My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was the first John Grisham book that I ever read. A friend recommended Sycamore Row and sent me an e-book to read. E-books are not my favorite format. I prefer paper. But I liked what I managed to read of the book. Here was an author who knew how to keep the reader's interest.
My interest was piqued and I tried to look for the book in my library. I failed to find it, but I wanted to read something else by John Grisham and picked up The Last Juror.
As it turned out, the plot of the novel was indeed gripping. Willie Traynor, a young college graduate, armed with a degree in Journalism, arrives in the fictional town of Clanton, Ford County, Mississippi, in early 1970s, to work for a newspaper that barely prints a thousand copies. Soon after his arrival, the owner is served a bankruptcy notice.
The paper is up for sale, dirt cheap. Traynor has a rich grandmother who is prevailed upon to invest in the paper, and Willie finds himself, at 23 years of age, owner of a small-town newspaper. He works himself to the bone trying to turn a losing proposition to a winning one. He is unexpectedly handed a publicity bonanza when a young woman is found murdered in the outskirts of the town. Her murderer, Danny, nabbed almost immediately, is scion of the infamous Padgitt clan.
A trial starts and the whole town suddenly sees the need to buy Willie's newspaper. He fills the paper with not always impartial, often opinionated news, but he makes it a selling proposition once more. In the process, he falls in love with Clanton and its people: he fights hard to maintain the integrity of the town.
This novel is practically un-put-down-able. I neglected my housework in a bid to turn the next page and find out what happened next.
Like the hero of the novel, John Grisham also lived in deep south in a small town. He was a trial lawyer though, not a newspaperman. After working for years as a successful lawyer, John Grisham took to writing novels. His career graph (professional to author) reminded me of another favorite author of mine, A.J. Cronin, who became a successful author after years of being a medical practitioner.
It is not surprising that several of John Grisham's books have been turned into Hollywood films. His plots are imaginative and rich, his characters are dramatic and memorable and his story-telling is powerful and evocative.
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