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The International Writers Magazine: Book Review

Ford County Stories
By John Grisham
Published 2010 by Arrow Books
ISBN: 9780099547938
Daniel Cann
What John Grisham attempts with ‘Ford County Stories’ is to take the reader into the world of the rural small town of Clanton, Mississippi in America’s Deep South. Rather than giving us another sweeping ‘big issue’ novel he has instead authored seven short stories that form this collection. Here the action takes place in a strip club, a blood bank, bars, a retirement home, a casino, law courts, offices and prison.


John Grisham is one of the best-known authors in the world today. Novels such as ‘A Time To Kill’, ‘The Firm’, ‘The Pelican Brief’, ‘The Client’, ‘The Rainmaker’ and ‘The Runaway Jury’ have not only made the bestseller lists but have also been adapted into critically and commercially successful films.

Here each story is original, charting the lives of different members of Clanton’s small population. Once again Grisham manages to hit all the right notes, as the characters here are vividly drawn as well as convincing. He knows these people, their motives and their behaviour.

As usual Grisham knows exactly how to set the tone, place and action. Although tackling different subject matters I found all seven stories to be gripping. You are kept guessing who will get away with crime and who will not.

The stories involve crooked lawyers, a prisoner on death row and his long suffering family, a whistleblower working at a retirement home, a jilted husband trying to break a casino, a case involving a handicapped child and a court judgement with dire consequences and a moving story revealing small town prejudices in the 1980s with a heart-warming friendship that ensues. There are also lighter touches, especially a story involving three hapless would-be blood donors who share a doomed road trip to help a member of their community only for comic disaster to befall them.

Grisham manages to elicit mirth, disgust, outrage, suspense and empathy with these entertaining stories. More importantly he has succeeded once again in showing how the law and the justice system impacts on the lives of ordinary people. Clearly he is equally adept at telling short stories as he is at writing novels.

© D Cann August 2011

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