John Grisham is a former attorney turned writer, who decided to write suspense stories involving the legal profession. After a tepid response to his first book A Time to Kill, he achieved national recognition for his book The Firm. Soon after, he would write many more books, such as The Pelican Brief, The Client and The Rainmaker. Each book had a Tom Clancy-like fetishism for detail about whatever aspect of the legal profession it centered around, and all are clear cases of Grisham having shown his work.
Occasionally, Grisham has dabbled in lighter, non-legal-oriented fiction, but it's his legal thrillers that put bread on the table, more or less. Thus far he has made a profession known mostly for paperwork and long speeches seem like a breeding ground for some of the finest Magnificent Bastards and Smug Snakes in modern Literature.
A fair number of Grisham's books have been adapted into movies at one point or another, with varying degrees of quality and faithfulness to the source material.
Tropes present in his works below:
- Author Tract: Grisham makes no pretense of being unbiased. Many of his books are unapologetic left-wing critiques of conservative notions of law and justice, and The Confession in particular reads like a death penalty abolitionist's wish fulfillment fanfic (not that it ends in the favor of death penalty abolitionists). His afterwords typical make his intended point crystal clear, when he includes them.
- The Summons and The King of Torts both serve as condemnations of the American tort system and the predatory lawyers that use it, as exemplified by the character of Patton French.
- The Appeal serves as a condemnation of the controversial system of electing appellate and Supreme Court representatives, rather than simply of the predatory clients that use it to replace offending (read: plaintiff-friendly) judges.
- Bittersweet Ending: The King of Torts ends with Clay losing everything, but ending up with the woman he loves and not in jail.
- The Testament ends with the protagonist finally expelling his demons and finding something worthwhile to do with his life. But it comes at the expense of the one of only two decent and good human beings presented in the story, who died unknown and unmourned deep in the Amazon rainforest.
- Broken Bird: Kelly in The Rainmaker. This is what attracts Rudy and eventually leads him to kill a man.
- The Chessmaster: Almost always two at the very least.
- Continuity Nod: Characters like Reuben V. Atlee, Patton French and Harry Rex Vonner have appeared in multiple novels.
- Downer Ending: The Chamber, The Partner, The Appeal, possibly The Confession.
- Evil Plan: The plot is usually kicked off by one, many more types of plans executed throughout as a result.
- Gambit Pileup: Read "The Runaway Jury" for a rather awesome example.
- Gambit Roulette: The Magnificent Bastards of each book are using these to screw over many of the other Chessmasters, most with a fair degree of success.
- Hot for Student: Several of his books contain this as a side story.
- Idiot Ball: In The King Of Torts, Clay picks it up and runs with it after the halfway point, unable to see beyond his own needs, just what he promised he would avoid in the first half of the book.
- Karma Houdini: Max Pace, the "fireman" that convinces Clay to sell his soul for $15 million in The King Of Torts, is never caught, and never seen or heard from in the third act. Clay takes the fall instead.
- Laser-Guided Karma: In the final act of The King Of Torts, Clay pays dearly for all the things he did wrong: his stock market victories are forfeited to prevent prosecution for insider trading; his unbelievably successful mass tort litigation went too fast, because he was blinded by the money, and he finds himself on the receiving end of a mass tort as a result; his callous treatment of his clients as sources of money rather than people with needs gets him viciously assaulted by those same clients, and on and on.
- Oh Crap: The reaction of a LOT of people in The King Of Torts. Philo Products, the corporation that bought the company Clay sued, have a massive Oh Crap when they find out Dyloft is much more deadly than previously thought. The clients who took Dyloft have an Oh Crap when they find out that their bladder tumors, previously benign, have become deadly. And the lawyers are aptly summed up by Patton French: "We're screwed!"
- Smug Snake: The wannabe Chessmasters are usually this.
- Take That: The first few chapter's of "The Testament" are the suicidal Magnificent Bastard Troy Phelan's version of this to his greedy, shiftless, Too Dumb to Live family.
- Lampshade Hanging: In "The Chamber," a young Chicago lawyer turns out to have taken a job at a prominent, liberal-leaning law firm with a number of Jewish senior partners specifically so that he can take over the case of one of their clients - a former KKK member on Death Row for killing the children of a Jewish lawyer who happens to be the young lawyer's grandfather. At one point, one of the firm's lawyers flat out asks how they came to represent this guy - to which another lawyer responds that it's a long story, and at that point kind of irrelevant.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: In the movie version of The Firm, the Running Gag about the bar exam gives Mitch a clue to how to take down the law firm.
Wayne: "How did you come up with mail fraud?"
- Papa Bear: Carl Lee Hayley in A Time To Kill.
"Yes, they deserved to die, and I hope they burn in hell!"
- Passed Over Inheritance: Kicks off the plot of "The Testament."
- Pretty in Mink: In The Firm, Mitch buys his wife a fox coat in their first Christmas after joining the law firm.
- Spared by the Adaptation: The Brigance family dog, Max, in A Time To Kill.
- Villainous Breakdown: His status as a villain (as opposed to a pawn) is debatable, but protagonist Clay, by the end of The King Of Torts, has "survived one of the more spectacular breakdowns in the legal profession's history."
- This is only in the film version; the book has a drawn-out confession from Carl Lee that's much less dramatic, but no less damaging to his case.