Biography: John Grisham

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“Everything I’m thinking about writing now is about politics or social issues wrapped around a novel.”

John Grisham cracked the legal thriller market with his smash hit second novel, The Firm, in 1991. He has written many other novels, and before becoming a full time writer he worked as a lawyer and was involved in politics.


John Grisham was born on the 8th of February, 1955, in Jonesboro, Arkansas, USA. His parents were Southern Baptists, and his father worked as a cotton farmer and a construction worker. The family struggled financially, and Grisham, his parents and his four other siblings spent Grisham’s early years moving around the South. They eventually settled in Southaven, Mississippi in 1967. Grisham’s mother encouraged her children to read voraciously and discouraged television watching for all of her children. Grisham was deeply influenced by many authors.

Grisham graduated from Southaven High School, having dreams of playing professional football or baseball. He realised these were unrealistic goals and graduated from Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in accounting, in 1977. He decided to study tax law at the University of Mississippi School of Law, but halfway through his studies switched his interests to criminal law and civil litigation. He graduated in 1981 and spent the next ten years working a variety of criminal and civil cases for a small firm in Southaven.

In 1981, Grisham married Renee Jones, with whom he has two children. In 1983, Grisham was elected to the Mississippi house of representatives, a seat which he held for seven years. His political activism continues to this day, and he remains vocal on political issues.

In 1984, Grisham was inspired by a case he witnessed in court and began working on his first novel in his free time, while working sixty to eighty hour weeks at his firm. The novel, A Time to Kill, was rejected by several publishers before being accepted for a tiny print run. Grisham began The Firm almost immediately after, which was the key to his authorial success and had him named the best selling novelist of the nineties by Publishers Weekly. Grisham quit his jobs as a lawyer and politician and took up writing full time, producing, on average, one novel per year.

Grisham is a member of the board of directors of The Innocence Project, an organisation which attempts to exonerate wrongfully incarcerated prisoners through the use of DNA testing. He supports Little League baseball, his lifelong passion, and he is also dedicated to maintaining literary traditions in the Southern states of the U.S. by providing several scholarships. He has also done mission work with his wife in Brazil.

Grisham’s favourite author is John Le Carré. He lives with his family in Oxford, Mississippi.



  • A Time to Kill (1989)
  • The Firm (1991)
  • The Pelican Brief (1992)
  • The Client (1993)
  • The Chamber (1994)
  • The Rainmaker (1995)
  • The Runaway Jury (1996)
  • The Partner (1997)
  • The Street Lawyer (1998)
  • The Testament (1999)
  • The Brethren (2000)
  • A Painted House (2001)
  • Skipping Christmas (2001)
  • The Summons (2002)
  • The King of Torts (2003)
  • Bleachers (2003)
  • The Last Juror (2004)
  • The Broker (2005)
  • Playing For Pizza (2007)


  • The Innocent Man (2006)


Grisham is famed for his works in the Legal thriller genre.