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A Time to Kill by John Grisham

Updated on September 10, 2018

An excerpt from A Time To Kill (Page 16 - 17)

“I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t allow niggers in here,” Cobb blurred out, and the four burst into laughter. Ozzie kept grinning.

When the laughing stopped, Ozzie said, “You boys havin‘ a good time, Billy Ray?“

“We was.”

“Looks like it. I hate to break things up, but you and Mr. Willard need to come with me.”

“Where we goin’?” Willard asked.

“For a ride.”

“I ain’t movin‘ “Cobb vowed. With that, the other two scooted from the booth and joined the spectators.

“I’m placin’ you both under arrest,” Ozzie said.

“You got warrants?” Cobb asked.

Hastings produced the warrants, and Ozzie threw them among the beer cans. “Yeah, we got warrants. Now get up.”

Willard stared desperately at Cobb, who dipped a beer and said, “I ain’t goin’ to jail.”

Looney handed Ozzie the longest, blackest nightstick ever used in Ford County. Willard was panic-stricken. Ozzie cocked it and struck the center of the table, sending beer and cans and foam in all directions. Willard bolted upright, slapped his wrists together and thrust them at Looney, who was waiting with the handcuffs. He was dragged outside and thrown into a patrol car.

Ozzie tapped his left palm with the stick and grinned at Cobb. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be used against you in court. You have the right to a lawyer. If you can’t afford one, the state’ll Furnish one. Any questions?”

“Yeah, what time is it?”

”Time to go to jail, big man.”

“Go to hell, nigger.”

Ozzie grabbed his hair and lifted him from the booth, then drove his face into the floor. He jammed a knee into his spine and slid his nightstick under his throat, and pulled upward while driving the knee deeper into his back. Cobb squealed until the stick began crushing his larynx.

The handcuffs were slapped into place, and Ozzie dragged him by his hair across the dance floor, out the door, across the gravel and threw him into the back seat with Willard.

My Review For A Time To Kill

A Time To Kill was John Grisham’s first novel. It was published in 1988. Grisham had began the writing process of this book three years before the publication date. Grisham was working as a lawyer then and it was during that time that he listened to a rape victim give testimony in court about her attack. Her testimony is what inspired him to begin to write a legal thriller. The only difference was the actual rape victim was white and her attacker was black whereas in A Time To Kill the victim was black and the attackers were whit but racism was a common issue in the eighties.

A Time To Kill was rejected by several editors before it was finally accepted and published in 1988 and it only sold closed to home. Initially, A Time To Kill wasn’t a bestseller. However, John Grisham’s second novel, The Firm, became an instantly bestseller and it was that novel that helped him sell more copies of A Time To Kill. In my opinion, I think that A Time To Kill was one of his best works and the best one to be made into a movie.

The plot of A Time To Kill is set in a fictional town, Clanton, Mississipp, during the 80s. It begins with the brutally rape of a ten year old child, Tonya Hailey, by two rednecks, Pete Willard and Billy Ray Cobb. The two rednecks are very cruel and vicious to little Tonya because of the color of her skin. They even try to kill her and leave her to die but remarkably she survives and they are arrested. Tonya’s father, Carl Lee Hailey, avenges his little girl and shoots the rapists as they are leaving the courtroom from their preliminary hearing. Carl Lee is then arrested and put on trial for the murder of his daughter‘s attackers. His defense attorney is Jake Brigance.

The book is a lot better than the movie, although the movie is still quite good but there are several good scenes in the book that either don’t make it in the movie or get changed and here’s one of them. It was one of the jurors who convinced the other jurors to vote not to convict by asking them all to close their eyes and picture a ten year old white child being brutally raped by two black men who are mean to her for the color of her skin. The juror asked them to imagine that they do to her everything that was done to little Tonya and then she asks them to pretend she’s their daughter and then to write down what they would do. That was a very powerful and emotional scene. That was how the case was won.

An excerpt from A Time To Kill (Page 333 - 334)

Lucien staggered to the balcony and watched the blacks carry their candles along the sidewalks next to the streets and the courthouse.

“Jake, why is this deputy sitting in his car in front of my office?” he asked.

“That’s my bodyguard.”

“What’s his name?”


“Is he awake?”

“Probably not.”

Lucien leaned dangerouslt over the railing. “Hey, Nesbit,” he yelled.

Nesbit opened the door of his patrol car. “Yeah, what is it?”

“Jake here wants you to go to the store and get us some more beer. He’s very thirsty. Here’s a twenty. He’d like a case of Coors.”

“I can’t buy it while I’m on duty,” Nesbit protested.

“Since when?” Lucien laughed at himself.

“I can’t do it.”

“It’s not for you, Nesbit. It’s for Mr. Brigance, and he really needs it. He’s already called the sheriff, and it’s okay.”

“Who called the sheriff?”

“Mr. Brigance,” lies Lucien. “Sheriff said he didn’t care what you did as long as you didn’t drink any.”

Nesbit shrugged and appeared satisfied. Lucien dropped a twenty from the balcony. Within minutes Nesbit was back with a case minus one which had been opened and was sitting on his radar gun.

5 stars for A Time To Kill by John Grisham

© 2018 Karilyn R King


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