I’ve confessed before, that I like reading John Grisham. Travelling for a few hours on Kenya Air and without a workable loudspeaker (I wanted to watch the film “Bucketlist” with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman ), I somewhat grudgingly scanned through my Kindle for some unread novel and found: Rogue Lawyer and I wasn’t disappointed. I got about half-way before touchdown at O.R. Tambo and finished the rest at home and before midnight.
This is one of the best books I read by him up to date. Perhaps it was because Angelika is at a German symposium and Friederike is hiking in the Kahlamba range, RSG doesn’t broadcast the Springbok Internations anymore (The Springboks lost 3-38 against the minuscule Ireland. This borders on the catastrophic. It’s a paradigm change. The Springsboks are no longer, what they were. Islands like Ireland and Japan beat us – let alone New Zealand and other giants like Australia!) and I couldn’t get into the “Bundesliga” on ARD either.
Well, so I just continued reading the rogue lawyer. And it really turned me on. I must say, I was surprised, about how many jokes, insights and “Aha!”-occasions turned up. I didn’t just remind me of our South African dilemma of state capture, but also of the crazy direction of our institution and it’s way-out members. Grisham’s description of the rogue police department and heavy handedness of some political institutions in the US made me sigh once again: “And I thought, they only do that here…”
Grisham is master of personality depictions and I really like the way his stories unfold and come to a conclusion. I’m sure it’s not just because he’s Baptist, but perhaps also about my age, white, English and belonging to the Western hemisphere and background. Many of his characters are judged and boxed in a way, where I’d probably also classify them. Something for the Deconstructionists to chew on.
For instance, he counteracts the politically correct tendency to glorify homosexuals and from the outset put down straight white men, who are law-abiding and try to be good fathers and husbands and go about their daily work more or less conscientiously even if they like cage fighting, play Back-Gammon and pool, are attracted to pretty women, but stick to their wives (or not!), take care of their old mothers and struggling children, drink beer or stronger stuff, smoke this and that, struggle with their diet, have sleepless nights etc. The lesbian couple doesn’t get all the credit either, but neither does the creepy crawly of a sycophant, who somehow gets away with murder and worse.
He shows the struggles people are generally up against – and depicts them as likeable and normal people – even if they have their fights and the really bad guys aren’t so straightforwardly bad either like that drug dealer, who takes care of his mother most caringly, but goes about murdering others without even a twinge of guilty feelings.
There’s lots to learn about human personality and their complicated natures in the hinterland of the US. There are hardly any “just bad guys” and the good ones are not as uniform and straightforward as you might imagine. They are personalities with different streaks and surprising idiosyncrasies. He goes a long way to question the political ideologies, prejudices and setups in the USA. He questions the democratic values, violent computer games, popular dealings with minorities and accepted values and much more.
He takes you into maximum security prisons, let’s you sleep over in holding cells on just a dirty chair, because the other two beds are occupied; takes you into the waiting room on death-row and lets you get the feel of ostracised lawyers, who defend the opposition. This for me, was the most revealing. Reminded me a bit of “To kill a Mockingbird” and also “Bridge of Spies”. He lets you read about the experiences of a father, who can see his eight-year-old child for only 36 hours every month, but tries hard to make this short period into something like quality time. So, it’s never boring and keeps your eyes glued to the unfolding cases.
I recommend this book and would think, that it could be a good basis for ongoing discussions in any book club or reader’s circle.