Writing for Writing’s Sake
It’s hard to believe how quickly a year can pass. This month marked one year since I flew to Portland, Oregon to take in the beauty of the Willamette Valley. Aside from the combined business and personal nature of the trip, there is another reason I remember it so well: the huge gulps of time heading west allowed me to finish reading The Boys from Biloxi. Ordinarily, I save John Grisham’s novels for a vacation read, when I can digest them at a leisurely pace. The long flight qualified.
The Biloxi story is a fascinating character study that contrasts boyhood friends who take opposite directions in life—one becoming an attorney and the other working for the mob.
Full of intrigue and twists along the way, it ends with the kind of unexpected resolution that I never saw coming. No spoiler alert here; you’ll have to read it for yourself.
I became a Grisham fan nearly 30 years ago, after hearing radio personality Paul Harvey praising the author for becoming popular without using a slew of profanity.
That isn’t strictly true. But in reading his novels I have never felt assaulted by the kind of crude language or obscenity that has me closing other books a chapter into the material.
Grisham’s Underlying Moral
In addition, Grisham’s novels always have an underlying moral: crime doesn’t pay, pursuing material riches leads to heartache and chaos, and there is a spiritual reality to life.
The latter appeared halfway through The Chamber, his 1994 novel that remains a personal favorite. A prison chaplain visits a man facing the gas chamber for murder after bombing the office of a civil rights lawyer. The chaplain explains Christ’s sacrifice to the condemned man as clearly as one could find in a gospel tract.
I was so surprised by the natural way Grisham wove that scene into the book that I gained an appreciation for the “witnessing” a writer without a Christian reputation could accomplish. Similar spiritual scenes appear in several of his other books, most notably The Testament.
Landing an Interview
When I discovered that Grisham was Southern Baptist, I asked the editor of an SBC missions magazine if they would be interested in a story. While he was, I figured my chances of getting an interview were small.
I don’t remember how I obtained Grisham’s office number, but the voicemail message I left was never returned.
Another freelancer told me about seeing him speak at a conference in Dallas and approaching him on a break. He confessed to not knowing of the magazine the freelancer wrote for, but said he didn’t have the time.
I always figured that is one way writers know they have arrived—instead of seeking interviews because they badly need the publicity, they avoid them.
There are exceptions, as seen by the recent interview Grisham did with Time magazine. It coincided with the mid-October release of The Exchange. It is a follow-up to his mega-selling The Firm, his second book that spawned a movie and TV series.
The item in the story that caught my eye: Time’s observation that Grisham’s novels today are “a fraction” of past sales. This is for an author with more than 400 million copies in print.
For those who want to become writers thinking they can find the same fame and fortune Grisham has achieved, I would caution: art needs to exist for its own sake. To expect otherwise is to court disappointment and disillusionment.