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.
John Grisham's first collection of short stories, Ford County, returns to the setting of his first novel, A Time to Kill. Published in 1989, A Time to Kill took place in the fictional town of Clanton, Mississippi, and was influenced by true events as well as Harper Lee's classic To Kill a Mockingbird. The same combination of legal drama and southern gothic that made A Time to Kill popular can be found in the stories of Ford County, published twenty years later in 2009.
In "Blood Drive," Bailey has been seriously injured. His friends, Roger, Aggie, and Calvin, decide to take a road trip from Mississippi to Memphis in order to give blood and help Bailey recover. They find they are unable to resist the temptation of a liquor store, and the trip takes a long detour. Finally, the journey ends, at a Memphis strip club, of all places.
Another rural odyssey is featured in the story "Fetching Raymond." Inez Graney's youngest son, Raymond, has been on death row for over a decade, for a crime she is sure he did not commit. She travels across Mississippi with her older sons, Leon and Butch, to see Raymond one last time before he is executed. The brothers know the truth about Raymond's involvement in the crime.
"Fish Files" tells the story of Mack Stafford, an alcoholic divorce lawyer with little money to his name. Bored with his job and looking to escape his dull life in Ford County, Mack receives a call with a job offer that sounds too good to be true. All he has to do is return to some old, unsettled cases, and he will receive enough money to make his escape.
In "Casino," Sidney is an archetypal loser: quiet, boring, and alone. He lost his wife to Bobby Carl Leach, the lively and exciting casino owner who is everything Sidney is not. To get his revenge, Sidney studies the secrets of Blackjack, and ends up learning the truth about why his wife left him.
In small towns, past events have a way of coming back to haunt you. This is what happens to lawyer Stanley Wade in "Michael's Room." One day, he comes face-to-face with Jim Cranwell, his adversary in an old litigation suit. The encounter soon turns violent as each defends his version of the truth.
Gilbert Griffin seems to be a godsend to the elderly residents of Clanton's nursing home in "Quiet Haven." Everyone appreciates the "bedpan boy" with the sunny disposition and gift of gab. But Gilbert is not as kind and generous as he appears to be, and his true criminal intentions for working at the nursing home are revealed.
Adrian is the "Funny Boy" of the final story in this collection. The son of one of Clanton's finest families, Adrian has returned to the small town sick and dying of AIDS. While his former friends whisper behind his back about the scandal of his disease, Adrian finds an unexpected friend in Emporia, who hails from the segregated slums of Clanton.