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Snippets of Some of John Grisham's Favorite Ford County Themes in Short Stories
on February 13, 2010
"They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one."
If you are looking for a funny John Grisham book about crooked lawyers, you won't begin to find the usual quota in Ford County. You won't like these short stories nearly as much as what you are looking for.
I was attracted to this book after hearing Mr. Grisham talk about how these were stories that he had worked on for a long time that refused to turn themselves into full-fledged novels. I was immediately curious about how a gifted story teller like Mr. Grisham could possibly paint himself into a large number of boxes.
Keeping that perspective in mind, I found that these stories were more rewarding than his interview suggested to me. In many cases the reason they cannot be novels is because he has built up a single scene or episode in a character's life to such an extent that anything else you might add to it would pale too much by comparison.
I also didn't expect to find some terrific stories and was pleasantly surprised to find one. Michael's Room is one of the most compelling short stories I remember reading. I also disagree with Mr. Grisham about this not being able to become a novel. Add the background to this story as the rest of the novel, end with this story, and you've got quite a compelling and rewarding novel.
For pure irony and humor, Blood Drive rings very true about the ways we are all easily distracted into doing things that we shouldn't. You could drop this story into the middle of a novel about a pill-popping drunk on his way down (Roger Tucker) and end the novel either with him in the gutter or experiencing redemption.
I thought that some of these stories shouldn't be novels because they don't work very well . . . unfortunately, because they don't offer enough contrast to a bleak look at human nature. I put Fetching Raymond and Fish Files in that category.
Quiet Haven provides us with a lovable scoundrel, the type of character that Mr. Grisham can write well about. This story wouldn't stretch into a novel because the story depends on a set-up that's not strong enough to carry a whole book.
Casino was too predictable to me, but was mildly entertaining.
Funny Boy is full of pathos, but much of the story depends on people being very ignorant about AIDS. Knowing what we know now about that terrible disease, it's hard to get back into the mindset of when we were all first learning about it.