Biography of John Grisham

John Grisham was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, but his father's work as a traveling construction worker and cotton farmer kept the family moving to different towns in the South for the first twelve years of Grisham's life. Eventually, they settled in Southaven, Mississippi in 1967. Grisham's parents encouraged him and his siblings to read and insisted they all go to college; his parents had not had the privilege of college, but knew it would help their children achieve a better life.

Grisham was the first of his family to graduate from college and went on to study law at the University of Mississippi law school, where over the course of three years his interests shifted from tax law to criminal law. He never considered himself a writer as a child or even as a young adult, and it wasn't until he had been practicing for a few years that the idea to write a novel came to him. His inspiration derived from a case he watched one day in the courthouse near his office. A twelve-year-old girl testified against a man who had raped her, and Grisham was moved by the drama of her testimony. He imagined what would have happened if the girl's father decided to kill her rapist, what the trial would be like, and what it would be like to represent the man in a court of law. Thus, A Time to Kill was born.

Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, was rejected by more than thirty publishers before a small, barely known publisher in New York decided to buy it and print a meager 5,000 copies. Despite the setbacks, after finishing his first manuscript, Grisham immediately started work on the second, a novel titled The Firm. Film rights for The Firm sold even before the book rights, and the money from the sale allowed Grisham to leave the law profession and his place in the Mississippi House of Representatives and start writing full time. Grisham's career had a late, but meteoric start; by the time the film rights to The Firm were sold, he was thirty-six.

Since then, Grisham has been a prolific novelist, writing dozens of books in various genres, most of them categorized as "legal thrillers." Grisham has also written a non-fiction book, The Innocent Man, which combines his love of baseball with his passion for criminal justice. He has written YA fiction, comedy novels, and novels about family life in the rural South. In addition to writing, Grisham serves on the board of the Innocence Project and is a public advocate against capital punishment.


Study Guides on Works by John Grisham

John Grisham wrote A Time to Kill, a legal thriller, in 1989 while he was a practicing lawyer in Mississippi. While observing a trial in the courthouse near his practice, he witnessed the testimony of a 12-year-old who was raped and beaten, and...

Bleachers, written by John Grisham, was first published during 2003 and was later published during 2004 by Arrow. This fictional story highlights the love and loss that protagonist Neely Crenshaw experiences as he takes a trip down memory lane.

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John Grisham is generally considered to be the gold standard of the legal thriller. The Street Lawyer is his ninth novel, and like his other work was critically well received, and almost guaranteed to be made into a blockbuster film, or at the...