Chatting About John Grisham

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Ester: How are you feeling about the John Grisham brouhaha, Meaghan? Do you have strong pro- or anti-Grisham inclinations to begin with?

Meaghan: Lol, NO! Oh, I mean, I just think of him as a novelist my parents read when I was a kid. No feelings, no interest. And now I think he’s a buffoon. You?

Ester: He was one of the first people I realized was a successful, make-your-living-by-doing-this kind of novelist, and he wrote some of the first Grown Up books I ever read — he, Amy Tan, Michael Crichton, and Mary Higgins Clark — so it’s kind of distressing to hear of his buffoonery, yeah. It made me wonder though, just how rich is John Grisham? How much money has he made over the years? I haven’t read any of his books since I think The Client but I know he keeps churning them out.

Meaghan: The first grown-up books thing is interesting. God, I don’t know what that would be for me.

Ester: I remember wandering around as a 10- or 11-year-old picking things off of the adult shelves, and not knowing what I was looking for exactly (sex?) but wanting to feel Mature, so I gravitated toward things that said New York Times Bestseller. Little did I know at the time how little that meant.

Meaghan: That’s funny, and makes sense. I keep thinking and I think I read a lot of YA as a kid (I mean, not that I knew the term). I just loved Judy Blume and shit like that. Anyway, The Pelican Brief! I remember there was a movie, and it was funny to me because ‘brief’ meant underwear. That’s really my only context for John Grisham. This man. Arguing that there are too many old white men in the prison population is really quite an angle to take.

Ester: Especially at a time when the nation is enthralled with Serial, the podcast about a 15-year-old murder case in Baltimore. The man convicted of killing his high school ex-girlfriend in 1999 has been in prison now for nearly half his life, and, from what the host Sarah Koenig has uncovered, the evidence that put him away is circumstantial and flimsy. These are the real people behind bars, you know? These are the ones most people are outraged about. Not so much 60-year-old white dudes who “accidentally” (?) looked at the wrong porn while drunk.

Meaghan: I’m laughing so I don’t cry.

Ester: OK so back to the original question: How rich is John Grisham? Is he our country’s richest novelist? Is Stephen King? They’ve both had lots of movies made from their best-sellers.

Meaghan: Well according to Forbes, he “earned $17 million last year and tied for 6th place in Forbes’ ranking of top-earning authors.”

Ester: Grisham has a net worth of $200 million. Not bad, but definitely not America’s richest author. Stephen King is twice as rich. Good, that’s as it should be. Holy shit, EL James was the Top Earning Author in the World in 2013.

Meaghan: That seems right. Do you remember how you got your hands on these John Grisham books as a kid? Were your parents supportive of Baby Ester reading thrillers? I’m sure I’d be like, Cool, sure.

Ester: Um, fair question! I don’t remember my parents ever raising an eyebrow, not even when I was reading Jean M. Auel, which is straight-up prehistoric porn. But maybe they didn’t know. They let me roam freely, in part because they were busy — they both worked full-time and I have two crazy brothers, plus the dog was always sick — and in part because I guess they figured, it’s a book, what could go wrong?

Meaghan: I mean Judy Blume taught me about masturbation so it’s all fair game. I remember books were like, $3.50 when I was a kid. At least Babysitter’s Club books were, and I bought them at Waldenbooks with my allowance. I don’t know about John G. And yeah my parents never really knew what the hell I was reading. They were very interested in what I was not allowed to watch on TV though — they used parental controls to block MTV and VH1 and wouldn’t let me watch the Simpsons or Ren and Stimpy :( Books are so much dirtier though.

Ester: Aw, they were trying to protect you! My dad, I remember, was less than thrilled when I got into the Babysitter’s Club, but I think mostly they wanted me to read up, and they thought those books were stupid. But no one stopped me. I remember one of my friends told me her mom wouldn’t let her read the opening scene of A Time to Kill, where the rape of the little black girl by evil white men is described in graphic detail. Wow, that’s kind of funny, in a bitter way: that was Grisham’s first scene in his first novel*. Look how far he’s come!

Meaghan: Oh dear. Also, THE BABYSITTER’S CLUB IS NOT STUPID!

Ester: Hahaha that’s your hill and you’re dying on it? Well, I remember being like nine and the girls were 13 so I felt “mature,” even though that’s exactly what they intended, those devious bastards. No self-respecting 13-year-old would actually read those books themselves, right? Just like no 17-year-old reads Seventeen?

Meaghan: And no human should read John Grisham ever again! Especially not from Amazon!!

* Trivia time! The Firm was Grisham’s first published book, because the literary world was a bit squeamish about the racial stuff in A Time to Kill. Only after The Firm was a smash did his people go back and publish A Time to Kill. If I’m wrong about this, don’t tell me — this is the story I recollect, and I like it so I’m sticking to it. –ester

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