened and emptied.

    One man, a former attorney, knows who killed Judge Fawcett, and why. But that man, Malcolm Bannister, is currently residing in the Federal Prison Camp near Frostburg, Maryland. Though serving time, Malcolm has an ace up his sleeve. He has information the FBI would love to know. Malcolm would love to tell them. But everything has a price—and the man known as the Racketeer wasn’t born yesterday.

    The John Grisham Primer

    grishamjohnJohn Grisham had toyed with the idea of becoming a writer someday, but that was in the ninth grade, so it didn’t count. He became a lawyer instead. Didn’t like it much. Worked too hard. The hours were too long. Besides, there wasn’t a lot of money being a public defender in a small Mississippi town where the poor, especially the black and poor, couldn’t afford the best and never had much of a chance of winning.

    John Grisham

    In an interview with Nicholas Wroe of the Guardian, he recalled, “I represented real people, poor people, who often couldn’t afford to pay a lawyer, but still had problems. Directly across the street from my office were insurance companies, banks, and big corporations. It was a very clear line between us, and I learned very quickly who my friends were.”

    He didn’t like it, but being a lawyer changed his life.

    John Grisham may have only been a bystander, but he was in the courtroom when a twelve-year-old girl testified about her rape. She was ashamed, embarrassed, and horrified. He turned and looked at the girl’s father, trying to imagine what would happen if the angry man took matters into his own hands.

    What if the father turned his back on the court and judicial system?

    What if he took his own measure of revenge?

    How would the law respond?

    What would society say?

    The thoughts refused to leave him. Grisham said in an interview with the Academy of Achievement: “I was doing a lot of courtroom work. I was a very young lawyer, but I was handling a lot of court appointed criminal cases, in trial a lot. And I knew the criminal system, and I knew a lot about it. And so I came up with a story about a murder trial, and some of it was based on personal experience. Most of it was not. And I kept telling myself that I would like to be the lawyer who defended a father who murdered the two guys who raped his daughter. I think it would be a fascinating case. One thing led to another, and I was sort of consumed with this story. And one night I just said, ‘Okay, I’m going to try to capture it, see what I can do with words.’ And that’s what happened.”

    John Grisham at a book signing. Photograph: Academy of Achievement

    The writing of A Time to Kill took him three years. Grisham remembered what his ninth grade teacher told him when he had announced to her that he wanted to be a writer, she told him: “Write what you know, and write every day.”

    He knew law. He forced himself to write every day. Grisham would roll out of bed at five o’clock every morning, head down to his office, which was five minutes away, and write until seven. He wanted to write at least one page a day. Some days it took ten minutes. Some days it took the full two hours. On many mornings he doubted that he would ever finish the novel.

    A time to Kill found a little publisher but no audience at all. In desperation, Grisham bought five thousand copies and sold them out of the trunk of his car. He had a book but little else. He remembered, “When I stated, my motives were pure. I was not driven by greed or money. I had a story. It was a courtroom drama.” That’s all.

    He kept writing, stealing whatever time he could from his law practice. And two years later, he wrote the final paragraph to The Firm.

    It was an immediate blockbuster. When the book hit the New York Times bestseller list at number twelve, Grisham clipped the list from the newspaper and stuck it to his office wall. He did the same thing for the next forty-four weeks.

    Grisham says, “These people are my friends. I couldn’t imagine publishing a book and not going back to their bookstores to see them.” Photograph: Academy of Achievement.

    As Grisham said, “My first publishing experience was entirely normal, and my second entirely abnormal. I responded much better to the second experience than I did the first.”

    He was working on his third novel, The Pelican Brief, churning out a page a day, maybe two pages on a good day, when, Grisham said, he received the most important and valuable advice he ever received. It came from the most unlikeliest of sources.

    He was at a book signing when a very young executive with the chain happened to mention to him in passing, “The big guys come out every year.”

    He was talking about Tom Clancy and Stephen King and Ken Follett and Michael Crichton, and John Grisham wanted to be among the big boys. He suddenly understood the value of coming out with a new book like clockwork, year after year.

    He went home, locked himself inside a room for sixty days, and finished The Pelican Brief. Exactly one year later, he published The Client, and those books placed the name of John Grisham on everybody’s bestseller list. By the 1990s, Grisham Day in bookstores, large and small, became a fixed point of the publishing year, of the publishing wars. No other publisher dared to release a book if it might be forced to compete with Grisham’s newest work. Such a conflict would be an immediate recipe for disaster.

    As he said, “My name became a brand, and I’d love to say that was the plan from the start. But the only plan was to keep writing books. And I’ve stuck to that ever since.”