Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Reading John Grisham, a sign of the times?

Most readers are familiar with John Grisham, if not necessarily from reading his books but simply from seeing his name at the top of best seller lists for 30+ years.  Practically speaking he created his own genre of deep south novels about attorneys and crime.  Only a few have been read here, and not one in more than 15 years.  Needing to try something painlessly diverting, his new book "The Reckoning" was picked up.

His basic formula was evident early on, and the setting in Mississippi and surrounding areas continues to ring true in both superficial and very real ways.  The time frame is the 1940's, war time and after.  A main character goes to college at Hollins in Virginia.  She was a high achiever from a relatively well to do family.  It was the case that once Hollins was a Radcliffe of the south so to speak, just one of those "that's right" remembrances.  There is plenty of "safe sex" for readers who don't want to go too far and enough loathsome characters to create a dichotomy that further heightens the goodness of those who are redemptive.  Many of the seemingly irrelevant touches about life in that area are interestingly accurate for the period.

Coming with all of this is the simple writing, not "run Spot run" but an adult version of this.  In this book, there is an amazing tendency towards repetition, as if readers cannot be expected to remember the story from one chapter to the next. The entire focus is the story line and a tug of war between good and evil.  The legal aspects are, as always in his books, a central structure of the narrative.  In pulls everything else along with it.  As with some Grisham books, there is a second story within.  In "The Reckoning" it is the Bataan Death March, as the central character is a participant in that gruesome World War II event.  That part of the book is unequivocally a page turner, well researched and with much better writing, meaning less repetition and a relief from the languid pace of the book in the South.  Did I just write that. It's true.  Maybe Grisham was relieved to get a break from what was expected of him.

Grisham is part of that legion of writers today who write for a movie script.  There is no other way to describe how the story unfolds, with a near the end overseas side trip to London, Edinburgh, and Paris that would provide color and production value, as well as cost and adventure for film participants.  I am a natural target for that type of thing, and admit to enjoying recognizing hotel names, locations, and sites.  Grisham knows what an audience could want.

It is unlikely that another one of his books will be read anytime soon, but this one fulfilled its purpose here.  Once again, I've got it.  To note, there's a remembrance tied in here, as my mother the legal secretary and southerner, world traveler, and lover of New Orleans who was married to a WWII veteran whose theater was the Pacific, yes she was an avid Grisham reader.

Back to the less than upbeat news of the day


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