John Grisham (born February 8, 1955) is a former politician, retired attorney, American novelist and author best known for his works of modern legal drama.
The second eldest of four siblings, he was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to Southern Baptist parents of modest means. His father worked as a construction worker and a cotton farmer. After moving frequently, the family settled in 1967 in the town of Southaven in De Soto County, Mississippi, and he graduated from Southaven High School. Encouraged by his mother, young Grisham was an avid reader, especially influenced by the work of John Steinbeck whose clarity he admired. In 1977, Grisham received a B.Sc. degree in accounting from Mississippi State University. While studying at MSU, the author began keeping a journal, a practice that would later assist in his creative endeavors. After earning his J.D. degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1981, he practiced small-town general law for nearly a decade in Southaven, where he became bored with criminal law and successful at civil law.
In 1983, he was elected as a Democrat to the Mississippi House of Representatives, where he served until 1990.
In 1984 at the De Soto County courthouse in Hernando, Grisham witnessed the harrowing testimony of a 12-year-old rape victim. In his spare time and as a hobby, Grisham began work on his first novel, which explored what would have happened if the girl's father had murdered her assailants. He spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987. Initially rejected by many publishers, the manuscript eventually was bought by Wynwood Press, which gave it a modest 5,000-copy printing and published it in June 1988.
The day after Grisham completed A Time to Kill, he began work on another novel, the story of a young attorney lured to an apparently perfect law firm that was not what it appeared. That second book, The Firm, became the bestselling novel of 1991. Grisham then went on to produce at least one work a year, most of them widely popular bestsellers. Beginning with A Painted House in 2001, the author broadened his focus from law to the more general rural south, all the while continuing to pen his legal thrillers.
Publishers Weekly declared Grisham "the bestselling novelist of the 90s." During the 90s, he sold a total of 60,742,288 copies. He is also one of only two authors to sell two million copies on a first printing. His 1992 novel The Pelican Brief sold 11,232,480 copies in the United States alone, making it the bestselling novel of the decade and the only novel to sell ten million copies or more during the decade.
Grisham returned briefly to the courtroom in 1996 after a five-year hiatus. He was honoring a commitment he made before he retired from law; he represented the family of a railroad brakeman killed when he was pinned between two cars. Grisham successfully argued his clients' case, earning them a jury award of $683,500 -- the biggest verdict of his career.
The Mississippi State University Libraries, Manuscript Division, maintains the "John Grisham Papers," an archive containing materials generated during the author's tenure as Mississippi State Representative and relating to his writings.
Grisham's lifelong passion for baseball is evident in his novel A Painted House and in his support of Little League activities in both Oxford, Mississippi and Charlottesville, Virginia. He wrote the original screenplay for and produced the baseball movie Mickey, starring Harry Connick, Jr.. The movie was released on DVD in April 2004. He has also performed mission service for his church, notably in Brazil. Grisham describes himself as a "moderate Baptist." He lives with his wife, Renee, (née Jones) and their two children, Ty and Shea. The family splits their time between their Victorian home on a farm outside Oxford and a plantation near Charlottesville.