John Grisham Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

John Grisham (GRIHSH-uhm), a so-called blockbuster novelist and himself a lawyer, writes fast-paced thrillers based in the legal profession. Most of his works have become enormously successful commercially, both as long-term best-sellers and as popular films.

Grisham was born in the South, where, because his father worked for a construction company, the family moved frequently to locations in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. His family, he has said, was made up of readers and storytellers, and he attributes his writing ability to both those qualities.

After earning a degree in accounting at Mississippi State University, Grisham attended the University of Mississippi School of Law and received his law degree in 1981. He practiced law in Southaven, Mississippi, just south of Memphis, Tennessee, for the next ten years. From 1984 to 1990 he also served in the Mississippi House of Representatives.

Grisham’s legal career was successful if unspectacular, but he became increasingly cynical about the profession and, finding that he was more interested in literature than in legal cases, decided to write a novel. He wrote A Time to Kill in longhand over a period of three years by rising every morning at 5 a.m. The book was by no means an instant success (it originally sold only about five thousand copies), but Grisham believes that it may be his best book. The plot, which concerns the efforts of...

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(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

John Ray Grisham, Jr., the second of five children, was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and raised in the South. His father was a construction worker, and the family moved frequently during Grisham’s childhood. He lived in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi while he was growing up. Whenever his family moved to a new town, his mother saw that the children received library cards as soon as possible, because, as Grisham has stated, his mother encouraged reading over watching television. He attended high school in Southaven, Mississippi, a small town outside Memphis. He has said that his writing ability grew out of his involvement in a family of readers and storytellers.

Grisham wanted to play professional baseball, and he spent his early college years largely ignoring his studies and concentrating on sports. When he determined that a baseball career was not likely to happen, he turned to accounting as a major, graduating from Mississippi State University in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree. He attended law school at the University of Mississippi, where he received his law degree in 1981. That year he married Renee Jones, with whom he would have two children. They would reside in Charlottesville, Virginia, for half of the year and in Oxford, Mississippi, for the other half. Grisham has said that he writes six months of the year and coaches his son’s Little League baseball team the other six months.

From 1981 to 1991, Grisham practiced law in...

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(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

John Grisham was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, on February 8, 1955, the son of an itinerant construction worker and a homemaker. The family moved often, finally settling in Southaven, Mississippi, when Grisham was twelve. After moving to each town, Grisham would obtain a public library card and rate the condition of the town’s Little League field. He dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player, becoming so focused on athletics that he neglected his grades in English. His love of baseball would continue through college. He enrolled at Northwest Junior College in Sanitobia, Mississippi, then transferred to Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, where he continued to play baseball. When he realized that he was not destined for the major leagues, he transferred to Mississippi State.

At Mississippi State, Grisham majored in accounting with the intention of becoming a tax attorney. However, after his first tax-law class at the University of Mississippi, he decided that criminal law provided more interest and drama. After graduation in 1981, he returned to Southaven, opening up his own practice and marrying Renee Jones, a childhood friend. He ran a successful practice but felt unfulfilled. A change to practicing civil law brought no more personal satisfaction. Grisham won one of the largest settlements in DeSoto County history on behalf of a child who sustained extensive burns when a water heater exploded. An idealist, he pursued a political career on the...

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(Literary Newsmakers for Students)

John Grisham was born on February 18, 1955, in Jonesboro, Arkansas, but for the first twelve years of his life, his family moved frequently...

(The entire section is 341 words.)