In pictures: my top five John Grisham novels

John Grisham
John Grisham

Best selling crime writer John Grisham is one of the stars of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Festival held in Harrogate.

The festival runs from July 19 to 22 and guests include Denise Mina, Don Winslow and Sophie Hannah.

Grisham will be at the Old Swan Hotel on Friday July 20 at 8pm.

Here the Advertiser’s arts and entertainments writer Sue Wilkinson presents her favourite five John Grisham novels.

1 The Firm: An early Grisham thriller and my first taste of a Grisham novel. I was gripped from the first page – and have been reading Grisham ever since.

At the top of his class at Harvard Law, Mitch McDeere has his choice of the best in America.

He signs on with Bendini, Lambert & Locke of Memphis, and he thinks he and his beautiful wife, Abby, are on their way. The firm lease him a BMW, pay off his school loans, arrange a mortgage and hire him a decorator.

Enter the FBI who has the lowdown on Mitch’s firm and needs his help. Mitch is caught between a rock and a hard place, betray the firm or help the Feds, either way it could cost him his life.

The film version – starring Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman – was every bit as good.

2. The Pelican Brief: the novel after The Firm and every bit as good.

Two o Supreme Court justices are assassinated. And in New Orleans, a young law student prepares a legal brief... To Darby Shaw it was no more than a legal shot in the dark, a brilliant guess. To the Washington establishment it was political dynamite. Suddenly Darby is witness to a murder – a murder intended for her. Going underground, she finds there is only one person she can trust – an ambitious reporter after a newsbreak hotter than Watergate. Somewhere between the bayous of Louisiana and the White House’s inner sanctums, a violent cover-up is being engineered. For somone has read Darby’s brief. Someone who will stop at nothing to destroy the evidence of an unthinkable crime.

The film was top draw and starred Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington and Sam Shepard.

3. Skip a couple of books – including The Client – and on to Runaway Jury.

In Biloxi, Mississippi, a landmark tobacco trial with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake begins routinely, then swerves mysteriously off course. The jury is behaving strangely, and at least one juror is convinced he’s being watched. Soon they have to be sequestered. Then a tip from an anonymousyoung woman suggests she is able to predict the jurors’ increasingly odd behavior. Is the jury somehow being manipulated, or even controlled? If so, by whom? And, more importantly why?

Again, the film with Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz and John Cusack, is brilliant, too.

4. The Associate: Grisham’s 21st novel was not a million miles away from The Firm.

Kyle McAvoy grew up in his father’s small-town law office in York, Pennsylvania. He excelled in college, was elected editor-in-chief of The Yale Law Journal, and his future has limitless potential.

But Kyle has a secret, a dark one, an episode from college that he has tried to forget. The secret, though, falls into the hands of the wrong people, and Kyle is forced to take a job he doesn’t want—even though it’s a job most law students can only dream about.

Three months after leaving Yale, Kyle becomes an associate at the largest law firm in the world, where, in addition to practicing law, he is expected to lie, steal, and take part in a scheme that could send him to prison, if not get him killed.

Shia LaBeouf appeared in the screen adaptation.

5. Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer. A chance of direction for Grisham into the young teen market. Theo Boone is 13 and knows every judge, policeman, court clerk — and a lot about the law. He dreams of being a great trial lawyer, of a life in the courtroom.

But Theo finds himself in court much sooner than expected. Because he knows so much—maybe too much—he is suddenly dragged into the middle of a sensational murder trial. A cold-blooded killer is about to go free, and only Theo knows the truth.

They may be for a younger audience but you are nver too old for children’s books.