John Grisham’s Ford County, published by Doubleday in 2009, is his first collection of short stories. In it, Grisham returns to the setting of his first novel, A Time to Kill—Ford County, Mississippi.
The stories are set in the fictional Mississippi town of Clanton, which is divided between white people living in old mansions and blacks living in row houses. Grisham touches on the familiar themes of race, revenge, the law, and acceptance. In the opening story, “Blood Drive,” a man named Bailey is injured in a construction accident in Memphis. Aggie, Calvin, and Roger are his friends and offer to drive him to the hospital where they will donate blood for him—even though its not clear this is what he needs. The young men are distracted along the way and they go severely off track. They end up in a strip club, which is followed by being chased by police, and their misfortunes only grow.
In the third story, “Fish Files,” the main character is Mack Stafford, a small-town bankruptcy and divorce lawyer who is disillusioned about his career. He is struggling. He receives a phone call that affords the opportunity for him to earn more than he ever imagined. After settling a series of personal injury cases and a divorce, he leaves the country for Belize. The final scene shows him jumping from a pier into the ocean. The reader is left unclear: is he committing suicide or is he on his way to a life-long fantasy? “Funny Boy” is the final story in the collection. Set in the 1980s, the story follows a gay white man with AIDS who returns to town. He befriends an elderly African American woman who takes care of him despite the disapproval from her church.
Critics comment that this collection is a valiant effort. In his long-form works, Grisham relies on having the characters drive the story; however, in these compact narratives, he emphasizes plot. Critics disagree as to his effectiveness with this form and that he has created memorable characters in his signature and entertaining style.