TUPELO – Author John Grisham is out of his regular rhythm these days.
He usually releases new books in February, but his next legal thriller isn’t due to hit stores until November 2010. Grisham found himself with time on his hands.
“When you write X number of books of a certain type, like legal thrillers, as the years go by, you ask yourself, ‘Can I write something else? Can I do something else?'” he said at Reed’s Department Store on Tuesday.
The answer is yes, and Grisham has just released his 23rd book, a collection of short stories called “Ford County.”
“For most of these – there’s seven of them – when I first wrote down the idea, I thought it might be a novel,” he said. “None of these quite made it. They just weren’t long enough.”
The first story, “Blood Drive,” has existed in some form or another for about 20 years. It illustrates why drunk people shouldn’t think of donating blood. In “Fetching Raymond,” brothers drive their mother to a prison for another brother’s execution.
“Funny Boy,” the last in the collection, was put together in two weeks because the publisher didn’t think six stories would be enough for the book.
“It’s the only one I wrote kind of under the gun,” he said, “and it’s probably the best one.”
In some ways, the short stories have put Grisham back in touch with his school days.
“I grew up reading short fiction by Mark Twain and Charles Dickens,” he said. “When I got to high school, I read a lot of short fiction by Faulkner and Hemingway. I had a high school English teacher who loved Hemingway’s short fiction.”
If the public responds well to “Ford County,” expect more short stories in the future.
But fans of Grisham’s legal thrillers don’t need to worry. He has plans for you.
“I’ll start writing in January for the book that comes out a year from now in November,” he said, “and I have two really strong ideas that I’ve worked on for a long time, taking a lot of notes, even outlined.
“I’ll make a decision in January, which one to take and run with,” he continued. “The other one will go back on the shelf.”
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On the shelf
Signed copies of John Grisham’s “Ford County” are available at Reed’s Gum Tree Bookstore for $24.
“He’s very nice to come back,” said Jack Reed Sr., Reed’s chairman of the board. “If he didn’t sign them, we couldn’t compete. We’d sell a few dozen. He signs them, and we sell 2,000.”