“Law students Mark, Todd and Zola wanted to change the world – to make it a better place. But these days these three disillusioned friends spend a lot of time hanging out in The Rooster Bar, the place where Todd serves drinks. As third-year students, they realise they have been duped. They all borrowed heavily to attend a law school so mediocre that its graduates rarely pass the bar exam, let alone get good jobs. And when they learn that their school is one of a chain owned by a shady New York hedge-fund operator who also happens to own a bank specialising in student loans, the three realise they have been caught up in The Great Law School Scam.
So they begin plotting a way out. Maybe there’s a way to escape their crushing debt, expose the bank and the scam, and make a few bucks in the process. But to do so, they have to leave law school, pretend they are qualified and go into battle with a billionaire and the FBI . . .”
Ah, Autumn. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Back to school, the weather starts to nip, boots and coats are dug out of the closet, the leaves change colour and…it is time for a new John Grisham release. I always equate this time of year with the time to get a new one of his book. I now always have them on pre-order so I get them the day they come out, because I absolutely love his books. Always an edge-of-your-seat, irresistible combination of thriller and legal puzzle, his book are guaranteed to keep me glued to the pages from start to finish. I normally devour them as soon as they are out.
So imagine my surprise when, whilst waiting for his new book The Reckoning to be published, I realised that I hadn’t read last year’s release, The Rooster Bar. How did that happen? I can’t imagine except that my memory is like a sieve these days (I blame my age and hormones. In fact, it is even possible that I have read it and forgotten, things have got that bad.) Anyway, happy days – I now had another unread John Grisham to enjoy on my recent holiday.
I am always fascinated as to where authors get their ideas for novels from and there is an interesting note at the back of this book where Grisham reveals that the idea for this novel came from an article he read about the level of debt students in the US were taking on in order to put themselves through law school. Quite how he goes from what sounds like quite a dull article, particularly to non-lawyers, to a nail-biting thriller is the nature of his genius, because somehow he manages to spin it in to one of his classic plots that kept me up late desperate to get to the end.
The plot of this book is quite outrageous and I think you need to suspend your disbelief to buy in to it, but that is true of most thrillers, which are by their nature outlandish and pushing the boundaries of what is probable. These books are pure escapism, sometimes keeping only a slight grasp on reality and I am sure the court system in the USA would be outraged to think this could possibly happen (although I am now waiting for someone to tell me that it has been done.) Anyway, likelihood aside, the plot is original and gripping and an interesting spin on the ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ roles as the protagonists are actually breaking the law but we still end up rooting for them, despite the fact that they are jeopardising the futures of their clients, because they themselves are victims in some respects. Should they get away scot-free? Is what happens to them justice? I don’t want to give anything away by revealing my thoughts but I think you will find more to ponder in these books than people often give Grisham credit for.
When I have revealed to people in the past what a massive fan I am of John Grisham’s books, I have met with some literary snobbery, most particularly from people who have never read any of his books. Well, firstly, I would query whether you can form a valid opinion of an author without reading a word they have written. And, secondly, you don’t sell as many books as John Grisham has without being able to write. He is the master of creating a taut, exciting and interesting thriller and this one is no exception. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I always do, and can’t wait to read his new book.
The Rooster Bar is available now and you can get a copy here.
About the Author
Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, he was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Mississippi, law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby—writing his first novel.
Born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn’t have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears and majored in accounting at Mississippi State University. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade in Southaven, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. In 1983, he was elected to the state House of Representatives and served until 1990.
One day at the DeSoto County courthouse, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl’s father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987. Initially rejected by many publishers, it was eventually bought by Wynwood Press, who gave it a modest 5,000 copy printing and published it in June 1988.
That might have put an end to Grisham’s hobby. However, he had already begun his next book, and it would quickly turn that hobby into a new full-time career—and spark one of publishing’s greatest success stories. The day after Grisham completed A Time to Kill, he began work on another novel, the story of a hotshot young attorney lured to an apparently perfect law firm that was not what it appeared. When he sold the film rights to The Firm to Paramount Pictures for $600,000, Grisham suddenly became a hot property among publishers, and book rights were bought by Doubleday. Spending 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, The Firm became the bestselling novel of 1991.
The successes of The Pelican Brief, which hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Client, which debuted at number one, confirmed Grisham’s reputation as the master of the legal thriller. Grisham’s success even renewed interest in A Time to Kill, which was republished in hardcover by Doubleday and then in paperback by Dell. This time around, it was a bestseller.
Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, Grisham has written one novel a year (his other books are The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, The Broker, Playing for Pizza, The Appeal, The Associate, The Confession, The Litigators, Calico Joe, The Racketeer, Sycamore Row, and Gray Mountain) and all of them have become international bestsellers. There are currently over 300 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 40 languages. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man. The Innocent Man (October 2006) marked his first foray into non-fiction, and Ford County (November 2009) was his first short story collection.
Grisham took time off from writing for several months in 1996 to return, after a five-year hiatus, to the courtroom. He was honoring a commitment made before he had retired from the law to become a full-time writer: representing the family of a railroad brakeman killed when he was pinned between two cars. Preparing his case with the same passion and dedication as his books’ protagonists, Grisham successfully argued his clients’ case, earning them a jury award of $683,500—the biggest verdict of his career.
When he’s not writing, Grisham devotes time to charitable causes, including most recently his Rebuild The Coast Fund, which raised 8.8 million dollars for Gulf Coast relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He also keeps up with his greatest passion: baseball. The man who dreamed of being a professional baseball player now serves as the local Little League commissioner. The six ballfields he built on his property have played host to over 350 kids on 26 Little League teams.
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