John Grisham: The Legal Fiction Mastermind

Posted on Jul 20, 2017

John Grisham, a prolific writer of the legal fiction genre, has proven that excitement does happen in the courtroom.

John Grisham at

Grisham is the second child in a family of five siblings. He was born and raised in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and then the family moved to Mississippi when John was four. Their children did not have formal education, but the Grishams encouraged their children to learn and prepare for college.

As a teenager, Grisham took on many jobs such as a fence crew, an asphalt crew, and a department store salesclerk. It took him three changes in college, but he graduated with a degree in accounting from the Mississippi State University in 1977. Afterward, he enrolled in the same university’s School of Law with the intention of studying tax law, but his interests shifted to civil law. In 1981, he finished with a juris doctor degree.

Grisham practiced law for nearly ten years. During that time, he also started having an interest in becoming an author. In 1984, he started writing his first manuscript, which he finished three years later. The manuscript was published in 1989. The novel, titled A Time to Kill, was published by Wynwood Press.

A Time to Kill Book Cover

In 1991, Grisham’s novels became more popular. The Firm, his second novel, became a New York Times Best Seller. This led him to stop his law practice in order to write full time. He published nine more novels afterward in the legal fiction genre. In 2001, he published his first non–legal fiction, A Painted House. Since then, he has written sports fiction, comedy fiction, and a screenplay.

The Firm Book Cover
A Painted House Book Cover

Grisham returned to his law practice briefly in 1996 for a special case. He represented the family of a railroad brakeman who was killed after being pinned between two cars. He successfully won the case, and the family received a jury award of $683,500. This was also the biggest case of Grisham’s practice.

In 2010, Grisham shifted to a younger age group. He started a series of legal thrillers for nine- to twelve-year-olds. The series features a thirteen-year-old named Theodore Boone, who offers legal advice to his classmates.

Grisham’s career currently spans three decades. He has received various awards for his work, such as the Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for Fiction and the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction twice.

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