This month, the best-selling novelist John Grisham celebrates the 20th anniversary of the publication of his first book, A Time to Kill. We wonder what a sneak preview of his next book might look like. Page 2: "It's perfect!" said Daisy Mae, spinning happily beneath the high ceiling of the penthouse apartment. "Just perfect! I never thought when you graduated from Harvard Law School only six months ago that you'd get a job like this so soon. How much did you say they were paying you?"
"Uh, yup, a lot, hon," said Jim Friendly, eyeing up the luxurious white wall behind her. His lucky baseball bat would look great hanging there, he thought. Then he frowned. "And in a recession, too ? What's the matter?" said Daisy Mae. "You know, hon," Jim said, "it's just ? I still don't really know what they do." "Do?" she said, laughing merrily. "Jim, they pay you. That's what they do. They're a top international law firm with glamorous offices in downtown Manhattan, and they pay you. And everyone's so nice. Why, Mr Foxe-"
"The senior partner-" "Exactly. Just look at him. You can tell he's respectable, decent and totally moral. And his associate, Mr Wolfe, I never saw a more honest, open-looking man. You're so lucky to have them as your bosses at the large, prestigious law firm." "Mmm. And I could hang my pitcher's glove from the ceiling right here," Jim said. "What?" "Nothing, honey. I quite liked Mr Vulcha, too."
Page 100: "The lessor enjoys an appurtenant easement on his servient tenement," said Buddy Remora, leafing through the papers, "but of course sublato fundamento, cadit opus and ? Jim?" "Hmm? I was just wondering why all the senior partners have to go for their long Friday afternoon meetings in, like, that cellar. And why we never see them practise any law." Buddy looked glassy-eyed. "To return, Jim, to the hereinabovementioned issue..."
Page 220: With mounting horror, Jim listened to the voices over the hidden microphone. "Just some young lawyer," said a voice he recognised as Mr Foxe's. "A kid." "Obsessed with baseball, gentlemen. Baseball!" said Mr Wolfe's voice disgustedly. "He gets a job at this huge law firm, and he starts snooping on the management," Mr Sharke chipped in. "Guys, guys," interrupted Mr Vulcha. "This is all bull. Just kill his girlfriend already. Or whack his mom."
Jim held his breath. He thought desperately of his mother at home in Arkansas. If only he'd just kept quiet and taken the money! Then he heard a fourth voice, one he didn't recognise. "No," it said, in a rich Southern drawl. "People would see through us right away. We need something really inventive. Our capital is in serious danger here." "Well," suggested Mr Sharke, "we could maybe force him into a really dark tortfeasor situation, then hit him with, I dunno, say ex turpi causa non oritur actio as hard as we can?"
There was a long silence. "Or we could get assassins from across the world to hunt him down in Italy," continued Mr Sharke sulkily. "We've done that once already," the voice drawled. Jim shivered. Was there no end to the depravity of these men? Page 240: "You want me to join you?" shouted Jim, horrified. "How can you call what you do down here justice? It's a sham!" "It was OK when we started out," muttered Mr Foxe. The other men shifted from foot to foot, embarrassed. "Then we started to need the cash."
"We still need the cash," came a rich drawl from the shadows. An ageing blond man stepped forward and fixed Jim with an imploring gaze. "And we need bright young minds like yours aboard, Jim." "Like Mr G says, Jim," said Mr Wolfe. He gestured at the pile of scrappy manuscript on the table. "There's no money in law during a recession. And these things don't write themselves. Not after 20 years." Jim Friendly thought very quickly about his future.
"Well," he said hesitantly, "I guess you could start by killing his mom. Then you'd give him this lessor who enjoys an appurtenant easement on his servient tenement ?"