John Grisham on Writing Page-Turning Fiction About Big Issues
This Week on The Literary Life with Mitchell Kaplan
On this edition of The Literary Life, John Grisham is live at Books and Books in Coral Gables for a great night with a room full of readers, basking in the brilliance of a master storyteller. John’s new book is The Exchange, and he brings back Mitch McDeer, the hero of The Firm — and he talks with Mitchell Kaplan about this new book and much, much more.
From the episode:
John Grisham: I’m on the board of the Innocence Project in New York, and we work to free innocent people all the time. We’ve freed 400. I’m on the board of the Centurion Ministries in Princeton. They freed 70 in 40 years, a smaller group. There are a lot of innocence groups in the country. There’s one here in Florida. Working hard to free completely innocent people. Once I got caught up in that world, I realized how many terrible prosecutions there are, the many different ways the system can go wrong. The curse of mass incarceration. The unfairness of the death penalty.
And all that’s been an ongoing process for me. Sometimes it bleeds over into the fiction.
I write two types of books. This is, to me, is pure entertainment. Like The Firm: there’s no socially redeeming message. It’s just fun, okay? Uh, and the other books are, they deal with issues. And there are a lot of issues I’ve touched on: environmental destruction and insurance fraud and for-profit law schools. You know, there’s a lot of bad actors in the world.
And it’s fun to take an issue and kinda weave a story, a compelling page-turning story and get you to think about an issue maybe you haven’t thought about before. Because oftentimes I’m thinking about it for the first time too.