Ford County (©2009)
by John Grisham
In the years since his first novel, A Time to Kill, John Grisham said he has often returned to the people and places of that book: "I've had dozens of ideas for Ford County novels, almost all of which peter out for one reason or another...The good stories stick, but they're not always long enough to become novels."
His first collection of short fiction, Ford County, collects seven of those tales set in the titular Mississippi region where his characters are "always in the vicinity of trouble." While none of the stories are out-and-out courtroom dramas, most of them are populated with felons, ex-felons, and the kind of lawyers of who are one bad decision away from a jail sentence.
In one story, three good ol' boys start driving to Memphis
to donate blood for an injured friend, but they're distracted by beer joints and strip clubs along the way.
In another, a down-and-out divorce lawyer gets a second chance to make some big money on an old class-action lawsuit.
Like his literary predecessors Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor, and that other icon from Oxford, Mississippi, William Faulkner, Grisham knows how southerners tick. The characters in Ford County are rendered with great humor and tenderness; even the worst rapscallion and the slimiest scallywag can be loved here in these pages.
Ford County may just be Grisham's best book to date. Gone are the problems which have long plagued his novels: paper-thin characters, trite dialogue, and sentences that tangle in a traffic jam of adverbs and adjectives. By winnowing his ideas to the shorter form, Grisham has, by necessity, dispensed with the padding and come closer to richer, deeper writing than ever before.