Grisham Scores Touchdown with Novel about High School Football

Article excerpt

Byline: Bob Frisk

John Grisham doesn't need my help to sell his books. He's doing just fine.

There are currently over 60 million Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 29 languages Seven of his novels have been turned into films.

That's not a bad track record for someone who graduated from law school in 1981 and then worked 60-70 hours a week for nearly a decade at a small Mississippi firm.

Grisham, who specialized in criminal defense and personal injury litigation, used any spare time in those early years to work on his hobby - writing his first novel.

"A Time to Kill" was finished in 1987, rejected by many publishers and then finally bought by Wynwood Press, which gave it a modest 5,000 printing.

Grisham then hit the jackpot with "The Firm," the story of a hotshot young attorney lured to an apparently perfect law firm that was not what it appeared. Grisham sold the film rights for $600,000.

The rest has been a publishing phenomenon. The 48-year-old Grisham took some time off from writing to return to the courtroom, representing the family of a railroad brakeman killed when he was pinned between two cars. He earned a jury award of $683,500.

Although Grisham's reputation has come from legal thrillers, he taken occasional chances with books like "The Painted House," a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel, and "Skipping Christmas," a satire on holiday commercialism.

Now Grisham has ventured into one of my favorite subjects, the small-town mythology of high school football. He may have a big edge on me with his legal background, but I think I know something about high school football and its incredible hold on people.

However, Grisham isn't totally ignorant on the subject. He had been a so-so high school quarterback, calling himself "slow and inaccurate, with a lot of desire and not much talent."

Son Ty Grisham played high school football for a Charlottesville, Va., team that won two state championships.

When I heard about the arrival this week of "Bleachers" (Doubleday, $19.95), I circled my calendar. I couldn't wait to see if this talented novelist could pull it off on one of my favorite subjects.

I had no idea what to expect when I picked up this rather small (163 pages) book.

When I finished "Bleachers," I knew Grisham had scored another touchdown. I couldn't stop thinking about it because the actual subject has intrigued me for years. …