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John Grisham
John Grisham in 2016
John Grisham in 2016
Born John Ray Grisham Jr.
(1955-02-08) February 8, 1955 (age 68)
Jonesboro, Arkansas, U.S.
Education Mississippi State University (BS)
University of Mississippi (JD)
Period 1989–present
Genres Legal thriller
Crime fiction
Southern Gothic
Renee Grisham
(m. 1981)
Children 2
Member of the Mississippi House of Representatives
from the 7th district
In office
Preceded by Don Chambliss
Succeeded by Greg Davis
Personal details
Political party Democratic

John Ray Grisham Jr. ( born February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas) is an American novelist and lawyer known for his popular legal thrillers. According to the American Academy of Achievement, Grisham has written 28 consecutive number one fiction bestsellers, and his books have sold 300 million copies worldwide. Along with Tom Clancy and J. K. Rowling, Grisham is one of only three authors to have sold two million copies on a first printing.

Grisham graduated from Mississippi State University and earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1981. He practiced criminal law for about a decade and served in the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1983 to 1990.

Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, was published in June 1988, four years after he began writing it. Grisham's first bestseller, The Firm, sold more than seven million copies. The book was adapted into a 1993 feature film of the same name, starring Tom Cruise, and a 2012 TV series which continues the story ten years after the events of the film and novel. Seven of his other novels have also been adapted into films: The Chamber, The Client, A Painted House, The Pelican Brief, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas''.

Early life

Grisham, the second of five siblings, was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to Wanda Skidmore Grisham and John Grisham. His father worked as a construction worker and a cotton farmer, while his mother was a homemaker. When Grisham was four years old, his family settled in Southaven, DeSoto County, Mississippi. As a child, Grisham wanted to be a baseball player. Grisham has been a Christian since he was eight years old, and he describes his conversion to Christianity as "the most important event" in his life. After leaving law school, he participated in some missionary work in Brazil, under the First Baptist Church of Oxford.

Although Grisham's parents lacked formal education, his mother encouraged him to read and prepare for college. He drew on his childhood experiences for his novel A Painted House. Grisham started working for a nursery as a teenager, watering bushes for US$1.00 an hour. He was soon promoted to a fence crew for US$1.50 an hour. He wrote about the job: "there was no future in it". At 16, Grisham took a job with a plumbing contractor but says he "never drew inspiration from that miserable work". Through a contact of his father's, he managed to find work on a highway asphalt crew in Mississippi at age 17. It was during this time that an unfortunate incident got him "serious" about college. A fight with gunfire broke out among the crew causing Grisham to run to a nearby restroom to find safety. He did not come out until after the police had detained the perpetrators. He hitchhiked home and started thinking about college. His next work was in retail, as a sales clerk in a department store men's underwear section, which he described as "humiliating". He decided to quit but stayed when he was offered a raise. He was given another raise after asking to be transferred to toys and then to appliances. A confrontation with a company spy posing as a customer convinced him to leave the store. By this time, Grisham was halfway through college. Planning to become a tax lawyer, he was soon overcome by "the complexity and lunacy" of it. He decided to return to his hometown as a trial lawyer.

He went to the Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia, Mississippi and later attended Delta State University in Cleveland. Grisham drifted so much that he changed colleges three times before completing a degree. He graduated from Mississippi State University in 1977, receiving a BS degree in accounting. He later enrolled in the University of Mississippi School of Law to become a tax lawyer, but his interest shifted to general civil litigation. He graduated in 1981 with a JD degree.

Personal life

Grisham married Renee Jones on May 8, 1981. The couple has two children together: Shea and Ty. The family splits their time between their Victorian home on a farm outside Oxford, Mississippi, and a home near Charlottesville, Virginia. They own a home in Destin, Florida.

In 2008, he and his wife bought a condominium at McCorkle Place in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

As a Baptist, he advocates the separation of church and state. He has said, "I have some very deep religious convictions that I keep to myself, and when I see people using them for political gain it really irritates me."

Grisham has a lifelong passion for baseball demonstrated partly by his support of Little League activities in both Oxford, Mississippi, and Charlottesville, Virginia. In 1996, Grisham built a $3.8 million dollar youth baseball complex. He remains a fan of Mississippi State University's baseball team and wrote about his ties to the university and the Left Field Lounge in the introduction for the book Dudy Noble Field: A Celebration of MSU Baseball. As part of his passion for sports, Grisham is a supporter of Virginia Cavaliers athletics. He has been spotted at various sporting events on-campus and it is believed he gave a $2 million donation to help renovate the Cavaliers' baseball stadium, Davenport Field. His son Ty played baseball at UVA. Ty now is an attorney specializing in criminal defense in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Political activism

Grisham is a member of the Board of Directors of the Innocence Project, which campaigns to free and exonerate unjustly convicted people on the basis of DNA evidence. The Innocence Project argues that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events but instead arise from systemic defects. Grisham has testified before Congress on behalf of the Innocence Project. He also has appeared on Dateline NBC, Bill Moyers Journal on PBS, and other programs. He wrote for the New York Times in 2013 about an unjustly held prisoner at Guantanamo. Grisham opposes the death penalty – an opposition very strongly manifested in the plot of The Confession

The Mississippi State University Libraries, Manuscript Division, maintains the John Grisham Room, an archive containing materials generated during the author's tenure as Mississippi State Representative and relating to his writings.

In 2012 the Law Library was renamed in his honor. It has been named for more than a decade after the late Senator James Eastland.

In 2015, Grisham, along with about 60 others, signed a letter published in the Clarion-Ledger urging that an inset within the flag of Mississippi containing a Confederate flag be removed. He co-authored the letter with author Greg Iles; the pair contacted various public figures from Mississippi for support.

Awards and honors

  • 2005 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award
  • 2007 Galaxy British Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2009 Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for Fiction
  • 2011 The inaugural Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction for The Confession
  • 2014 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction for Sycamore Row
John grisham complete
A selection of John Grisham book covers.

A complete listing of the works by John Grisham



Short stories

  • Ford County (2009)
  • The Tumor (2016)
  • Partners (2016)
  • Witness to a Trial (2016)

Denotes books not in the legal genre


  • The Wavedancer Benefit: A tribute to Frank Muller (2002)
    - with Pat Conroy, Stephen King and Peter Straub
  • The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town (2006)
    - story of Ronald 'Ron' Keith Williamson
  • Don't Quit Your Day Job: Acclaimed Authors and the Day Jobs they Quit (2010)
    - with various authors


Feature films
  • The Firm (1993)
  • The Pelican Brief (1993)
  • The Client (1994)
  • A Time to Kill (1996)
  • The Chamber (1996)
  • The Rainmaker (1997)
  • The Gingerbread Man (1998)
  • A Painted House (2003) television film
  • Runaway Jury (2003)
  • Mickey (2004)
  • Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
  • The Associate (2015 film) (TBA) to be directed by Adrian Lyne.
  • The Testament (TBA) to be directed by Stuart Blumberg.
  • Calico Joe (film) (TBA) to be directed by Jake Kasdan.
  • The Client (1995–1996) 1 season, 20 episodes
  • The Street Lawyer (2003) TV pilot
  • The Firm (2011–2012) 1 season, 22 episodes

Images for kids

See also

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