John Ray Grisham was born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas but grew up in Southaven, Mississippi.

Grisham was a jock in high school, quarterbacking the football team. His passion  was baseball but without the ability to maintain a decent batting average, he was cut from the MSU baseball team.

He received an undergraduate degree in accounting before shifting his academic focus to law. In 1981, he obtained his J.D. from the University of Mississippi and returned to Southaven where he practiced the starting barrister's standard fare of mostly criminal defence and personal injury litigation.

The attraction was for him, as it is to all budding young lawyers, to see as much of the inside of a courtroom as possible.

John GrishamFrom 1983 to 1990, he was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives but continued his law practice.

Grisham's website tells of his big moment (the original refers to Mr. Grisham in the third-person):

"One day at the DeSoto County courthouse, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a 12-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl’s father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987. Initially rejected by many publishers, it was eventually bought by Wynwood Press, who gave it a modest 5,000 copy printing and published it in June 1988.

"That might have put an end to Grisham’s hobby. However, he had already begun his next book, ... the story of a hotshot young attorney lured to an apparently perfect law firm that was not what it appeared. When he sold the film rights to The Firm ...  for $600,000, ... book rights were bought by Doubleday. Spending 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, The Firm became the bestselling novel of 1991. The (later) successes of The Pelican Brief, which hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Client, which debuted at number one, confirmed Grisham’s reputation as the master of the legal thriller."

When he got his money from Paramount, Grisham resigned his seat in the Mississippi legislature and in 1990, closed his legal practice to focus on his new career as a writer.

John Grisham's genre is variously described as crime fiction, legal thrillers or whodunits but in any event, his edge of the seat style is captivating. He mostly paints lawyers as corrupt.

A unique feature of his books, absent from others such as Tom Clancy, is the evident feeling that the author has been in trial and inside a courtroom before. There's enough law in his novels to grab the attention of holidaying lawyers. His characterizations of borderline justice, behind-the-scenes judicial personalities and secret deals ring all too true to those with professional experience in civil litigation.

Grisham's books have crept back into many courtrooms as a derisive comment on attorney over-statement (eg. State v Saez and United States v Sabbagh).

In Fuguero v Rivera, the Court mused:

"If recited here in full flower, the averments in the complaint would seem to have been lifted from the pages of a John Grisham thriller."

In Herring v Bouquet, the Texas Court of Appeal even quoted Grisham's 1995 book The Rainmaker book as an authority on attorney practices:

"I learned the art of billing, the first rule of which is that a lawyer spends much of his waking hours in conferences. Client conferences, phone conferences, conferences with opposing lawyers and judges and partners and insurance adjusters and clerks and paralegals, conferences over lunch, conferences at the courthouse, conference calls, settlement conferences, pretrial conferences, post-trial conferences. Name the activity, and lawyers can fabricate a conference around it."

In an article published in the UCLA Law Review, lawyer John Owens even suggests that so pervasive is Grisham in the culture of the American justice system that:

"... his works actually present a moral compass to navigate young lawyers through a complicated legal world"

His well-known titles also include The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, The Broker, Playing for Pizza, The Appeal and The Innocent Man. There are 250 million John Grisham books worldwide, including translations into 29 languages.

In 1996, Grisham figuratively dusted off his old legal gown (American attorneys do not wear gowns in Court), and argued an old client's case which, while the attorney was making millions writing popular whodunit novels, had finally made its way to the courtroom. Grisham won his last case, a jury award of $635,500. By then a millionaire many tmes over, Grisham probably did not need to collect his contingency fee.

In 2007, he found himself the defendant in a lawsuit filed by two men vilified in The Innocent Men, a non-fiction bestseller about a wrongful conviction case. The libel suit was dismissed as the judge found that Grisham's characterizations were fair comment.

Grisham sits on the board of directors of the Innocence Project, a non-profit legal clinic based at Cardoza Law School and dedicated to ferreting out wrongful convictions.

Grisham is a baseball nut, having built six diamonds on his properties for local kids.