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John Grisham :: Legal Thriller Author

Updated on October 4, 2013

The Works of Legal Thriller Author, John Grisham

John Grisham has to be at the top of every legal thriller list. He has lived the life and then written about it with the experience and style that make his best-selling fiction absolutely compelling to read.

Read a short biography of John Grisham, interviews and links to his official website. His books are then arranged in chronological order, with their summaries, DVDs of some of his books, and a movie trailer (preview) to give an idea of what the story is about.

A Brief John Grisham Background and Biography

Experience + Imagination = Best Sellers

John Grisham worked on his first novel as a hobby during rare free moments from his 70-hour-a-week Mississippi law practice. He also found time to serve for seven years in his state House of Representatives. This legal and political experience, mixed in with a great imagination and years of developing his writing style, started to surface with the publication of his first book in 1988, A Time to Kill. This modest success was followed by his next book, The Firm, which became a raging success and still is today.

For John Grisham's most up-to-date book releases and more biography details, go to John Grisham: The Official Site.

John Grisham's Books

In Order of Publication

A Time to Kill (1989)

The Firm (1991)

The Pelican Brief (1992)

The Client (1993)

The Chamber (1994)

The Rainmaker (1995)

The Runaway Jury (1996)

The Partner (1997)

The Street Lawyer (1998)

The Testament (1999)

The Brethern (2000)

A Painted House (2001)

Skipping Christmas (2001)

The Summons (2002)

King of Torts (2003)

Bleachers (2003)

The Last Juror (2004)

The Broker (2005)

The Innocent Man (2006)

Playing for Pizza (2007)

The Appeal (2008)

Ford Country

The Confession

The Associate

It's hard to pick a favorite, and I have to agree that The Firm, Pelican Brief, The Client and A Time to Kill can't be topped, but another one of my personal favorites is The Rainmaker. Most of Grisham's books have been made into highly entertaining movies.

John Grisham Interviews

TIME Interview of John Grisham: 10 Questions for John Grisham.

Academy of Achievement Interview, John Grisham: The Literary Lawyer.

John Grisham interviewed by Grisham is never seen at Hollywood openings or New York book parties.


Wall Street Journal Law Blog on John Grisham: Q&A: John Grisham on the Dickie Scruggs Case.

PBS Bill Moyers Journal, Interview of John Grisham: THE INNOCENT MAN was Grisham's investigation into. . . .

John Grisham Interviewed on Charlie Rose

Presenting. . .

The Works of John Grisham

A Time to Kill (Paperback) - "Billy Ray Cobb was the younger and smaller of the two rendnecks..."

A Time to Kill: A Novel
A Time to Kill: A Novel

This addictive tale of a young lawyer defending a black Vietnam war hero who kills the white druggies who raped his child in tiny Clanton, Mississippi, is John Grisham's first novel, and his favorite of his first six. He polished it for three years and every detail shines like pebbles at the bottom of a swift, sunlit stream. Grisham is a born legal storyteller and his dialogue is pitch perfect.

The plot turns with jeweled precision. Carl Lee Hailey gets an M-16 from the Chicago hoodlum he'd saved at Da Nang, wastes the rapists on the courthouse steps, then turns to attorney Jake Brigance, who needs a conspicuous win to boost his career. Folks want to give Carl Lee a second medal, but how can they ignore premeditated execution? The town is split, revealing its social structure. Blacks note that a white man shooting a black rapist would be acquitted; the KKK starts a new Clanton chapter; the NAACP, the ambitious local reverend, a snobby, Harvard-infested big local firm, and others try to outmaneuver Jake and his brilliant, disbarred drunk of an ex-law partner. Jake hits the books and the bottle himself. Crosses burn, people die, crowds chant "Free Carl Lee!" and "Fry Carl Lee!" in the antiphony of America's classical tragedy. Because he's lived in Oxford, Mississippi, Grisham gets compared to Faulkner, but he's really got the lean style and fierce folk moralism of John Steinbeck. --Tim Appelo


A Time to Kill Movie Trailer

The Firm (Paperback) - "THE SENIOR PARTNER studied the resume for the hundredth time and again found nothing he disliked about Mitchell Y. McDeere, at least not

The Firm: A Novel
The Firm: A Novel

Hard to believe, but there was a time when the word "lawyer" wasn't synonymous with "criminal," and the idea of a law firm controlled by the Mafia was an outlandish proposition. This intelligent, ensnaring story came out of nowhere--Oxford, Mississippi, where Grisham was a small-town lawyer--and quickly catapulted to the top of the bestseller list, with good reason. Mitch McDeere, the appealing hero, is a poor kid whose only assets are a first-class mind, a Harvard law degree, and a beautiful, loving wife. When a Memphis law firm makes him an offer he really can't refuse, he trades his old Nissan for a new BMW, his cramped apartment for a house in the best part of town, and puts in long hours finding tax shelters for Texans who'd rather pay a lawyer than the IRS. Nothing criminal about that. He'd be set for life, if only associates at the firm didn't have a funny habit of dying, and the FBI wasn't trying to get Mitch to turn his colleagues in. The tempo and pacing are brilliant, the thrills keep coming, and the finish has a wonderful ironic flourish. It's not hard to see why Grisham changed the genre permanently with this one, and few of his colleagues in a very crowded field come close to equaling him. --Jane Adams


The Firm Movie Trailer

The Pelican Brief (Paperback) - "HE SEEMED INCAPABLE of creating such chaos, but much of what he saw below could be blamed on him..."

The Pelican Brief
The Pelican Brief

In suburban Georgetown a killer's Reeboks whisper on the front floor of a posh home... In a seedy D.C. porno house a patron is swiftly garroted to death... The next day America learns that two of its Supreme Court justices have been assassinated. And in New Orleans, a young law student prepares a legal brief... To Darby Shaw it was no more than a legal shot in the dark, a brilliant guess. To the Washington establishment it was political dynamite. Suddenly Darby is witness to a murder -- a murder intended for her. Going underground, she finds there is only one person she can trust -- an ambitious reporter after a newsbreak hotter than Watergate -- to help her piece together the deadly puzzle. Somewhere between the bayous of Louisiana and the White House's inner sanctums, a violent cover-up is being engineered. For somone has read Darby's brief. Someone who will stop at nothing to destroy the evidence of an unthinkable crime.


The Pelican Brief (1993) DVD

The Pelican Brief
The Pelican Brief

A New Orleans law student finds herself embroiled in a terrifying web of intrigue extending to the highest levels of government after she writes a speculative legal brief exposing the activities of a powerful oil magnate.


The Pelican Brief Movie Trailer

The Client (Paperback) - "MARK WAS ELEVEN AND HAD BEEN SMOKING OFF AND on for two years, never trying to quit but being careful not to get hooked..."

The Client: A Novel
The Client: A Novel

In a weedy lot on the outskirts of Memphis, two boys watch a shiny Lincoln pull up to the curb...Eleven-year-old Mark Sway and his younger brother were sharing a forbidden cigarette when a chance encounter with a suicidal lawyer left Mark knowing a bloody and explosive secret: the whereabouts of the most sought-after dead body in America. Now Mark is caught between a legal system gone mad and a mob killer desperate to cover up his crime. And his only ally is a woman named Reggie Love, who has been a lawyer for all of four years. Prosecutors are willing to break all the rules to make Mark talk. The mob will stop at nothing to keep him quiet. And Reggie will do anything to protect her client -- even take a last, desperate gamble that could win Mark his freedom... or cost them both their lives.


The Client (1994) DVD

The Client (Snap Case)
The Client (Snap Case)

Settle in. Take a deep breath. Hold tight. The best screen version yet of a novel by John Grisham (The Firm, The Pelican Brief) delivers all-out, moment-by-moment suspense! Headliners Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones join newcomer Brad Renfro in The Client, a whirlwind thriller that "starts like a house afire and keeps on blazing" (Chicago Tribune). Renfro plays Mark Sway, an 11-year-old torn between what he knows and what he can never tell. A hitman will snuff him in half a heartbeat if Mark reveals what he learned about a Mob murder. An ambitious federal prosecutor (Jones) will keep the pressure on until Mark tells all. Suddenly, Mark isn't a boy playing air guitar anymore. He's a pawn in a deadly game. And his only ally is a courageous but unseasoned attorney (Sarandon) who risks her career for him...but never imagines she'll also risk her life.


The Client Movie Trailer

The Chamber (Paperback) - "THE DECISION to bomb the office of the radical Jew lawyer was reached with relative ease..."

The Chamber: A Novel
The Chamber: A Novel

Adam Hall is a 26-year-old attorney, fresh out of law school and working at the best firm in Chicago. He might have been humming Timbuk 3's big hit, "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades," if it wasn't for his psychotic Southern grandfather, Sam Cayhall. Cayhall, a card-carrying member of the KKK, is on death row for killing two men. Knowing his uncle will surely die without his legal expertise, Hall comes to the rescue and puts his dazzling career at stake, while digging up a barnyard of skeletons from his family's past. Grisham fans expecting the typical action-packed plot should ready themselves for a slower pace, well-fleshed-out characters, and heavy doses of sentimentalism.


The Chamber Movie Trailer

The Rainmaker (Paperback) - "MY DECISION to become a lawyer was irrevocably sealed when I realized my father hated the legal profession..."

The Rainmaker: A Novel
The Rainmaker: A Novel

The law firm that hired Baylor was gobbled up by a larger firm just three weeks before his graduation, and now he has no job and no chance of finding one. To make matters worse, when he gets home there's an eviction notice, a process server, and a lawsuit waiting for him. What's a bumbling baby-lawyer to do? Get a case and some cold hard cash--fast. Baylor stumbles upon two possible jackpots: A tight-lipped widow with millions squirreled away and a young man whose life is cut short by a negligent insurance company. Baylor gets in over his head and finds himself up against a pack of superpower attorneys; losing could cost him his life and winning would make him a rainmaker cum laude.


The Rainmaker Movie Trailer

The Runaway Jury (Paperback) - Every jury has a leader, and the verdict belongs to him.

The Runaway Jury: A Novel
The Runaway Jury: A Novel

In a Mississippi Gulf Coast town, the widow of a lifelong smoker who died prematurely of lung cancer is suing Big Tobacco. Enter Rankin Fitch, a dark genius of jury fixing, who has won many such trials for the tobacco companies and who foresees no special problems here. Enter also a mysterious juror, Nicholas Easter, whom Fitch's army of jury investigators and manipulators can't quite seem to track-and his equally mysterious girlfriend Marlee, who soon shows Fitch she knows even more about what's happening in the jury room than he does. The details of jury selection are fascinating and the armies of lawyerly hangers-on and overpaid consultants that surround such potentially profitable (to either side) cases are horribly convincing. The cat-and-mouse game played between Nicholas, Marlee and Fitch over the direction of the jury quickly becomes hair-raising as the stakes inch ever higher.


Runaway Jury Movie Trailer

The Partner (Paperback) - "THEY FOUND HIM in Ponta Pora, a pleasant little town in Brazil, on the border of Paraguay, in a land still known as the Frontier..."

The Partner: A Novel
The Partner: A Novel

Patrick Lanigan is a partner in a law firm in Biloxi Mississippi when he is killed in a fiery car crash. He is burned beyond recognition, and his remains are cremated and then buried. But when several weeks later, 90 million dollars goes missing from his law firm, Patrick becomes the chief suspect. Four and a half years later, Patrick is discovered living in Brazil, and is captured and tortured by some disreputable characters who are working on behalf of the companies that were bilked of their millions, including two insurance companies. Patrick does have the money, although he doesn't know the exact location of it. But he also knows a terribly powerful secret that can bring many people crashing down if the information was to be made public. The Partner becomes a literary game of chess as Patrick uses this information while bargaining with the FBI, the Justice Department and Harrison County Law Enforcement.


The Street Lawyer (Paperback) - "THE MAN with the rubber boots stepped into the elevator behind me, but I didn't see him at first..."

The Street Lawyer
The Street Lawyer

Michael Brock had grand ideals of serving humanity when he entered law school. When he graduated and joined a leadinng Washington, D.C., law firm, the realities set in. Success was measured by billable hours, and the competition to be one of the few who advanced to partner was intense. Practicing trust law meant few contacts with actual people except other attorneys. The practice of law was an jealous mistress. There was little time for anything else, and the divorce rate was high. Invasion of the law offices by a homeless man with a gun, and the taking of hostages, redirects Brock's life.


The Testament (Mass Market Paperback)

The Testament
The Testament

Troy Phelan, a 78-year-old eccentric and the 10th-richest man in America, is about to read his last will and testament, divvying up an estate worth $11 billion. Phelan's three ex-wives, their grasping spawn, a legion of lawyers, several psychiatrists, and a plethora of sound technicians wait breathlessly, all eyes glued to digital monitors as they watch the old man read his verdict. But Phelan shocks everyone with a bizarre, last-gasp attempt to redistribute the spoils, setting in motion a legal morality tale of a contested will, sin, and redemption.

Our hero, Nate O'Riley--a washed-up, alcoholic litigator with two ruined marriages in his wake and the IRS on his tail--is dispatched to the Brazilian wetlands in search of a mysterious heir named in the will. After a harrowing trip upriver to a remote settlement in the Pantanal, he encounters Rachel Lane, a pure-hearted missionary living with an indigenous tribe and carrying out "God's work." Rachel's grave dedication and kindness impress the jaded lawyer, so much that a nasty bout of dengue fever leads him to a vision that could change his life.


The Brethren (Paperback) - "FOR THE WEEKLY DOCKET the court jester wore his standard garb of well-used and deeply faded maroon pajamas and lavender terry-cloth

The Brethren
The Brethren

The brethren of the title, judges serving time in a federal prison in Florida for white-collar offenses. They're a hard bunch to root for, though, as their main activity behind bars is running a blackmail scheme in which they bait, hook and squeeze wealthy, closeted gay men through a magazine ad supposedly placed by "Ricky," a young incarcerated gay looking for companionship. Then there's the two-bit alcoholic attorney who's abetting them by running their mail and depositing their dirty profits in an overseas bank. Scarcely more appealing is the big fish the trio snare, Congressman Anthony Lake, who meanwhile is busy selling his lifelong integrity when the director of the CIA offers to lever him into the White House in exchange for a doubling of federal defense spending upon Lake's inauguration. The expertly orchestrated and very complex plot follows these evildoers through their illicit enterprises, devoting considerable attention to the CIA's staging of Lake's presidential campaign and even more to that agency's potentially lethal pursuit of the brethren once it learns that the three are threatening to out candidate Lake.


The Summons (Paperback) - "It came by mail, regular postage, the old-fashioned way since the Judge was almost eighty and distrusted modern devices..."

The Summons
The Summons

Law professor Ray Atlee and his prodigal brother, Forrest, are summoned home to Clanton, Mississippi, by their ailing father to discuss his will. But when Ray arrives the judge is already dead, and the one-page document dividing his meager estate between the two sons seems crystal clear. What it doesn't mention, however, is the small fortune in cash Ray discovers hidden in the old man's house--$3 million he can't account for and doesn't mention to brother Forrest, either.


The King of Torts (Paperback) - THE SHOTS THAT FIRED the bullets that entered Pumpkin's head were heard by no less than eight people..."

The King of Torts: A Novel
The King of Torts: A Novel

Clay Carter is a burning-out lawyer at the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) in Washington, D.C., when he catches the case of a teen who, for no apparent reason, has gunned down an acquaintance. Clay is approached by a mysterious stranger, the enigmatic Max Pace, who says he represents a megacorporation whose bad drug caused the teen--and others--to kill. The corporation will pay Clay $10 million to settle with all the murder victims at $5 million per, if all is accomplished on the hush-hush.


The Last Juror (Paperback) - "After decades of patient mismanagement and loving neglect, The Ford County Times went bankrupt in 1970..."

The Last Juror: A Novel
The Last Juror: A Novel

In 1970, small town newspaper The Clanton Times went belly up. With financial assistance from a rich relative, it's purchased by 23-year-old Willie Traynor, formerly the paper's cub reporter. Soon afterward, his new business receives the readership boost it needs thanks to his editorial efforts and coverage of a particularly brutal rape and murder committed by the scion of the town's reclusive bootlegger family. Rather than shy from reporting on the subsequent open-and-shut trial (those who oppose the Padgitt family tend to turn up dead in the area's swampland), Traynor launches a crusade to ensure the unrepentant murderer is brought to justice. When a guilty verdict is returned, the town is relieved to find the Padgitt family's grip on the town did not sway the jury, though Danny Padgitt is sentenced to life in prison rather than death. But, when Padgitt is released after serving less than a decade in jail and members of the jury are murdered, Clanton once again finds itself at the mercy of its renegade family.


The Broker (Paperback) - "IN THE WANING HOURS OF A PRESIDENCY THAT WAS DESTINED TO arouse less interest from historians than any since perhaps that of William H

The Broker: A Novel
The Broker: A Novel

Before he was sent to federal prison for treason (among other things), Joel Backman was an extremely powerful man. Known as "the broker," Backman was a high roller--a lawyer making $10 million a year who could "open any door in Washington." That is, until he tried to broker a deal selling access to the world's most powerful satellite surveillance system to the highest bidder. When caught, Backman accepted prison as the one option that would keep him safe and alive, since the interested parties (the Israelis, the Saudis, the Russians, and the Chinese) were all itching to get their hands on his secrets at any cost. Little does he know that his own government has designs on accessing that information--or at least letting it die with him. Now, six years after his incarceration, the director of the CIA convinces a lame duck president to pardon Backman, and the broker becomes a free man--and an open target.


The Innocent Man (Mass Market Paperback)

The Innocent Man
The Innocent Man

In the town of Ada, Oklahoma, Ron Williamson was going to be the next Mickey Mantle. But on his way to the Big Leagues, Ron stumbled, his dreams broken by drinking, drugs, and women. Then, on a winter night in 1982, not far from Ron’s home, a young cocktail waitress named Debra Sue Carter was savagely murdered. The investigation led nowhere. Until, on the flimsiest evidence, it led to Ron Williamson. The washed-up small-town hero was charged, tried, and sentenced to death—in a trial littered with lying witnesses and tainted evidence that would shatter a man’s already broken life…and let a true killer go free. Impeccably researched, grippingly told, filled with eleventh-hour drama, John Grisham’s first work of nonfiction reads like a page-turning legal thriller. It is a book that will terrify anyone who believes in the presumption of innocence—a book no American can afford to miss.


A Painted House (Paperback) - "The hill people and the Mexicans arrived on the same day..."

A Painted House: A Novel
A Painted House: A Novel

Grisham fans will not despair as they discover that this finely wrought tale includes no lawyers. Instead, the author presents an evocation of the life of a young boy growing up on a Southern farm in hard times during the fall 1952 cotton-picking season. Lansbury, an actor of stage and screens, both big and small, brings a sweet innocence to the voice of narrator, Luke Chandler. Luke, a curious, even nosy seven-year-old, witnesses a series of events that range from the dramatic to the profoundly disturbing including a birth, a flood and a couple of killings.


A Painted House Movie Trailer

The Appeal (Paperback)

The Appeal: A Novel
The Appeal: A Novel

A Mississippi jury returns a $41-million verdict against a chemical company accused of dumping carcinogenic waste into a small town's water supply. The company's ruthless billionaire CEO is thwarted and the good guys (a courageous young woman who lost her husband and child and her two lawyers who've gone half a million dollars in debt preparing her case) receives its just reward.


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    • tonybonura profile image

      Tony Bonura 

      6 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

      I have read just about all of Grisham's books. My favorites are Playing For Pizza and A Painted House. The other books are great, but these two just stuck with me as even better.


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great author!

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 

      6 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      I love John Grisham novels. Very fun to see a lens dedicated to his work.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for featuring John Grisham. He is such a talented writer.

    • christopherwell profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens! I didn't realize how far behind I'd fallen with reading Grisham's books!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice lens, Nancy! What a body of work Grisham has created. In looking through your list of his books, I see three that I've never read. I am adding them to my "to be read" list

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      It is no doubt that John Grisham is ones of the best writer for legal thriller... I was indeed amazed to his novels.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Love all his books! 'Runaway Jury' is my favorite, although 'The Rainmaker' and 'Playing for Pizza' are close second.

    • JeremiahStanghini profile image


      8 years ago

      I've loved seeing Grisham's books come to life with some fantastic actors.

      With Love and Gratitude,


    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      I have collected quite a few of his books, including some first editions - I was first hooked on John Grisham after reading 'The Client'. Fortunately, after being in the law for over 35 years, I can truthfully say that I never worked in a firm like that, but clearly they must exist!

      I would just say that although they are great page-turners, I find his books rather shallow - he doesn't go in for any depth of character, and they are also a tad formulaic. So although they make enjoyable light reading, I can see why he hasn't won the Nobel Prize for Literature! 5* for your lens and favoriting.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I've only read a couple of Grisham's books, and those were while traveling on long train trips. After reading your skillful and interesting lens I'm going to pick up some more of his work. Thanks for joining the Bookworms Group

    • Lou165 profile image


      10 years ago from Australia

      I love John Grisham's novels, although I have missed the last few - my father and I used to swap them, but we're living in different countries now so it's a bit hard! Great job on the lens.

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L B 

      10 years ago from Covington, LA

      I must confess that I have never read any of the books, but I really enjoyed the movies. My sisters has read all of his books, but I lean more towards science fiction and fantasy. Great lens. I enjoyed reading it.

    • dc64 lm profile image

      dc64 lm 

      10 years ago

      I've never read John Grisham, but have definitely heard of him. When I have time to read, which is rare, I always go for the Dean Koontz. I have seen the Pelican Brief, and have to admit that I enjoyed the movie.

    • papawu profile image


      10 years ago

      Fantastic author and definitely one of my favorites. I recently finished reading PLAYING FOR PIZZA and found it much different from his legal thrillers, but no less entertaining. I guess he has decided to spread his writing wings.

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 

      10 years ago from Canada

      Great lens for anyone interested in Grisham. I've yet to read one of his books but my husband enjoys them.


    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 

      10 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Very nice lens, you did a great job, 5*****

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Great lens about one of my favorite authors. In fact, Pelican Brief is one of my favorite movies ever, and I don't even see many movies!! Grisham is a genius!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Great lens about one of my favorite authors. In fact, Pelican Brief is one of my favorite movies ever, and I don't even see many movies!! Grisham is a genius!

    • Karicor profile image


      10 years ago

      John Grisham is one of my all-time favorite authors. This is a well crafted lens which inspired me to go check out his latest book, as I have been neglecting to read lately. 5*s for a very thorough job!

    • chefkeem profile image

      Achim Thiemermann 

      10 years ago from Austin, Texas

      5*s and blessed by a Booster Angel!

    • Mihaela Vrban profile image

      Mihaela Vrban 

      10 years ago from Croatia

      I think that I have read all of his books! Love them!

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 

      10 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      This is an amazing lens. Great job!

    • triathlontraini1 profile image


      10 years ago

      Great job telling us about Grisham. :)

    • ssuthep profile image


      10 years ago

      I am a big John Grisham fan. Have read all his books. This is a wonderful John Grisham lens. *****

    • Music-Resource profile image


      10 years ago

      Hi Nancy: Nice John Grisham lens. My wife has quite a few Grisham books and speaks very highly of them.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image


      10 years ago

      I love John Grisham. He is one of the few who can do a political story and make it interesting, where you don't really know you are reading a political story, even if you know it! The Innocent Man is even a true story, not a novel that reads like a novel. *****


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