John Grisham wrote A Time to Kill in 1989 while he was a practicing lawyer in Mississippi. In 1949, he had witnessed the testimony of a 12-year-old who was raped and beaten, and was thus inspired to write this novel. It was "a gut-wrenching experience" for him and he mused with idea of a father's retribution. It took him three years to write the story, with the encouragement of his wife, Renée. The book itself was a suspense thriller, and was John Ghrisham's first book
Having finished the last pages, he sent the manuscript to New York and it was accepted by his new agent, Jay Garon after "sixteen agents and a dozen publishers" had passed. At the same time, Garon told Grisham to start writing another book, which would become his famous smashing bestseller The Firm. In 1988, Wynwood Press bought the manuscript and ran a modest 5000 copies, "selling well within a hundred miles of home".
However, after his following novels, such as The Pelican Brief and The Client established him as a skilled writing in legal thrillers, interest in A Time to Kill reignited; the book was republished by Doubleday and Dell Publishing, making it a bestseller.
A Time to Kill is a adapted into a film in 1996 by director Joel Schumacher, with Matthew McConaughey starring as lawyer Jake Tyler Brigance and Sandra Bullock as his assistant Ellen Roark. Its sequel, Sycamore Row, was published in Oct 22, 2013.