JOHN GRISHAM is the author of twenty-four novels, one work of nonfiction, a collection of stories, and two novels for young readers. He lives in Virginia and Mississippi.
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I am a lawyer, and I am in prison. It's a long story.
I'm forty-three years old and halfway through a ten-year sentence handed down by a weak and sanctimonious federal judge in Washington, D.C. All of my appeals have run their course, and there is no procedure, mechanism, obscure statute, technicality, loophole, or Hail Mary left in my thoroughly depleted arsenal. I have nothing. Because I know the law, I could do what some inmates do and clog up the courts with stacks of worthless motions and writs and other junk filings, but none of this would help my cause. Nothing will help my cause. The reality is that I have no hope of getting out for five more years, save for a few lousy weeks chopped off at the end for good behavior, and my behavior has been exemplary.
I shouldn't call myself a lawyer, because technically I am not. The Virginia State Bar swept in and yanked my license shortly after I was convicted. The language is right there in black and white--a felony conviction equals disbarment. I was stripped of my license, and my disciplinary troubles were duly reported in the Virginia Lawyer Register. Three of us were disbarred that month, which is about average.
However, in my little world, I am known as a jailhouse lawyer and as such spend several hours each day helping my fellow inmates with their legal problems. I study their appeals and file motions. I prepare simple wills and an occasional land deed. I review contracts for some of the white-collar guys. I have sued the government for legitimate complaints but never for ones I consider frivolous. And there are a lot of divorces.
Eight months and six days after I began my time, I received a thick envelope. Prisoners crave mail, but this was one package I could have done without. It was from a law firm in Fairfax, Virginia, one that represented my wife, who, surprisingly, wanted a divorce. In a matter of weeks, Dionne had gone from being a supportive wife, dug in for the long haul, to a fleeing victim who desperately wanted out. I couldn't believe it. I read the papers in absolute shock, my knees rubbery and my eyes wet, and when I was afraid I might start crying, I hustled back to my cell for some privacy. There are a lot of tears in prison, but they are always hidden.
When I left home, Bo was six years old. He was our only child, but we were planning more. The math is easy, and I've done it a million times. He'll be sixteen when I get out, a fully grown teenager, and I will have missed ten of the most precious years a father and son can have. Until they are about twelve years old, little boys worship their fathers and believe they can do no wrong. I coached Bo in T-ball and youth soccer, and he followed me around like a puppy. We fished and camped, and he sometimes went to my office with me on Saturday mornings, after a boys-only breakfast. He was my world, and trying to explain to him that I was going away for a long time broke both our hearts. Once behind bars, I refused to allow him to visit me. As much as I wanted to squeeze him, I could not stand the thought of that little boy seeing his father incarcerated.
It is virtually impossible to fight a divorce when you're in prison and not getting out soon. Our assets, never much to begin with, were depleted after an eighteen-month pounding by the federal government. We had lost everything but our child and our commitment to each other. The child was a rock; the commitment bit the dust. Dionne made some beautiful promises about persevering and toughing it out, but once I was gone, reality set in. She felt lonely and isolated in our small town. "People see me and they whisper," sheCritical Acclaim for the Undisputed Master of the Legal Thriller
“With every new book I appreciate John Grisham a little more, for his feisty critiques of the legal system, his compassion for the underdog, and his willingness to strike out in new directions.”—Entertainment Weekly
“John Grisham is exceptionally good at what he does—indeed, right now in this country, nobody does it better . . . Grisham’s books are also smart, imaginative, and funny, populated by complex interesting people, written by a man who is driven not merely by the desire to entertain but also by genuine (if understated) outrage at human cupidity and venality.”—Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
“The secrets of Grisham’s success are no secret at all. There are two of them: his pacing, which ranges from fast to breakneck, and his theme—little guy takes on big conspiracy with the little guy getting the win in the end. —Time
“The law, by its nature, creates drama, and a new Grisham promises us an inside look at the dirty machineries of process and power, with plenty of an entertainment.” – Los Angeles Times
“John Grisham is about as good a storyteller as we’ve got in the United States these days.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Grisham is a marvelous storyteller who works readers the way a good trial lawyer works a jury.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“John Grisham owns the legal thriller.”—The Denver Post
“John Grisham is not just popular, he is one of the most popular novelists of our time. He is a craftsman and he writes good stories, engaging characters, and clever plots.”—The Seattle Times
“A mighty narrative talent and an unerring eye for hot-button issues.”—Chicago Sun-Times
“A legal literary legend.”—USA Today