Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ford County - the shorts of grisham

For those who are unfamiliar with John Grisham, this may not interest you.

But I am a fan and no matter how tawdry some critics think about his writing, there is that part of me that is fascinated by his fiction and page-turning writing prowess.

Ford County is his latest book. It is his first compilation of short stories. In fact, they are 7 short stories which lack a plot twist, a literary surprise, or even decorous descriptions that requires so much immersion into a book that would merit attention from Oprah. If there is one thing that Grisham does well, is tell a story. And while most of his published books center on courtroom drama and fiction, his 2006 novel The Innocent Man, a true to life story of a misguided mission by law enforcers that sends a man to death row, showcased the writing prowess of Grisham. His ability to tell a story, the way a story should be told is without doubt his forte.

The short story collection is set in Ford County, Mississippi, a deja vu to the setting of his first novel, A Time to Kill.

The seven short stories include:
1. Blood Drive - a construction worker named Bailey gets into an accident in Memphis. His mother who lives in some hillbilly county called Box Hill, and is invalid bawls at the tragedy and soon the whole town has poor Bailey's accidental injury turn into a hell of a circus through rumors that he now lies dying. The folks at Box Hill gather three young but confused youths who get on a truck on a mission of donating blood to the supposedly dying Bailey. The drive to save Bailey ends up with more humor and tragedy on the youngsters in this escapade.

2. Fetching Raymond - tells of the final days of Raymond Graney. The sad and chaotic lives of the 3 sons of Inez Graney are intertwined and confusingly revealed in the 3 hr trip from Clanton to Parchman Prison where Raymond is in his last few days prior to his execution. And then unwinding of the Graney lives as they bring back to Ford County, Clanton the body of Raymond after the execution.

3. Fish Files - is the story of Mack Stafford, a lawyer whose married life was on the brink of destruction and a career that seemed to go nowhere. How Grisham makes Stafford disappear from the face of the earth is as heart pounding as it gets. And it is such an envy to have prepared oneself into going into oblivion and then starting life anew.

4. Casino - tells the story of one of the dullest man to live with. His wife dumps him to make a life for herself and shacks up with one of the most ruthless businessmen in the industry. Instead of turning the tragedy into a misfortune, his card counting ability is what makes this story of vengeance and triumph a standing ovation in the end.

5. Michael's Room - tells of a client's revenge on a scheming lawyer Stanley Wade. Wade is always in for the win. Wade has never lost a court case even if the doctor accused in the wrongful act is as guilty as daylight. Which leaves a family of a mental retardate take Wade on a private courtroom drama, in Michael's room...this time with Wade's fate - to live or die - on the line.

6. Quiet Haven - is the story of a shameful crook that takes advantage of senior citizens in a nursing home. The latter are forgotten even by their own relatives, the circumstances of which allows this crook to manipulate their emotional weaknesses and abandonment for his ulterior plan.

7. Funny Boy - is the most poignant of all. Set in the early 80s when AIDS was a death sentence and where people ostracized those afflicted with the disease because of lack of knowledge about it, it tells the story of Adrian Keane, a homosexual white boy who has AIDS from his sexual indiscretions and goes home to Clanton to die. The Keane family agree with a Miss Emporia, a 75 year old black spinster that should she take care of the young man till his death, the house where Miss Emporia is living in now would be hers. The final months of Adrian's life forms not only a bond of understanding and friendship but serves as the conduit to freedom - not of Adrian, but of Miss Emporia, when Adrian passes away.

It is a must read and is light reading material. Each chapter has one characteristic ending - that it leaves the reader wondering what else can happen to the story. It's as real as real life gets - and leaves you hanging and wanting for an ending.

I guarantee that once you've started the short stories of Grisham, you will not be able to put it down.

But it's the kind of book you'll want to pick up in an airport, for your next flight as it is as entertaining as it gets. You won't even know that the flight is over even before you've finished the book.

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