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Move Over, Dr. Seuss! Make Way for John Grisham!
By his own admission, John Grisham is no Faulkner. "I can't even read Faulkner, much less write like him," Grisham told a Memphis Bar Association luncheon a few years and several million book sales ago. But you don't have to be a hero trial lawyer in a Grisham novel to make a case that Grisham is a far more commercially successful novelist than
Faulkner. No, Grisham hasn't won a Nobel Prize like Faulkner or President Obama, but when you are at the beach this summer or flying on a commercial airliner, just look and see what folks are reading. Trust me, you'll see a lot more copies of The Pelican Brief and The Client than As I Lay Dying or The Sound and the Fury.
While Faulkner endures, Grisham prevails. Over the past 20 years, Grisham has been on a literary hitting streak like DiMaggio in 1941, cranking out a non-stop succession of legal thrillers, including The Firm, A Time to Kill, A Time to Sue, The Pelican Briefs, The Pelican Boxer Shorts, The Partner, The Associate, The Drop-Dead Good-Looking Receptionist Played By Julia Roberts, and The Poor Gal Who Lives in a Trailer Park But Knows the Truth About the Big Evil Corporation and Its Law Firm That's Controlled by the Mafia, But Takes it on and Wins Thanks to Her Honest Lawyer Played by Tom Cruise, and Then Takes Millions of Dollars of the Mafia's Money and Moves to a Faraway Island with a New Identity under the Federal Witness Relocation Program.
This series of best-sellers has made Grisham the second most successful writer of all time. The first, of course, is God who authored 66 best-sellers, including Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus ... Well, you know the list.
Only Sarah Palin has the potential of overtaking Grisham on the all-time best-seller list. But I have it on good authority that Grisham will soon leave Sarah, the literary intruder, in his dust, with his upcoming whodunit, Going Legal Rogue.
But it is not enough for Grisham that every grown-up in America reads every one of his novels as if they were studying for the Mississippi bar exam. No, this ambitious former Mississippi trial lawyer now wants to conquer, in the words of My Cousin Vinny, the yoots of America.
It's move over, Dr. Seuss! Make way for John Grisham!
This spring Grisham published his first legal thriller for the kiddies, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer.
Yes, Grisham's latest hero is 13-year-old Theo Boone, a very bright young man who, to say the least, is quite different from his fellow eighth graders. While other 13-year-old boys dream of being NBA point guards or rock stars, Theo wants to be a lawyer. And he doesn't want to wait for law school or the completion of the bar exam. No, this young man in a hurry already engages in the unauthorized practice of law when he doesn't even have a driver's license or even a learner's permit, much less a law license.
Theo's love for the law comes from his family. Both his mom and dad are lawyers, and his Uncle Ike used to be a lawyer until he got disbarred. (Uncle Ike is one of your prototype Grisham novel heros, the irascible old big-hearted drunk who can't practice law anymore, but still hangs around the courthouse and helps justice prevail.)
With the assistance of his dog, Judge, (that's actually the dog's name, Judge), young Theo Boone gives legal advice in the school cafeteria and the library to his fellow eighth graders whose families are in trouble. Theo's knowledge of the law is absolutely incredible. He saves one kid's family home by counseling for the protection of the United States Bankruptcy Court. He saves a cute little girl's dog who is incarcerated at the local humane shelter by appearing in Animal Court and persuading the "kittie court judge" to release Fido on his own recognizance.
And then, of course, like the hero in every Grisham novel, 13-year-old Theo finds himself knee-deep in a murder trial. And only he can make sure that justice prevails!
Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer is not only sure to be a best-seller. Yes, it will soon be a major motion picture starring Justin Bieber as Theo Boone, Danny DeVito as Uncle Ike, and Bengie as Judge the Legal Wonder Dog.
And coming in December, just in time to fill your child's Christmas stocking, will be John Grisham's latest legal thriller for kiddies, The Pelican Underoos!
BILL HALTOM is a partner with the Memphis firm of Thomason, Hendrix, Harvey, Johnson & Mitchell. He is past president of the Tennessee Bar Association and is a past president of the Memphis Bar Association.