Gray Mountain

Gray Mountain

3.2 524
by John Grisham
     
 

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John Grisham has a new hero . . . and she’s full of surprises

The year is 2008 and Samantha Kofer’s career at a huge Wall Street law firm is on the fast track—until the recession hits and she gets downsized, furloughed, escorted out of the building. Samantha, though, is one of the “lucky” associates.See more details below

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Overview

John Grisham has a new hero . . . and she’s full of surprises

The year is 2008 and Samantha Kofer’s career at a huge Wall Street law firm is on the fast track—until the recession hits and she gets downsized, furloughed, escorted out of the building. Samantha, though, is one of the “lucky” associates. She’s offered an opportunity to work at a legal aid clinic for one year without pay, after which there would be a slim chance that she’d get her old job back.

In a matter of days Samantha moves from Manhattan to Brady, Virginia, population 2,200, in the heart of Appalachia, a part of the world she has only read about. Mattie Wyatt, lifelong Brady resident and head of the town’s legal aid clinic, is there to teach her how to “help real people with real problems.” For the first time in her career, Samantha prepares a lawsuit, sees the inside of an actual courtroom, gets scolded by a judge, and receives threats from locals who aren’t so thrilled to have a big-city lawyer in town. And she learns that Brady, like most small towns, harbors some big secrets.

Her new job takes Samantha into the murky and dangerous world of coal mining, where laws are often broken, rules are ignored, regulations are flouted, communities are divided, and the land itself is under attack from Big Coal. Violence is always just around the corner, and within weeks Samantha finds herself engulfed in litigation that turns deadly.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/29/2014
Expect the expected in this tepid legal thriller from bestseller Grisham (Sycamore Row) that may be the debut of a series character. When Wall Street law associate Samantha Kofer loses her job in the 2008 financial meltdown, her mega-firm offers her the prospect of a return to long hours and dull work after a year's furlough as an unpaid intern for a nonprofit organization. Despite the volunteer nature of such work, Samantha discovers competition for the slots available fierce, and seizes the chance, after numerous rejections, to work at the Mountain Legal Aid Clinic in Brady, Va., population 2,200. In the Appalachian coal town, Samantha finds herself a fish out of water in more senses than one. She needs to adjust to living in a community with fewer residents than her old office building, as well as dealing with real people's problems rather than document review. Grisham movingly portrays the evils of Big Coal and the lives it has ruined, and most readers will rapidly turn the pages, but the subtlety and full-blooded characters that mark the author's best work are sadly absent. Agent: David Gernert, Gernert Company. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
“[An] important new novel . . . superior entertainment.”The Washington Post
 
“Powerful . . . a satisfying, old-fashioned, good guy/bad guy legal thriller.”The Christian Science Monitor
 
“Yes, Gray Mountain is fiction. But after reading the book, you’ll believe heroic action must be taken.”USA Today
 
“Grisham has written one of his best legal dramas.”—Associated Press

Library Journal
05/15/2014
When Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, law firms went down, too, and third-year law associate Samantha Kofer loses her job and her dreams. She ends up as an unpaid intern at a legal aid clinic in Appalachia, where the problems are as troubling as the dangerous secret she discovers.
Kirkus Reviews
2014-09-18
"I want all the boys to sit up straight and notice, and not just my ass." Yup, there's a new sheriff in town, and she's come to bring down Big Coal—and maybe strut her stuff, too. Grisham (Sycamore Row, 2013, etc.) has long proved himself to be a trustworthy provider of legal thrillers—formulaic, to be sure, and tossed-off, yes, but delivering the goods if you're not too particular about the niceties of style. He is also uncommonly timely and topical. This book's no exception: Our heroine is a bright young Ivy Leaguer newly furloughed, in the wake of the Lehman Brothers collapse, from Big Law up on Wall Street. The deal: The company might call her back in a year if she uses the time to be a do-gooder somewhere in the real world. The real world turns out to be a hardscrabble coal patch in Appalachia, where traditions count, big dogs rule and, as Grisham portentously writes, "there was no hurry in burying the dead." Not in cold weather, anyway, and the little town where Samantha finds herself is appropriately chilly and gloomy, the kind of place where black lung disease floats in the air along with the bullets from the goon squad. The good guys are few, the bad guys many, and those baddies are busily doing bad things wherever they can: poisoning streams and wells, killing teenage girls with their big trucks, murdering folks who get in their way. Can Samantha save the day? Sure, if she can only disentangle herself from the arms of the requisite dreamboat and the tentacles of the darkly named Krull. Grisham is good as always on matters of legal procedure and local color; as one character notes, sagely, "When you sue a coal company in Appalachia you can't always count on an unbiased jury." Still, the reader can't help but feel that we've been here before. Literary fast food: It's tasty enough, but it's probably not so good for you, with or without the lumps of coal.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385539166
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/21/2014
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
488
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

JOHN GRISHAM is the author of twenty-seven novels, one work of nonfiction, a collection of stories, and four novels for young readers. 

www.doubleday.com

www.jgrisham.com

www.facebook.com/JohnGrisham

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Oxford, Mississippi, and Albemarle County, Virginia
Date of Birth:
February 8, 1955
Place of Birth:
Jonesboro, Arkansas
Education:
B.S., Mississippi State, 1977; J.D., University of Mississippi, 1981
Website:
http://www.jgrisham.com

Read an Excerpt

Gray Mountain

A Novel


By John Grisham

Random House LLC

Copyright © 2014 John Grisham
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-385-53714-8


CHAPTER 1

The horror was in the waiting--the unknown, the insomnia, the ulcers. Co-workers ignored each other and hid behind locked doors. Secretaries and paralegals passed along the rumors and refused eye contact. Everyone was on edge, wondering, "Who might be next?" The partners, the big boys, appeared shell-shocked and wanted no contact with their underlings. They might soon be ordered to slaughter them.

The gossip was brutal. Ten associates in Litigation terminated; partially true--only seven. The entire Estate division closed, partners and all; true. Eight partners in Antitrust jumping to another firm; false, for now.

The atmosphere was so toxic that Samantha left the building whenever possible and worked with her laptop in coffee shops around lower Manhattan. She sat on a park bench one pleasant day--day ten after the fall of Lehman Brothers--and gazed at the tall building down the street. It was called 110 Broad, and the top half was leased by Scully & Pershing, the biggest law firm the world had ever seen. Her firm, for now, though the future was anything but certain. Two thousand lawyers in twenty countries, half of them in New York City alone, a thousand right up there packed together on floors 30 through 65. How many wanted to jump? She couldn't guess, but she wasn't the only one. The world's largest firm was shrinking in chaos, as were its competitors. Big Law, as it was known, was just as panicked as the hedge funds, investment banks, real banks, insurance conglomerates, Washington, and on down the food chain to the merchants on Main Street.

Day ten passed without bloodshed, as did the next. On day twelve there was a flash of optimism as Ben, one of Samantha's colleagues, shared a rumor that credit markets in London were loosening a bit. Borrowers might find some cash after all. But late that afternoon the rumor had run out of gas; nothing to it. And so they waited.

Two partners ran Commercial Real Estate at Scully & Pershing. One was nearing retirement age and had already been shoved out. The other was Andy Grubman, a forty-year-old pencil pusher who'd never seen a courtroom. As a partner, he had a nice office with a distant view of the Hudson, water he hadn't noticed in years. On a shelf behind his desk, and squarely in the center of his Ego Wall, there was a collection of miniature skyscrapers. "My buildings" he liked to call them. Upon completion of one of his buildings, he commissioned a sculptor to replicate it on a smaller scale, and he generously gave an even smaller trophy to each member of "my team." In her three years at S&P, Samantha's collection had six buildings, and that was as large as it would get.

"Have a seat," he ordered as he closed the door. Samantha sat in a chair next to Ben, who was next to Izabelle. The three associates studied their feet, waiting. Samantha felt the urge to grab Ben's hand, like a terrified prisoner facing a firing squad. Andy fell into his chair, and, avoiding eye contact but desperate to get things over with, he recapped the mess they were in.

"As you know, Lehman Brothers folded fourteen days ago."

No kidding, Andy! The financial crisis and credit meltdown had the world on the brink of a catastrophe and everyone knew it. But then, Andy rarely had an original thought.

"We have five projects in the works, all funded by Lehman. I've talked at length with the owners, and all five are pulling the plug. We had three more in the distance, two with Lehman, one with Lloyd's, and, well, all credit is frozen. The bankers are in their bunkers, afraid to loan a dime."

Yes, Andy, we know this too. It's front-page. Just get it over with before we jump.

"The exec committee met yesterday and made some cuts. Thirty first-year associates are being let go; some terminated outright, others laid off. All new hires are deferred indefinitely. Probate is gone. And, well, there is no easy way to say this, but our entire division is on the block. Cut. Eliminated. Who knows when owners will start building again, if ever. The firm is unwilling to keep you on the payroll while the world waits for loose credit. Hell, we could be headed for a major depression. This is probably just the first round of cuts. Sorry, guys. I'm really sorry."

Ben spoke first. "So we're being terminated outright?"

"No. I fought for you guys, okay? At first they planned to do the pink slip thing. I don't have to remind you that CRE is the smallest division in the firm and probably the hardest hit right now. I talked them into something we're calling a furlough. You'll leave now, come back later, maybe."

"Maybe?" Samantha asked. Izabelle wiped a tear but kept her composure.

"Yes, a big fat maybe. Nothing is definite right now, Samantha, okay? We're all chasing our tails. In six months we could all be at the soup kitchen. You've seen the old photos from 1929."

Come on, Andy, a soup kitchen? As a partner, your take-home last year was $2.8 million, average at S&P, which, by the way, came in fourth in net-per-partner. And fourth was not good enough, at least it wasn't until Lehman croaked and Bear Stearns imploded and the sub-prime mortgage bubble burst. Suddenly, fourth place was looking pretty good, for some anyway.

"What's a furlough?" Ben asked.

"Here's the deal. The firm keeps you under contract for the next twelve months, but you don't get a paycheck."

"Sweet," Izabelle mumbled.

Ignoring her, Andy plowed ahead: "You keep your health benefits, but only if you intern with a qualified nonprofit. HR is putting together a list of suitable outfits. You go away, do your little do-gooder bit, save the world, hope like hell the economy bounces back, then in a year or so you're back with the firm and you don't lose any seniority. You won't be in CRE but the firm will find a place for you."

"Are our jobs guaranteed when the furlough is over?" Samantha asked.

"No, nothing is guaranteed. Frankly, no one is smart enough to predict where we'll be next year. We're in the middle of an election, Europe is going to hell, the Chinese are freaking out, banks are folding, markets are crashing, nobody's building or buying. The world's coming to an end."

They sat for a moment in the gloomy silence of Andy's office, all four crushed with the reality of the end of the world. Finally, Ben asked, "You, too, Andy?"

"No, they're transferring me to Tax. Can you believe it? I hate Tax, but it was either Tax or driving a cab. I got a master's in taxation, though, so they figured they could spare me."

"Congratulations," Ben said.

"I'm sorry, guys."

"No, I mean it. I'm happy for you."

"I could be gone in a month. Who knows?"

"When do we leave?" Izabelle asked.

"Right now. The procedure is to sign a furlough agreement, pack up your stuff, clean off your desk, and hit the street. HR will e-mail you a list of nonprofits and all the paperwork. Sorry, guys."

"Please stop saying that," Samantha said. "There's nothing you can say that helps matters here."

"True, but it could be worse. The majority of those in your boat are not being offered a furlough. They're being fired on the spot."

"I'm sorry, Andy," Samantha said. "There are a lot of emotions right now."

"It's okay. I understand. You have the right to be angry and upset. Look at you--all three have Ivy League law degrees and you're being escorted out of the building like thieves. Laid off like factory workers. It's awful, just awful. Some of the partners offered to cut their salaries in half to prevent this."

"I'll bet that was a small group," Ben said.

"It was, yes. Very small, I'm afraid. But the decision has been made."


A woman in a black suit and a black necktie stood at the quad where Samantha shared a "space" with three others, including Izabelle. Ben was just down the hall. The woman tried to smile as she said, "I'm Carmen. Can I help you?" She was holding an empty cardboard box, blank on all sides so no one would know it was the official Scully & Pershing repository for the office junk of those furloughed or fired or whatever.

"No, thanks," Samantha said, and she managed to do so politely. She could have snapped and been rude, but Carmen was only doing her job. Samantha began opening drawers and removing all things personal. In one drawer she had some S&P files and asked, "What about these?"

"They stay here," Carmen said, watching every move, as if Samantha might attempt to pilfer some valuable asset. The truth was that everything of value was stored in the computers--a desktop she used in her space and a laptop she took almost everywhere. A Scully & Pershing laptop. It, too, would remain behind. She could access everything from her personal laptop, but she knew the codes had already been changed.

As if sleepwalking, she cleaned out the drawers and gently tucked away the six miniature skyscrapers from her collection, though she thought about tossing them into the trash can. Izabelle arrived and was given her own personal cardboard box. All others--associates, secretaries, paralegals--had suddenly found business elsewhere. Protocol had been quickly adopted--when someone cleans out a desk, let them do it in peace. No witnesses, no gawking, no hollow farewells.

Izabelle's eyes were puffy and red; she had obviously been in the restroom crying. She whispered, "Call me. Let's have a drink tonight."

"Sure," Samantha said. She finished stuffing it all into the box, her briefcase, and her bulky designer bag, and without looking over her shoulder she marched behind Carmen down the hallway and to the elevators on the forty-eighth floor. As they waited, she refused to look around and absorb it one last time. The door opened and thankfully the elevator was empty. "I'll carry that," Carmen said, pointing to the box, which was already increasing in bulk and weight. "No," Samantha said as she stepped inside. Carmen pushed the button for the lobby. Why, exactly, was she being escorted out of the building? The longer she pondered the question the angrier she became. She wanted to cry and she wanted to lash out, but what she really wanted was to call her mother. The elevator stopped on the forty-third floor and a well-dressed young man stepped in. He was holding an identical cardboard box, with a large bag strapped over his shoulder and a leather briefcase under an arm. He had the same stunned look of fear and confusion. Samantha had seen him in the elevator but never met him. What a firm. So mammoth the associates wore name badges at the dreadful Christmas party. Another security guard in a black suit stepped in behind him, and when everyone was in place Carmen again pressed the button for the lobby. Samantha studied the floor, determined not to speak even if spoken to. On the thirty-ninth floor, the elevator stopped again, and Mr. Kirk Knight got on board while studying his cell phone. Once the door closed, he glanced around, saw the two cardboard boxes, and seemed to gasp as his spine stiffened. Knight was senior partner in Mergers & Acquisitions and a member of the executive committee. Suddenly face-to-face with two of his victims, he swallowed hard and stared at the door. Then he suddenly punched the button for floor number 28.

Samantha was too numb to insult him. The other associate had his eyes closed. When the elevator stopped, Knight hustled off. After the door closed, Samantha remembered the firm leased floors 30 through 65. Why would Knight make a sudden exit onto 28? Who cared?

Carmen walked her through the lobby and out the door onto Broad Street. She offered a meek "I'm sorry," but Samantha did not respond. Laden like a pack mule, she drifted with the foot traffic, going nowhere in particular. Then she remembered the newspaper photos of the Lehman and Bear Stearns employees leaving their office buildings with boxes filled with their stuff, as if the buildings were on fire and they were fleeing for their lives. In one photo, a large color one on the front of the Times's section B, a Lehman trader was caught with tears on her cheeks as she stood helplessly on the sidewalk.

But those photos were old news now and Samantha did not see any cameras. She set the box down at the corner of Broad and Wall and waited for a cab.

CHAPTER 2

In a chic SoHo loft that cost her $2,000 a month, Samantha flung her office crap at the floor and fell onto the sofa. She clutched her cell phone, but waited. She breathed deeply, eyes closed, emotions somewhat in check. She needed her mother's voice and reassurance, but she did not want to sound weak, wounded, and vulnerable.

The relief came from the sudden realization that she had just been freed from a job she despised. Tonight at seven she might be watching a movie or having dinner with friends, not slaving away at the office with the meter running. This Sunday she could leave the city with no thoughts whatsoever about Andy Grubman and the pile of paperwork for his next crucial deal. The FirmFone, a monstrous little gadget that had been glued to her body for three years now, had been surrendered. She felt liberated and wonderfully unburdened.

The fear came from the loss of income and the sudden detour in her career. As a third-year associate, she was earning $180,000 a year in base salary, plus a nice bonus. A lot of money, but life in the city had a way of devouring it. Half evaporated in taxes. She had a savings account, one she halfheartedly acknowledged. When you're twenty-nine, single, and free in the city, in a profession where next year's package will exceed this year's salary plus bonus, why worry too much about saving money? She had a friend from Columbia Law who'd been at S&P for five years, had just made junior partner, and would earn about half a million this year. Samantha had been on that track.

She also had friends who jumped off the treadmill after twelve months and happily fled the awful world of Big Law. One was now a ski instructor in Vermont, a former editor of the Columbia Law Review, a refugee from the bowels of S&P who lived in a cabin by a stream and rarely answered his cell. In just thirteen months he had gone from an ambitious young associate to a mildly deranged idiot who slept at his desk. Just before HR intervened, he cracked up and left the city. Samantha thought of him often, usually with a twinge of jealousy.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Gray Mountain by John Grisham. Copyright © 2014 John Grisham. Excerpted by permission of Random House LLC, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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