BOOK REVIEWS: PLAYING THE RACE CARD; THE LAST JUROR by John Grisham (Century, Pounds 17.99) HHHH
Byline: ANDREA HENRY
In 1992, an American author was launching his first legal thriller in the UK, a book he'd written while working long hours in a Mississippi law practice. Film rights had already been sold for $600,000 in the US and over there the author well on his way. But over here he was unknown.
In an attempt to promote him, his British publisher set up a signing session in a City bookshop, hopeful that lawyers and other young professionals working in the area might feel inclined to buy his paperback and have it autographed by the man himself.
But, mid signing, the attendant publisher's publicist panicked and phoned her office. Very few people had turned up for the event. To save her blushes - and the author's - she wanted everyone to hotfoot it to the bookshop to pose as members of the public and help make the author feel good about himself. I jumped to it.
That book was The Firm. Fast forward 12 years and the author's last paperback, The Summons, sold 1.1 million copies.
These days, it's unlikely the publishing phenomenon known as John Grisham could feel any better about himself. Fans are two-a-penny. And when you read his masterful 17th novel it's easy to see why.
It's 1970 and 23-year-old Willie Traynor drops out of journalism school to take up a job on a local newspaper in Ford Country, rural Mississippi. In an uncharacteristic burst of energy, he ends up buying the bankrupt business and sets about rejuvenating sales.
He knows nothing about running a paper and, being an outsider, no one's too inclined to help him. But he's assisted by the fortuitous timing of the biggest murder case the county has even seen.
The notorious Padgitts are local trailer trash made good by bootlegging liquor and running drugs. Despite Willie's sensational coverage, the youngest son, Danny, is not expecting to be found guilty when he rapes and murders young mum Rhoda Kassellaw. …