John Grisham

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John Grisham
John Grisham 2009.jpg
John Grisham in 2009
Born John Ray Grisham, Jr.
(1955-02-08) February 8, 1955 (age 63)
Jonesboro, Arkansas, United States
Occupation Writer
Nationality United States
Alma mater Mississippi State University B.S.
University of Mississippi School of Law J.D.
Period 1989–present
Genre Legal thriller
Crime fiction
Spouse Renee Grisham (1981–present)
Children Shea Grisham (born 1986)[1]
Ty Grisham (born 1983)[1]
John Grisham
State Representative
Member of the Mississippi House of Representatives
from the 7 district
In office
Personal details
Political party Democratic

John Ray Grisham, Jr. (/ˈɡrɪʃæm/; born February 8, 1955)[2][3] is an American bestselling writer, attorney, politician, and activist best known for his popular legal thrillers. His books have been translated into 42 languages and published worldwide.

John Grisham graduated from Mississippi State University before attending the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1981. He practiced criminal law for about a decade and served in the House of Representatives in Mississippi from January 1984 to September 1990.[4] He began writing his first novel, A Time to Kill, in 1984; it was published in June 1989.

As of 2012, his books had sold over 275 million copies worldwide.[5] A Galaxy British Book Awards winner, Grisham is one of only three authors to sell 2 million copies on a first printing; the others are Tom Clancy and J.K. Rowling.[6]

Grisham's first bestseller was The Firm (1991); it sold more than seven million copies.[2] The book was adapted into a 1993 feature film of the same name, starring Tom Cruise, and a 2012 TV series which "continues the story of attorney Mitchell McDeere and his family 10 years after the events of the film and novel."[7] Eight of his other novels have also been adapted into films: The Chamber, The Client, A Painted House, The Pelican Brief, Skipping Christmas, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, and A Time to Kill. [8]

Early life and education

John Grisham, the second oldest of five siblings, was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to Wanda Skidmore Grisham and John Grisham.[4] His father worked as a construction worker and a cotton farmer, while his mother was a homemaker.[9] When Grisham was four years old, his family started traveling around the South, until they finally settled in Southaven, DeSoto County, Mississippi.[4] As a child, Grisham wanted to be a baseball player.[8] Despite the fact that Grisham's parents lacked formal education, his mother encouraged her son to read and prepare for college.[2]

He went to the Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia, Mississippi and later attended Delta State University in Cleveland.[4] Grisham drifted so much that he changed colleges three times before completing a degree.[2] He graduated from Mississippi State University in 1977, receiving a BS degree in accounting. He later enrolled in the University of Mississippi School of Law to become a tax lawyer, but his interest shifted to general civil litigation. He graduated in 1981 with a JD degree.[4]

Marriage and family

Grisham married Renee Jones on May 8, 1981. The couple have two children together: Shea and Ty.[4] The family splits their time between their Victorian home on a farm outside Oxford, Mississippi, and a home near Charlottesville, Virginia.[9]

In 2008, he and his wife bought a condominium at McCorkle Place in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.[10]


Before and during college

Grisham started working for a nursery as a teenager, watering bushes for US$1.00 an hour. He was soon promoted to a fence crew for US$1.50 an hour. He wrote about the job: "there was no future in it".[11] At 16, Grisham took a job with a plumbing contractor but says he "never drew inspiration from that miserable work".[11]

Through a contact of his father's, he managed to find work on a highway asphalt crew in Mississippi at age 17. It was during this time that an unfortunate incident got him "serious" about college. A fight had broken out among the crew on a Friday, with gunfire from which Grisham ran to the restroom to escape. He did not come out until after the police had "hauled away rednecks". He hitchhiked home and started thinking about college.[11]

His next work was in retail, as a salesclerk in a department store men's underwear section, which he described as "humiliating". He decided to quit but stayed when he was offered a raise. He was given another raise after asking to be transferred to toys and then to appliances. A confrontation with a company spy posing as a customer convinced him to leave the store.[11] By this time, Grisham was halfway through college. Planning to become a tax lawyer, he was soon overcome by "the complexity and lunacy" of it. He decided to return to his hometown as a trial lawyer.[11]

Law and politics

Grisham practiced law for about a decade and won election as a Democrat in the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1983 to 1990, at an annual salary of US$8,000.[4][12] Grisham represented the seventh district, which included DeSoto County.[13] By his second term at the Mississippi state legislature, he was the vice-chairman of the Apportionment and Elections Committee and a member of several other committees.[2]

Grisham's writing career blossomed with the success of his second book, The Firm, and he gave up practicing law, except for returning briefly in 1996 to fight for the family of a railroad worker who was killed on the job.[2] His official site states: "He was honoring a commitment made before he had retired from the law to become a full-time writer. Grisham successfully argued his clients' case, earning them a jury award of US$683,500 — the biggest verdict of his career."[9]

Writing career

This house in Lepanto, Arkansas was the house used in the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie A Painted House

Grisham said the big case came in 1984, but it was not his case. As he was hanging around the court, he overheard a 12-year-old girl telling the jury what had happened to her. Her story intrigued Grisham, and he began watching the trial. He saw how the members of the jury cried as she told them about having been raped and beaten. It was then, Grisham later wrote in The New York Times, that a story was born.[11] Musing over "what would have happened if the girl's father had murdered her assailants",[9] Grisham took three years to complete his first book, A Time to Kill.

Finding a publisher was not easy. The book was rejected by 28 publishers before Wynwood Press, an unknown publisher, agreed to give it a modest 5,000-copy printing. It was published in June 1989.[2][4] The day after Grisham completed A Time to Kill, he began work on his second novel, The Firm, the story of an ambitious young attorney "lured to an apparently perfect law firm that was not what it appeared."[9] The Firm remained on the The New York Times' bestseller list for 47 weeks[2] and became the bestselling novel of 1991.[14]

Beginning with A Painted House in 2001, the author broadened his focus from law to the more general rural South but continued to write legal thrillers. He has also written sports fiction and comedy fiction.

In 2005, Grisham received the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. The award is presented annually by the Tulsa Library Trust.

In 2010, Grisham started writing a series of legal thrillers for children aged 9 to 12 years. It features Theodore Boone, a 13-year-old who gives his classmates legal advice ranging from rescuing impounded dogs to helping their parents prevent their house from being repossessed. He said, "I'm hoping primarily to entertain and interest kids, but at the same time I'm quietly hoping that the books will inform them, in a subtle way, about law."[15] He also stated that it was his daughter, Shea, who inspired him to write the Theodore Boone series. "My daughter Shea is a teacher in North Carolina and when she got her fifth grade students to read the book, three or four of them came up afterwards and said they'd like to go into the legal profession."[16]

In an October 2006 interview on the Charlie Rose Show, Grisham stated that he usually takes only six months to write a book, and his favorite author is John le Carré.[17]

Southern Settings

Several of Grisham's legal thrillers are set in the fictional town of Clanton, Mississippi, in the equally fictional Ford County, a town still deeply divided by racism. The town and county are, according to a description given in Sycamore Row, located in the northwest of the state of Mississippi. The first of his novels to be set in the town was A Time to Kill. Other stories to be set in and around the town include The Last Juror, The Summons, The Chamber, and Sycamore Row. The stories in the collection Ford County are also set in and around Clanton. It has been suggested that the name "Clanton" may be deliberately suggestive of Klan town",[18] though the name is, according to the author, coincidental.[19]

Other Grisham novels have non-fictional Southern settings, for example The Runaway Jury is set in Biloxi.

Religious views

Grisham has been a Christian since he was 8 years old, and he describes his conversion to Christianity as "the most important event" in his life.[20] After leaving law school, he participated in some missionary work in Brazil, under the First Baptist Church of Oxford.[20] As a Baptist, he is for the separation of church and state,[21] and has stated: “I have some very deep religious convictions that I keep to myself, and when I see people using them for political gain it really irritates me.”[22]

Political activism

Grisham is a member of the Board of Directors of the Innocence Project, which campaigns to free unjustly convicted people on the basis of DNA evidence.[23] The Innocence Project argues that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events but instead arise from systemic defects. Grisham has testified before Congress on behalf of the Innocence Project[24] and appeared on Dateline NBC,[25] Bill Moyers Journal on PBS, [26] and other programs. He also wrote for the New York Times in 2013 about an unjustly held prisoner at Guantanamo.[27] John Grisham also has weighed in on the death penalty: in an article written by Melanie L. Crawford,[28] as well as in an op-ed written by himself for the Washington Post.[29]

Grisham believes that prison rates in the United States are excessive, "locking up far too many people". According to Grisham, pedophiles should be locked up, but he believes that not all people who watched child pornography, for example those who only viewed it one time, are pedophiles.[30]

The Mississippi State University Libraries, Manuscript Division, maintains the John Grisham Room,[31] an archive containing materials generated during the author's tenure as Mississippi State Representative and relating to his writings.[32]

In 2015, Grisham, along with about 60 others, signed a letter published in the Clarion-Ledger urging that an inset within the flag of Mississippi containing a Confederate flag be removed.[33] He co-authored the letter with author Greg Iles and the pair then contacted various public figures from Mississippi for support.[34]

Other interests

Grisham has a lifelong passion for baseball demonstrated partly by his support of Little League activities in both Oxford, Mississippi, and Charlottesville, Virginia. He wrote the original screenplay for and produced the baseball movie Mickey (2004), starring Harry Connick, Jr.[35] He remains a fan of Mississippi State University's baseball team and wrote about his ties to the university and the Left Field Lounge in the introduction for the book Dudy Noble Field: A Celebration of MSU Baseball.

As part of his passion for sports, Grisham is a supporter of Virginia Cavaliers athletics. He has been spotted at various sporting events on-campus and it is believed he gave a $2 million donation to help renovate the Cavaliers' baseball stadium, Davenport Field. His son Ty played baseball at UVA.

In a 2007 interview with Bill Moyers, Grisham revealed that he has been collecting goose eggs all his life, preparing them for Sunday morning family breakfasts before church.

Awards and honors


29 of John Grisham's books as of June 2012


Denotes books not in the legal genre.


Jake Brigance

Theodore Boone

Short stories



Feature films

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "John Grisham Biography - Yahoo Movies Canada". Retrieved 2014-06-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 John Grisham's Biography. Retrieved on 2011-12-09. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Academy_of_Achievement" defined multiple times with different content
  3. "Monitor". Entertainment Weekly (1245): 22. Feb 8, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. Retrieved on 2011-12-09. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "The_Encyclopedia_of_Arkansas_History_and_Culture" defined multiple times with different content
  5. "John Grisham: E-Books will be half of my sales". CBS News. 2012-04-11. Retrieved 2013-12-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. John Grisham Wins Galaxy Award. (2007-03-29). Retrieved on 2011-12-09.
  7. "About 'The Firm'". NBC. Retrieved 22 January 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 John Grisham by Mark Flanagan. (1955-02-08). Retrieved on 2011-12-09.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 John Grisham's Biography. (1955-02-08). Retrieved on 2011-12-09.
  10. Gibson, Dale (2008-07-07). "John Grisham and wife buy home in Chapel Hill". Triangle Business Journal. Retrieved 2009-09-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 Grisham, John. "Boxers, Briefs and Books", The New York Times, 6 September 2010.
  12. Biography of John Grisham by Erin Collazo Miller. (1955-02-08). Retrieved on 2011-12-09.
  13. Mississippi Official and Statistical Register. Secretary of State. 1989. p. 162.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Bestseller Books of the 1990s". Retrieved 2007-12-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Middleton, Christopher (2010-05-28). "Exclusive: best-selling author John Grisham explains why he's courting children with his latest legal thriller". London: Retrieved 2012-07-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Middleton, Christopher (2010-05-28). "Exclusive: best-selling author John Grisham explains why he's courting children with his latest legal thriller". London: Retrieved 2012-07-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Rose, Charlie (October 13, 2006). "An hour with author John Grisham". Charlie Rose.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Anderson, P. "‘Sycamore Row,’ by John Grisham" (book review), The Washington Post, 21 October 2013. Retrieved 14 April 2014.
  19. Transcript of interview with Grisham by Diane Rehm, 13 November 2013. Retrieved 14 April 2014.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Christianity Today. CONVERSATIONS: Why John Grisham Teaches Sunday School. October 3, 1994, Vol. 38, No. 11
  21. Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Novelist John Grisham Says Church Politicking Hurts Baptist Image.
  22. Walden, Celia. 2012. John Grisham: My sex scenes make my wife laugh out loud. The Telegraph. Accessed: January 26, 2015
  23. "About Us: Board of Directors". The Innocence Project. Retrieved 2014-06-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Innocence Blog: John Grisham Calls for Forensic Improvement". 2011-12-08. Retrieved 2014-06-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "Innocence Blog: John Grisham discusses wrongful convictions tonight on Dateline NBC". 2007-05-22. Retrieved 2014-06-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "Bill Moyers Journal . John Grisham". PBS. Retrieved 2014-06-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Grisham, John (2013-08-10). "After Guantánamo, Another Injustice". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Crawford, Melanie L. "A Losing Battle With The 'Machinery Of Death': The Flaws Of Virginia's Death Penalty Laws And Clemency Process Highlighted By The Fate Of Teresa Lewis." Widener Law Review 18.1 (2012): 71–98. Academic Search Complete. Web.
  29. John Grisham, Op-Ed, "Why is Teresa Lewis on Death Row?", Washington Post, Sept 12, 2010 at B5
  30. Foster, Peter (15 October 2014). "John Grisham: men who watch child porn are not all paedophiles". The Telegraph. Retrieved 20 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. "John Grisham Room now open in library". Mississippi State University. Retrieved 2007-12-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. "John Grisham, Morgan Freeman, others call for change to Mississippi flag". CNN. 2015-08-15. Retrieved 2015-09-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. "John Grisham: Why Mississippi Will Pull Down the Confederate Flag". Time magazine. 2015-08-16. Retrieved 2015-09-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. The movie, Mickey, on
  36. 36.00 36.01 36.02 36.03 36.04 36.05 36.06 36.07 36.08 36.09 36.10 36.11 36.12 36.13 36.14 36.15 36.16 36.17 36.18 36.19 36.20 36.21 36.22 36.23 A Complete List of John Grisham's Books by Year. (2011-10-20). Retrieved on 2011-12-09.
  37. Grisham page at Books Factory
  38. John Grisham Books. Retrieved on 2011-12-09.
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 39.3 John Grisham at Fantastic Fiction
  40. The Litigators info page at
  41. Audiobook [1] retrieved 26 March 2012: On February 2, 2002, Stephen King, Pat Conroy, John Grisham, and Peter Straub gathered at New York's Town Hall to raise money for one of the most recognizable voices in audiobooks, Frank Muller, an actor who sustained terrible injuries from a motorcycle accident.
  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 42.3 42.4 42.5 42.6 42.7 John Grisham Movies. Retrieved on 2011-12-09.

External links