sexta-feira, 28 de outubro de 2011

John Grisham Gets the Last Laugh on the Law

By Christopher John Farley / The Wall Street Journal

 John Grisham, who has penned bestsellers that deal with mob lawyers, hate crimes, and the death penalty, wants readers to know that the law also can be funny.

Grisham’s latest book, “The Litigators,” released this week, is written with a lighter touch than some of his previous blockbusters. The new novel tells the story of lawyers at an ambulance-chasing Chicago law firm. “Finley & Figg’s scam was hustling injury cases, a daily grind that required little skill or creativity and would never be considered cool or sexy…It was selective only because no one wanted to work there, including the two men who owned it,” Grisham writes in the book’s opening pages.

Publishers Weekly called “The Litigators” “a bitingly farcical look at lawyers at the bottom of the food chain.” The Washington Post wrote “To these tragicomic proceedings, Grisham brings his usual nuanced understanding of tort law and civil jurisprudence…”

Grisham, who attended the University of Mississippi School of Law and practiced criminal law for years, says that the legal profession lends itself to humor. “I love humor and some of the funniest things I’ve ever seen happen in a courtroom,” he said in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal. “Because it’s a tense situation. Everyone’s kind of on edge. Therefore even slightly comic things become funny.”

Grisham’s previous bestsellers include “The Chamber,” The Firm,” and “A Time to Kill”–works that aren’t known for their punchlines. “I usually put a lot of humor in my books and it always comes out during editing. So it was kind of fun to sneak it on through this time.”

The cast of characters in “The Litigators” includes 62-year Oscar Finley, a cop-turned-lawyer who longs for a divorce but can’t afford it; his 45-year-old junior partner Wally Figg who dreams of seeing his own face on billboard ads pitching his legal services; and David Zinc, a 31-year-old lawyer “too young for a heart attack….though he’d been exhausted for the past five years.” “It was irresistible to write humor with these kinds of characters,” Grisham said. “Sleazy ambulance chasers, a small firm–the setting was good for laughs.”

Check back in with Speakeasy for part two of our interview with John Grisham.

segunda-feira, 24 de outubro de 2011

In 'The Litigators,' John Grisham fleshes out his characters

Andrea Simakis /

As I cracked John Grisham's "The Litigators," sibling to 18 titles beginning with the same, hardworking article, I scanned the "Also By" page and found myself momentarily stumped.

Which ones had I actually read? Other than "The Innocent Man," his memorable nonfiction work about a real-life miscarriage of justice, I wasn't sure. Had I reviewed "The Brethren" or "The Broker?" "The Appeal" or "The Associate?"

That's the trouble with potato-chip fiction. You scarf it down so fast, you lose track of how much you ate, not to mention the flavor: Barbecue? French onion?

"The Litigators," which publishes today, serves up a heartier meal, though a more stick-to-the-ribs title would be "Dewey, Cheatem & Howe."

Rightly criticized for populating his fiction with characters as flat as an LSAT booklet, Grisham this time puts three dimensions on Oscar Finley and Wally Figg, partners in the "boutique firm" of Finley & Figg.

Wally, a recovering drunk with four ex-wives and a DUI, takes cabs to funeral parlors in search of potential clients. He trolls sickrooms "wearing a set of aquamarine scrubs" with "a stethoscope around his neck."

Oscar, unhappily married and nearing retirement, an undignified career of "fender-benders, slip-and-falls and quickie divorces" in his rearview mirror, has lost his hustle. Like Elmore Leonard's anti-heroes, Finley and Figg are circling the drain.

Conveniently located near a Chicago intersection known for its high accident rate, the grungy offices of Finley & Figg are managed by Rochelle Gibson, who once threatened to sue the attorneys for malpractice. Now she answers phones, placates feuding spouses and makes sure the firm's dog, AC (short for "Ambulance Chaser"), is watered and fed. She also scours the morning paper for workers crushed by forklifts and other calamities.

In a repeated joke, the three stop bickering only when a siren -- "Police, fire or ambulance? . . . Wally could distinguish the three in a heartbeat"-- whines down the street.

During one of his distasteful fishing expeditions, Wally lucks into a mass tort claim against pharmaceutical king Varrick Labs and its cholesterol drug Krayoxx, rumored to be triggering strokes and heart attacks. Lawyers with deep pockets (and brand-new Gulfstream jets) are gathering like clouds to make it rain. Wally wants in on the big score.

Stumbling into this iniquity is an idealistic young lawyer, a Grisham staple. Here, he is 31-year-old David Zinc, though he just as easily could be "The Firm's" Mitchell McDeere or Rudy Baylor from "The Rainmaker." Educated at Harvard, he is one of 600 slaving for Rogan Rothberg, a soulless corporate firm inside "Trust Tower, a glistening phallic monument jutting one thousand feet upward into the clouds and fog."

One morning, David ties one on at a picturesque watering hole. Despite his five years in high-paid purgatory, he has never seen the inside of a courtroom. He staggers into Finley & Figg and asks for a job. Once sober, David begins his education in sleaze, one of the lowbrow highlights.

Wally, his acolyte in tow, begins his usual crawl, a .44 Magnum Colt in his briefcase. He fires off a round to scatter a group of shady locals and strong-arms widows into joining the Krayoxx lawsuit. Later, he swaps sex for legal fees with a buxom client.

(When David's wife, Helen, protests the new company he keeps, he points out that "such dubious behavior couldn't touch the cutthroat brand of law practiced by the fine folks at Rogan Rothberg."

The hapless barristers get a taste of that ruthlessness when they run up against the $1,000-an-hour gunslingers representing big Pharma, trial lawyers from David's old law firm.

(Tipping his hat to legitimate street lawyers who take on much-maligned personal injury cases, Grisham introduces a family of Burmese immigrants, their child truly victimized by a toxic product. Inevitably, they find their way onto David's caseload and -- cue swelling Hallmark channel music -- his heart.)

As with so many best-selling thrillers, style takes a back seat to getting the story on the page. But with his collection of slick morality tales, Grisham has turned into a Mississippi Aesop.

In "The Litigators," he fricassees everyone for shoving hands in the till, from greedy clients to corporate giants. Thanks to the boys in greasy suits listening for the squeal of tires, Grisham's moralistic medicine is easier to swallow.

Maybe I'll remember this one after all.

quinta-feira, 20 de outubro de 2011

John Grisham Bus Tour

Desde Setembro o ônibus faz uma tour por cidades americanas

Uma iniciativa da Penguin Young Readers Group, intitulado "Theodore Boone and the Thrill of Rights", baseado no 1º livro da série Theodore Boone é um espectáculo interativo destinado a crianças maiores de 8 anos. Durante cada apresentação, o público aprende conceitos básicos do sistema de justiça americano ao ser apresentado ao mundo e os personagens dos livros de Theodore Boone.