Young John loved baseball and grew up with dreams of a professional career. Encouraged by his mother, he also became an avid reader. He was especially influenced by John Steinbeck whose clarity he admired. Eventually, he realized that pro ball wasn't in the cards so he applied himself to academics. Toward this end he attended Mississippi State University where he majored in accounting. While a student, Grisham began keeping a journal and thus developed the writing habit. He proceeded to get a law degree in 1981 and went on to practice small-town general law in Southaven for nearly a decade, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. In time, he became bored with criminal law and successful at civil law.
In 1983, he was elected to the Mississippi state House of Representatives and served until 1990.
After overhearing the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim, Grisham was inspired to start a novel that explored what might have happened if the girl's father had murdered her assailants. Rising at 5 a.m. every day, he put in several hours of writing before heading off to work. It took him 3 years to complete A Time to Kill. He finished it in 1987. Though it was rejected by several publishers, Wynwood press eventually purchased it, published it in June 1988 and launched it with a modest 5,000 copy printing.
A Time to Kill received some good reviews but sold only moderately well. His next book, however, The Firm, completed in 1988, was a break-out hit. Even before it was published, Paramount Pictures purchased the film rights for $600,000. His literary success assured, Grisham resigned from the House of Representatives and bought a farm near Oxford, Mississippi.
Since then, Grisham has been averaging about one novel per year, most of them legal thrillers, though he has diverged with the writing of non-lawyerly works like Skipping Christmas and A Painted House. Regarding the latter, in a message to loyal readers, he wrote "A Painted House is not a legal thriller. In fact, there is not a single lawyer, dead or alive, in this story. Nor are there judges, trials, courtrooms, conspiracies or nagging social issues." His most recent titles are The Appeal (2008) and The Associate (2009).
Besides being extraordinarily popular with readers, Grisham's novels have enjoyed unparalleled success as movies. Among those that have succeeded in film are The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, and the Chamber.
Grisham lives with his wife Renee, who he married in 1981, and their two children Ty and Shea. They split their time between their Victorian home in Mississippi and a plantation near Charlottesville, VA.
When he's not writing, Grisham devotes himself to charitable causes, including mission trips he takes with his church group. He also keeps up with his greatest passion: baseball. This man who once dreamed of being a professional baseball player now serves as the local Little League commissioner. And over 350 kids on 26 teams have played ball on the six ball fields that grace his property. His Rebuild The Coast Fund raised 8.8 million dollars for Gulf Coast relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. An avowed Democrat, John campaigned for Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primary.
Among the novels written by John Grisham are The Broker, The Partner, The Bleachers, The King of Torts, The Last Juror, The Pelican Brief, The Rainmaker, The Firm, The Client, The Testament, The Summons, The Broker, The Innocent Man, Playing for Pizza, The Confession, The Litigators, Rogue Lawyer, The Rooster Bar and The Reckoning.
He also has written a series of books for children 8-12 featuring Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer.