Publisher: Arrow Books
Weight: 420 g
When you are as securely at the top of the publishing tree (as John Grisham is), the temptation to simply relax and coast must be ever-present. But canny authors know that such laxity is not advisable if you don't want your fan base to haemorrhage. And it's clear that John Grisham – despite a few missteps recently (such as the period when he ill-advisedly let his born-again Christianity seep through into his novels), has tried to keep his writing fresh and vital. Ford County represents Grisham's first foray into a form he has not tackled before, the short story, and it's a challenging task (with the ghosts of such great American short story writers as F Scott Fitzgerald ever-hovering over the shoulder of any writer who attempts the form). But the range of subjects and characters tackled here is ambitious. The unexciting Sidney, an insurance company data collector, finesses his abilities at blackjack to take on the star player of a casino empire; the invalid Inez Graney and her two sons undertake a daunting odyssey to meet a relative who has been on death row for eleven years; three Ford County rednecks set out to give blood to an injured friend, but wind up in a Memphis strip joint. As these three stories (from a total of seven) suggest, John Grisham is clearly eager to spread his wings as a writer, and deal with more quirky areas of characterisation than he has tackled before. Some readers may wish that he had stayed in his familiar legal thriller territory, but real Grisham admirers will welcome this ambitious move. As in any short story collection, some entries are more successful than others, but everything here demonstrates solid accomplishment.
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