Thursday, February 26, 2015

"Gray Mountain" yet another book by John Grisham

On the anniversary of my mother's passing nine years ago, it seems appropriate to comment on this book.  She was more committed to social causes than anyone that I have ever known, and she enjoyed Grisham's books as leisure reading.  She was a legal secretary who spent the great majority of her time doing briefs for the attorneys on health care litigation, hours that they could bill on their time.

"Gray Mountain" continues Grisham's focus, during the second half of his book writing career, on important issues for the oppressed.  The most recent book of his read here a few years ago was about a black teenager wrongly convicted of murder, and treated horribly in the Texas penal system.  Being somewhat familiar, it was clearly a true as fiction can be account of the horrific behavior of that state(personally never experienced thank God).  Grisham currently moves to the coal industry in Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky and details the abuses by that industry of the land and the people that work for them.  I wondered during the first third of the book if Grisham's regular readers could stay with it.  The detail about the coal industry was intense, and the classic style Grisham story was slow in evolving.  Big Stone Gap, Whitesburg, and other locales were all familiar.

Like Stephen King, Grisham is on the cusp of the literate and just popular novel.  Why both are different from Richard Price, featured on the book section of the NYT last week, is a mystery.  Their work is that of great storytellers, even as the dialogue in this most recent book can be somewhat flat, just a service to the story and not compelling at all to character development.  Price's work is faux hip, tedious to read as he recounts all of the haunts of Manhattan, so well known here.  Literate, I think not and wonder why he is viewed as so special.

Grisham's "Gray Mountain" is eventually the usual good quick read, but it brought to mind something else.  My great grandfather, on my grandmother's side, was a well to do attorney in Lebanon, Virginia, in coal country.  He was immensely wealthy apparently, and not only had the biggest house in town(now a small hotel of sorts) but also owned the funeral parlor.  My grandmother told me that he took her to New York when she was a young teen and they stayed at the Waldorf Astoria, so well known here, but that was sort of amazing for a small town lawyer in the early 1900's.  I never knew that great grandfather as he died when my father was 12, and his legacy was lost his three of his sons and my grandfather bet all of the inheritance money on a cattle ranch out west just before the Great Depression.

I do wonder, upon this reading, whether he was one of the coal industry lawyers.  His father came from Ireland to the U.S. in 1865, and he became wealthy somehow, last name Finney.  How this happened is unknown here and I do not even know his full name.  I do know that he adopted the child of servants who were killed in a car crash, Tyler Snodgrass was his name, and he went west to found Snodgrass Supply, a predecessor to Safeway.

What a wandering post.


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