John Grisham: jon GRISH-uhm
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 Dessoto County courthouse, Grisham was inspired to start a novel. 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 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 Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, and The Street Lawyer), and all of them have become bestsellers, leading Publishers Weekly to declare him "the bestselling novelist of the 90s" in a January 1998 profile. There are currently over 60 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 29 languages. Six of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, and The Chamber), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man. The Innocent Man (October 2006) marked his first foray into non-fiction. The Associate was published in January 2009.
Grisham lives with his wife and their two children. The family splits their time between their Victorian home on a farm in Mississippi and a plantation near Charlottesville, VA.
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. 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 his Rebuild The Coast Fund, which raised money for Gulf Coast relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He also serves as the local Little League commissioner.
This biography was last updated on 08/14/2013.
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