The main character in mega-selling author John Grisham’s next book will play football at a Davenport high school and attend the University of Iowa before landing on a fledgling team in Italy, the author said.
Grisham called The Des Moines Register to research details for “Playing for Pizza,” his newest work, scheduled for release in September.
He said that the main character will play quarterback at fictional Davenport South High School and eventually end up on a team in Parma, Italy.
“Don’t ask me why I picked the University of Iowa,” Grisham said. “I have no idea. I was kicking around a school in the Big Ten or Big 12. I considered Nebraska and some other places, but ended up with Iowa.”
And why Davenport?
“I didn’t want it to be Des Moines. I didn’t want it to be the biggest city in the state,” Grisham said.
Grisham walked through some of the final editing on the manuscript during a 15-minute telephone call, including details such as the biggest class of football in Iowa (Class 4-A), a Davenport high school that does not exist (Davenport South) and a believable crowd size for a high school football championship game in Iowa (he chose 11,000).
The University of Iowa quarterback, set to play for the Hawkeyes in the early 1990s, is named Dockery, Grisham said.
“Has there been anyone by that name who’s played at Iowa?” he asked.
Grisham said he came up with the football-abroad idea while in Italy working on his book “The Broker.” A news release about the new book says the character is a “fallen American football star who can no longer get work in the National Football League and whose agent, as a last resort, signs a deal for him to play for the Parma Panthers.”
“The teams I saw all had three Americans on them, and the quarterback was almost always an American,” Grisham said.
The process of determining characters and key details can be less scientific than some might think.
“It’s so random, it’s frightening,” said Grisham, 52, who lives in Virginia. “A lot of times, it’s like throwing a dart at a board.”
Names, Grisham said, challenge authors as well.
“Sometimes I just go to a phone book and start flipping through,” he said.
Any chance the Iowa details could change before the book is released?
“Not on my end – I’m tired of it,” Grisham joked.