tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 22: the John Grisham edition

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera is a usually weekly but not always, sometimes substantial but not making any promises glimpse at some information and news related to Generation X in the Deep South.

In the 1990s, books and movies by Mississippi lawyer-legislator turned novelist John Grisham were ubiquitous to the point of being unavoidable. His success probably began with the 1993 film adaptation of The Firm, which was followed by a steady stream of Hollywood adaptations starring recognizable actors. Some were pure legal thrillers, while others dealt with unresolved issues in the culture of the post-Civil Rights South.

A Time to Kill (1989) and the movie (1996)

Grisham’s first novel, admittedly rejected by several publishers before its acceptance by a small press, tells the story of a black man in a small town in Mississippi who kills the two white men who’ve raped his ten-year-old daughter. This time, we’ve got Mathew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, and Samuel L. Jackson.

The Firm (1991) and the movie (1993)

The far-more-successful second novel was picked up by New York publishing house Doubleday and made into a movie that stars Tom Cruise. The story this time is about a young lawyer who joins the dream law firm, only to find out that there’s an insidious underbelly to its façade.

The Pelican Brief (1992) and the movie (1993)

By this time, the author was showing how prolific he could be. The film versions stars Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington.

The Client (1993), the movie (1994), and the TV series (1995–1996)

And the hits kept on rolling. This time, the star is Susan Sarandon, and she’s protecting a boy who witnessed a mob death.

The Chamber (1994) and the movie (1996)

In the movie, Gene Hackman plays an elderly Ku Kluxer on death row for a 1967 bombing, and Chris O’Donnell plays his grandson, who is a liberal lawyer from Chicago. The story has the younger man trying to make sense of who his stolid, gruff grandfather is. Although the blog Screenrant called this the worst of the John Grisham movies, I kind of liked it.

The Rainmaker (1995) and the movie (1997)

Not to be confused with the play that was made into a Burt Lancaster movie, this novel and its adaptation have us once again following a young lawyer. This time, the main character is in Memphis, fighting an insurance corporation for denying a policyholder who deserved treatment for their son’s cancer. The movie stars Matt Damon.

The Runaway Jury (1996) and the movie (2003)

This was kind of the last one in the string, and its movie came along a few years later. Grisham’s novels continue to sell, of course, but the annual movie thing had fizzled. This early 21st-century adaptation stars John Cusack, who had left his ’80s nerd archetype behind and become the quasi-action star we saw in late-’90s films like Grosse Pointe Blank and Con Air.

Other novels from the late 1990s that were not made into theatrical-release movies were The Partner (1997), The Street Lawyer (1998), and The Testament (1999). However, one of Grisham’s “discarded” stories was made into the movie The Gingerbread Man (1998), and The Street Lawyer became a made-for-TV movie in 2003.

level:deepsouth is an online anthology about growing up Generation X in the Deep South during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. The anthology is open to submissions of creative nonfiction (essays, memoirs, and reviews) and images (photos and flyers), as well as to contributions for the lists.