Grisham: Latest novel mirrors political reality

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/ Source: TODAY contributor
By Bob Considine

It’s a presidential year and John Grisham’s latest novel, “The Appeal,” takes a big swing at bought elections.

The prolific author told TODAY co-host Matt Lauer on Tuesday that the timing of the book’s release was far from coincidental.

“It works at any time, but I thought it would probably be a good idea to publish a story about politics this year,” Grisham said. “That was a factor.”

“The Appeal,” Grisham’s first legal thriller since 2004’s “The Last Juror,” takes aim at deep-pocketed special interest groups that attempt to manipulate the judicial system.

The story plays out with a chemical company found guilty of dumping toxic waste and liable for the deaths of scores of people in a fictional Mississippi town. The owner of the company tries to get out of paying a $41 million settlement by spending millions to help elect a justice to the Mississippi Supreme Court that will swing the appeal the other way.

When Lauer asked if such a story was far-fetched, Grisham said, “It’s already happened.”

“It happened a few years ago in West Virginia. A guy owned a coal company. He got tired of getting sued. He elected his guy to the Supreme Court. It switched 5-4 back his way and he didn’t worry about getting sued.”

Grisham, one of a handful of authors who have sold out first printings of 2 million volumes, said he believes there should be a movement to get away from elected judicial offices.

“Electing judges is a bad idea,” he said.

When Lauer queried how that can be achieved in a nonpartisan fashion, Grisham responded: “You start with a nonpartisan commission, you screen the judges, you get good people, you get them appointed. If they serve a number of years, let them run maybe for an election with no private money involved in the election. Keep the private money out. But you’ve got to clean it up.”

Grisham is a friend and supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, even hosting a fund-raiser for the New York senator last year. He asked that Clinton and Barack Obama clean up their increasingly personal attacks in the campaign.

“I don’t like the bickering,” said Grisham, who has now published 21 books. “We’ve got two great candidates in Senator Obama and Senator Clinton. They should get along. They should do a better job of campaigning and let’s keep the personal stuff out of it. And I think they’re going to.”

When asked if he was worried for Clinton, with Obama gaining the key endorsement of Sen. Edward Kennedy, Grisham said, “I think she’s going to do great next Tuesday. She’s ahead in all the big states. Super Tuesday is going to be very revealing.”