John Grisham has no desire to ever run for office again.
Though his name pops up every now and then on ballots in Virginia and Mississippi, the mega-selling author, former lawyer and politician emphatically vetoes the idea of a return to public service.
“I wouldn’t take a seat in the U.S. Senate if it was given to me and guaranteed for 20 years with no opposition,” says Grisham, who served as a Democratic representative in the Mississippi state House of Representatives from 1983 to 1990.
Getting fired up, he declares, “Look, I’ve got the easiest life in the world. I don’t want to go to Washington and sit through subcommittee hearings on Medicare. How much fun is that? No.”
Besides, he’s having too much fun writing books. Grisham, who turns 54 on Sunday and has started an official Facebook page to reach out to fans, had an especially good time working on his new legal thriller, “The Associate.”
Grisham’s 22nd book tells the plight of a bright young attorney who is in over his head at an amoral, high-powered corporate law firm. Shades of “The Firm,” the 1991 best seller-turned-blockbuster movie that established him as the Stephen King of his genre. This time, the drama begins when the handsome lawyer-hero, Kyle, gets blackmailed into spying on his employer after some shady agents discover an ugly secret from his past.
“It really reminded me of `The Firm.’ … It’s an escape. It’s popular fiction,” Grisham says.
With “The Associate,” Grisham tries to recreate the suspense of older hits such as “The Firm,” “The Pelican Brief” and “The Client,” without wrapping his plot around a weighty issue or social injustice. After writing books that veered into sports and coming of age, and a nonfiction account of a rape-murder, he returned to the familiar genre. The demands of fans for vintage Grisham began nagging at him.
“Many times people say things like, `I really like your books but I love your early stuff,’” he says. “And it took me a while to realize that we all tend to think that way — whether it’s about authors or especially musicians, bands we liked when we were younger or we discovered years ago.”
Grisham, eager to satisfy his readers and reclaim some of his 1990s mojo, set out to pen a page turner that would deliver escapist thrills and chills. He couldn’t resist using Manhattan as a backdrop for the action involving corporate espionage and other wicked activity.
“The biggest law firms are here. The most noted, the most prestigious — it’s a long list,” he says in his deep drawl, projecting an air of smooth confidence during an interview at the New York office of publisher Doubleday, a division of Random House.
Most intriguing to Grisham: “The legend and the lore of how (corporate law firms on Wall Street) treat associates. … It was just irresistible. Plus, I love New York.”
The author, who splits his time between his farmhouse in Mississippi and a plantation near Charlottesville, Va., hired a young lawyer to be his research assistant and gather off-the-record stories from associates in New York firms. He also read blogs by disgruntled lawyers painting brutal portraits of the workplace.
“This is not cheap factory labor — these are Ivy League kids,” he says, “and they’re just getting chewed up and treated like (they’re) disposable.”
Doubleday released “The Associate” last week and ordered up 2.8 million copies of the book, already topping best-seller lists.
Paramount Pictures has already purchased the movie rights and cast 22-year-old Shia LaBeouf in the leading role.
“It’s good for the career, good for the book business — very excited about it,” says Grisham, whose books have been turned into movies starring Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Matt Damon and Samuel L. Jackson.
Another deal that excites him: Hillary Clinton’s new gig as Secretary of State. Grisham and his wife were big supporters of Clinton during the past presidential campaign and were disappointed when she lost the Democratic primary to Barack Obama.
If Clinton were in the White House, Grisham joked they’d “still be at the Inauguration.”
As for President Obama, Grisham says, “He’s very smart, he’s shrewd. He has good people around him. And he wants to be a great leader and a great president. And I think he’s up to it.”
Grisham thinks Obama’s hope-soaked honeymoon will last a long time. But the political junkie wonders why anyone would want to be president.
Grisham, who has sold 235 million books worldwide, likes his job better.