Grisham comes to Chicago

In the early 1990s, I lived in Chicago without a car. There are enough bus routes, along with the ever-present el train, to get along this way. And whenever people take a bus or a train, passing the time is always a priority. Smartphones are the way we do this now, but back in 1992 nobody knew what a smartphone was. Even a cellphone was still a freaky, bulky curiosity. So what did we do to pass the time while on the way to or from work? We read books.

Twenty years ago, it was just about impossible to ride a bus or an el train in Chicago without seeing somebody reading a John Grisham book. The Firm was the first one that got people’s attention, but The Pelican Brief, The Client, and A Time to Kill were also widely read. Grisham, and the Hollywood studios that turned the books into vehicles for Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon and others, must have made a fortune in those years.

Grisham kept on writing books after this time period passed, but the movies based on these books stopped coming. Some people must still read his books, since they keep getting published, but I’m sure that sales are nowhere near what they used to be.

I hadn’t read any of Grisham’s books for at least ten years, before I got a copy of his most recent book, The Litigators. In true Grisham fashion, the story hooks you in, and you find yourself reading it every spare moment you have until, a day or two later, it’s all done. In other words, the experience of reading one of his books is still what you remember it to be, if you were around back then.

But the added twist to the new book is the fact that it’s set in Chicago, my hometown for the past quarter-century. The Courts buildings, Midway Airport, and other local landmarks made me feel as if this was something that could have unfolded in my midst. I’m not familiar with the southwest-side area where the story unfolds–I suspect that the area is fictional–but I’m glad to see the the story is outside of the Southern realm where Grisham’s tales are generally set.

It’s not my intention to review the book–there’s at least 100 better reviews than anything I could write here–but I wanted to call attention to the setting of the book. Chicago has inspired many writers over the years, and now we can add John Grisham’s name to the list, too.

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