By Terri Tabor

Daily Journal

One look at Nancy Fly’s feet would give away the kind of person she is. Her red-white-and-blue-striped socks with stars simply state that she is a devoted, patriotic citizen.

But the Plantersville woman’s loyalties lie not only toward her country, but also to best-selling Mississippi author John Grisham, who was at Reed’s Gumtree Bookstore in Tupelo Thursday signing nearly 2,000 copies of his new book, “The Runaway Jury.”

Fly, along with her best friend, Ruby Sullivan of Nettleton, spent the night on Spring Street so they could be first in line for the noon signing.

“We haven’t slept all night,” Fly said.

The two had planned to spend the night with Fly’s daughter who lives downtown in Tupelo, but “We got the giggles,” she explained. Although they arrived downtown at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, they didn’t get out of their car until around 2:20 a.m. Thursday.

“We were afraid the police might pick us up (because of the curfew law) and we would miss all this,” Fly said.

Meanwhile, Grisham was busy signing 1,000 reserve copies for people who couldn’t make it to the signing.

“Well, I sure wouldn’t wait for anybody like that,” Grisham said when he heard about the overnighters. “I’m a little bit touched that some folks will do that, and I don’t know why. I can’t explain it, but I’m glad they show up.

“I’d look kind of silly if nobody showed up I guess,” he added.

Drawing a crowd was something Grisham didn’t have to worry about. More than 270 fans wrapped around the Reed’s Department Store sidewalk, some relaxing in lawn chairs while others stood in the 90-degree heat.

Among the group was a cousin of Grisham’s; a woman he dated in college who brought her 10-year-old daughter; a 25-year-old woman from Maryland who was flown in for the signing by her parents as a birthday present; an employee of Cook-Coggin who had taken the day off for the occasion; and Ginger Kellum, who had made some headway on her needlepoint since her arrival at 4:30 a.m.

“We’ve all bonded, the first 10 of us,” Kellum proudly said.

Sandi Armistead, manager of Reed’s Gumtree Bookstore, called the day a “festive” occasion and said the phone had been ringing off the hook with fans “begging” to get their books signed.

The bookstore is one of five locations to which Grisham feels indebted.

“The reason I come back is because it’s just sort of a tradition and I’ve got a lot of friends here. This is home.

“The deeper reason,” he adds, “is that when ‘A Time To Kill’ was published in 1989 I was looking for prints. Nobody knew who I was and there were a handful of bookstores anxious to help and this is one of them. I can’t imagine publishing a book and not coming back here.”

“The Runaway Jury,” is another legal thriller, but this time the action is centered around a jury sequestered during a tobacco trial in Biloxi. Grisham said the book’s inspiration stems from a tobacco trial that took place in the state several years ago.

As Grisham signed away in a corner of the gift shop an eager fan asked him what’s next?

“Ouch,” he responds and then tells her that his next book will be out March 1. “But I’ve got to write it first.”

In the meantime, “A Time To Kill,” and “The Chamber” will hit the big screen, the filming of “The Rainmaker” will be completed, he will have sold the rights to “The Runaway Jury” and, hopefully, will have a winning season coaching his son’s and daughter’s baseball and softball teams.

“That and little league will keep me busy,” he says and added, “I schedule my book signings around my little league schedule.”

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