Rogue Lawyer

Rogue Lawyer

by John Grisham


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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND NPR • Featuring one of John Grisham’s most colorful, outrageous, and vividly drawn characters yet, Rogue Lawyer showcases the master of the legal thriller at his very best.
On the right side of the law—sort of—Sebastian Rudd is not your typical street lawyer. His office is a customized bulletproof van, complete with Wi-Fi, a bar, a small fridge, and fine leather chairs. He has no firm, no partners, and only one employee: his heavily armed driver, who also so happens to be his bodyguard, law clerk, confidant, and golf caddie. Sebastian drinks small-batch bourbon and carries a gun. He defends people other lawyers won’t go near: a drug-addled, tattooed kid rumored to be in a satanic cult; a vicious crime lord on death row; a homeowner arrested for shooting at a SWAT team that mistakenly invaded his house. Why these clients? Because Sebastian believes everyone is entitled to a fair trial—even if he has to bend the law to secure one.
Praise for Rogue Lawyer
“Terrific . . . inventive . . . Grisham still makes it look easy.”—Maureen Corrigan, The Washington Post
“Sebastian Rudd is . . . a kind of twenty-first-century Philip Marlowe . . . with a blunt, rude, gravelly poetic wiseguy voice.”—Benjamin Percy, The New York Times Book Review
“Deeply engaging and entertaining . . . [Grisham finds] intense drama in the little skirmishes that play out across our legal system every day.”—Charles Finch, USA Today
“Grisham has taken a step in an intriguing new direction.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385539432
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/20/2015
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 314,263
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.54(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

John Grisham is the author of twenty-eight novels, one work of nonfiction, a collection of stories, and six novels for young readers.


Oxford, Mississippi, and Albemarle County, Virginia

Date of Birth:

February 8, 1955

Place of Birth:

Jonesboro, Arkansas


B.S., Mississippi State, 1977; J.D., University of Mississippi, 1981

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Barnes & Noble Review Interview with John Grisham

To talk with John Grisham about the process of writing his latest novel is to get evidence, in conversation, of the kind of overwhelming energy required to found a new genre of fiction and write more than two dozen international bestsellers: friendly and gracious to a fault, the author is also in possession of a restless attention that anticipates questions before they are asked and leaves the interviewer wondering if he really is as easy to read as all that. The idea of being cross-examined by John Grisham on the stand is not a prospect one would face with a lot of pleasure.

What is fun is hearing the dynamic author talk with evident relish about Rogue Lawyer, his thirtieth novel and the apparent lead-off in a new series that stars Sebastian Rudd, a gun-for-hire attorney who conducts his business out of a van, employs an imposing bodyguard, and sees legal ethics as something of a musical instrument to be played on — freely — by those who have the skill to do so. He also spoke of his work on the Innocence Project, an organization that uses DNA evidence to exonerate the wrongfully convicted, and why he hates to reread his prior work. We spoke earlier this year at Book Expo America, before Rogue Lawyer was published. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation. —Bill Tipper

The Barnes & Noble Review: What I was immediately struck in by Rogue Lawyer, by comparison to earlier books, was a shift in your writing style and the diction and velocity of the prose. It took me a minute to orient myself. I thought, "This is as hard-boiled as I think I've read John Grisham." Was that your intention?

John Grisham: Oh, sure. I started writing it probably three years ago, just as an idea. I have a lot of ideas for stories based on real cases I read about, usually something dealing with a horrible injustice in the system, something that I would love to see addressed or fixed or exposed or written about. There are a lot of those.

BNR: Some kind of flaw in the way that we think about justice and the law that produces a story.

JG: Sure. A lot of those, though, cannot stand up to the rigors of a full-length novel. So they are smaller stories. I want to address the issues: I want to meet some of the characters. For years I've been thinking how can I do that in such a way that I can make it compelling and readable and a whole lot of fun. So I came up with this voice, which is basically me, my observations of the system. When I was a lawyer, I sort of admired the guys who were really out-there, the fearless guys who were taking the bad cases, who would take the case nobody else would take, who were in court all the time, who were basically just kind of fearless. I wasn't that way. I was a bit too nervous.

This all came out in the character of Sebastian: A voice, the guy who's at war with the system, the guy who's fighting for injustice, and then through him we can expose all these different issues that need to be talked about. So it was gradual.

I wrote the first installment, based on a real trial. When I finished it (I don't know how long it took, and I have not been in a hurry with it), I thought, "This is going to work." This stuff is fun to read. When I write something, and I go back and read it, and I say, "This is fun to read," it's going to work.

BNR: Is that your acid test generally? Or do you feel sometimes like you don't need to do that; you know you've got a good story?

JG: I have never gone back and read an entire novel after it was published, because by the time it's published, I'm really tired of it. I write them in 6 months or 9 months or 12 months or whatever, and it's a burst of energy, and I put a lot of work through it. Then you go through the editing, editing, copyediting, endless proofreading. So when the thing goes to press, I'm really happy. I can't touch it any more. I can't take any more.

So I just don't go back and read them, with the exception of two books, Bleachers and a short story collection, because I had to read those for the audio. Which I'll never do again. It's too much work. I did it twice — for Bleachers, and I read the short stories — and it's really labor. You have to sit in a sound stage for hours and do that. But other than those stories, I don't go back and read them, because I don't want to.

BNR: You never had to go back and say, "I have to re-read A Time to Kill because I'm coming back to that place, and I need to know what I said?"

JG: Oh, big time. Sycamore Row was a bear to write, because I had to go back and read so much of A Time to Kill.

BNR: You hadn't given yourself the privilege of a blank canvas that you usually have, where you can always start with whatever you want to do at that moment.

JG: Yes. That's why it's tricky. Plus, you can't make mistakes. You can't get something wrong. This Theodore Boone thing is driving me crazy, because this is #5 — and I can't tell you what's in the first four. There are little details. "Does Theo have a cell phone?" I can't remember all this stuff, and it's getting to be a problem.

BNR: I was talking to Sloane Crosley about her new novel, and she said she found that process enjoyable. She had lot of characters, and said it was a treasure hunt kind of thing in the end, where she had to go through the manuscript looking for places where, for example one character turns his nose up at a drink early on because it was not a brown liquor, and then discovered she had him ordering a vodka tonic later on. She said it was kind of fun to catch those things. But I gather it's not always a lot of fun for you?

JG: I don't think it's fun at all. It's frightening to make those mistakes — and I've made them. I'm making a lot of mistakes with Theo, because I don't want to go plow through and annotate the whole thing, and whatever. It's also kind of scary when you do catch something right before it's published, like the vodka drink . . . Because you don't want to make a mistake, you don't want to get caught, and you're going to get caught a thousand times — they send you letters. It's like "gotcha — ha-ha!" And then you're nailed. You can't lie your way out of it. You made a mistake.

I get letters from every book where people point out mistakes I've made in factual things, primarily guns and ammo. I know nothing, OK? Don't really want to learn. Not my hot button. But I make mistakes all the time talking about guns and ammo, and believe me . . .

BNR: They figure into the cases, but there are always going to be people who have a more geeky sort of attachment to any sort of technological thing like the caliber that would be in a certain make of a gun.

JG: Computers. I'm a low-tech caveman. Not only am I low-tech, I don't want to learn anything. I don't like having a cell phone in my pocket. I don't like having to submit my books electronically. I like the old-fashioned way better. Well, you can't live like that nowadays. You've got to learn some stuff. And Theo is on Facebook.

BNR: You couldn't write a believable teenager with the same attitudes that are natural for you.

JG: No way. So fortunately, my agent, David Gernert, has got an office full of young, smart, tech-savvy 20- somethings, who eat this stuff up. So when I write a scene involving Facebook or Twitter or whatever, they always review it for me.

If I'm [writing a story with a character] wiring money in offshore accounts or Swiss banks or whatever, somebody else is going to look at it, somebody with some expertise. Even a lot of the legal stuff, I'll get a lawyer buddy to give it a look. Because you think of yourself as a professional; you just don't want to make mistakes.

With A Time to Kill it drove me crazy, and I guess this [Rogue Lawyer] is going to do the same thing, because it's another series, you know.

BNR: It's not a surprise that his voice is so immediately recognizable. So I want to talk a bit about where that voice came from. What's interesting is that he's a lawyer, but his kinship is with, I feel, private detectives and the kind of Philip Marlowe figure. Trouble walks into his office, and it's clear you've created someone whose struggle is to sort of figure out how to be the good guy. There's a scene in which he's weighing all the different scenarios of what his options are.

JG: Also, and you'll see this in the book, he is constantly torn between the ethics of his profession and confronting other lawyers and judges and cops who have no ethics. In his trials the prosecutor puts on witnesses that he knows to be lying — a cop or an informant or whatever. So Sebastian takes the position, "They're cheating, so I'm going to cheat." Once the authorities legitimize cheating in a trial, all bets are off. He struggles with that all the time.

There are three different trials in the book: There's more legal stuff in Rogue than any other book I've written. It's three straight trials, and some more stuff. But in the last trial, Sebastian has a chance to cheat and win — but he doesn't do it because the prosecutor is not cheating. He's playing it straight, for a change. For the next trial, the same prosecutor may cheat. So he's going to have to think the whole time about how much cheating is OK, which is really fascinating to explore, and how do you cheat? How do you cheat in your trial? Well, there are a lot of ways to do it. This is stuff I love. I love to read about it, I love to write it.

BNR: Do you find yourself trying to follow new developments, new kind of problems in the law where you say, "This would create attention . . . " I'm thinking about states, for example, where they try to come up with legal justifications for acquiring the pharmaceuticals to do executions, which are new justifications, new arguments, because they've never faced this issue before, of legally having the power to do an execution but being constrained in all kinds of ways, and finding it hard to make it through . . . to get that done. Do you kind of keep your eye open for these new wrinkles?

JG: Nonstop. I have a file on the drugs used for executions. In the story, part one is a horrible murder trial in which Sebastian is defending the accused in a small town, nearby, and the kid is facing the death penalty, and the town can't wait to execute him. In Part 2, Sebastian is on death row with a client who is about to be executed. So there is a lot of death row stuff in this book. I am fascinated by the issue of the death penalty. I've written about it many times in other books. But now they can't find the drugs, and again, it's a fascinating issue to explore.

Also, with the death penalty, Nebraska abolished it yesterday, the first conservative state to do so ever. We see a dramatic decrease in the number of death verdicts and executions every year. But what's behind that? Well, I'm on the board of the Innocence Project here in New York. We think it's because we've had so many high-profile exonerations that jurors are now far more skeptical about what the cops and prosecutors tell them. They're far more demanding. There are fewer bad convictions than you think. But that's right down my alley, and that's the kind of stuff I love to write about. And Sebastian will explore all those issues.

BNR: You do so much work with things like the Innocence Project: I want to ask whether you ever feel there is a tension between, "I'm interested in writing about this in the book, but I've got to be careful what I say because I don't want to create the impression that I think one thing when there's this other debate going on" or do they all kind of feed each other?

JG: They just feed each other. On the Innocence Project board, we look at thousands of cases. I don't personally, but I come across them. We've had 325 exonerations in the last 20 years. I wrote a nonfiction book about one of them. Every wrongful conviction deserves a great book. They are all fascinating. You lock a man up for 25 years for a rape he didn't commit, and what went wrong . . . And the real rapist is still out there. I wish I had the time and resources to write one a year, an innocence story every year.

So the material comes to us. The material comes to me. All I've got to do is regurgitate it, run it through a hyperactive imagination, change the names — and you've got a great story. They're out there. Anybody can do that. The newspapers are full of them.

BNR: Speaking of other people who do this, one thing I was struck by — it may be the kind of thing you've done in other books and I've failed to notice, but this is where I noticed it first: In Rogue Lawyer, right away we learn that Sebastian likes to unwind reading Michael Connolly and James Lee Burke. I thought, "Is that John Grisham winking a little bit at his colleagues?

JG: Yeah. Well, I enjoy both those guys. A lot. I know Michael a little bit. I've never met James Burke. But two of my favorites. I've toyed with the idea: Stephen King, a few years ago — he's a great buddy of mine — gave me a cheap shot in one of his books, some guy who was barely literate and was reading Grisham. I called him out on it, because he was not getting back, and two books later I nailed him. So just stuff like that, we go back and forth.

But I'm still thinking about what kind of books would Sebastian read? Murder mysteries. Crime fiction. The dark stuff. That's what he likes.

BNR: Would he read John Grisham, or would that be too close to his own work to be impressed?

JG: Great question. I don't know. He probably would love the content, but it could easily be something he'd want to stay away from. That's his life.

—November 5, 2015

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Rogue Lawyer 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 199 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like the new character and the courtroom conflict. Unfortunately, the plot was weak and incomplete there Incomplete story; boring repetition of domestic problems; no smooth transition from one storyline to the next; unlikely risks taken by lead character with careless disregard for protecting his bar membership; totally unsatisfying and one of Grisham worst books. I like Grisham but this book seemed rushed to satisfy publication deadlines and clearly was not ready. It was terrible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Are you sure Grisham wrote this? Was like a high school student writing a term paper the night before it was due. This is more like short stories thrown together and called a book. D Clark
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very disappointing . He never has strong endings but this is the worst ever. I turned the page to begin the next chapter and it was over. His endings are always weak but this one left me in disbelief . Won't be reading Grisham again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wish I had read reviews before I wasted my money. The story really was like short stories and I just would not recommend spending the money for this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was not like any other John Grisham book, i did not like the connecting short story format...and it was too chopped up to carry the story line. Characters were sleazy. Had to struggle to finish it. Disappointing!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What the hell kind of ending is that?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not put this book down! Read until mignight to finish in 2 days. Loved the Rudd character and hope Grisham brings him back. Others critized the ending, but I thought it fit the story. Compelling scenarios. Recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Based on other reviewers'' comments , I was a little hesitant to read this , but Grisham has come through once again with good characters , although maybe not entirely lovable , and a fast moving story line . The only drawback is that at first this feels like a series of short stories with only the main character as the glue holding it together , but by the end , I was satisfied with the connections . Not his best , but still a good read .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was hooked until the end. I'm hopeful for a sequel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Normally John Grisham books have a strong core storyline with great characters - but not this time. They Rogue Lawyer struck me as more of a random series of plot lines woven together by adding a central character - and the ending was about as weak as I have ever seen in any book. Unfortunately even some of the story lines did not ring true - particularly the kidnapping. All in all, a pretty poor effort from someone whose books I have truly enjoyed over the years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book as always great read...must read
BookCoholic More than 1 year ago
This was a terrible book. I expect so much more from John Grisham, and this book was an utter disappointment. The connecting story format could have been interesting if I could have cared about any of the characters. Character depictions were hammered into the writing rather than a flow of of descriptions and back story. Every character was one dimensional, and story lines were complete evil versus complete good. This book was excruciating to read, and I cannot finish it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. Stories are interwoven to support an overall critique of the US justice system. The stories are lavish with characters and crime. Sebastian Rudd, our hero, is as corrupt as he wants. All in the quest for justice for the truly innocent. I hope we get to read more of his adventures. So so sorry the book ended! I could have kept reading for hundreds and thousands of pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I should have believed the reviews but said how bad could it be. It was definitely not up to the author's other works.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The characters were brilliant and the plot was thrilling and easy to follow. I recommend this book highly and i hope you read it, you wouldn't be wasting time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this new character and his partner hope there will be more
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Okay, who really wrote this. If it was JG he needs to apologize to his many fans. What a mess, what a terrible ending, all in all, do NOT waste $$$$ or time reading this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is not the Grisham we know from previous block busters. There is no flow to the story lines, no plot, and little character development. When I finished the book my first thought was "that's it?". I will not spend my money so quickly next time on a new release from Mr. Grisham.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great characters, a rougher version of Lincoln Lawyer with a dash of Mike Hammer, spoiled by all the ranting about the unfairness of our criminal justice system. The book has too much preaching for my taste, and I agree with what is being said. Grisham should run for office or write better books.
DianaH-Maine More than 1 year ago
John Grisham is one of my favorite authors. His book, THE FIRM, is still one of my all-time favorite titles. I think I have read all his legal thrillers, even his YA series. Grisham’s newest title, ROGUE LAWYER, is a bit different from his other titles, in that it is difficult, if not impossible to find a single likable character or positive, even semi-normal situation. The main character, Sebastian Rudd is a defense lawyer whose clientele encompasses the sleazy, horrific underbelly of society. Mr. Rudd is smart and well-versed in defense law, somewhat ethical, an avid cage-fighter fan, a mostly disinterested father, vicious and vindictive on occasion, and just downright unlikable and horribly unhappy and discontented. Mr. Rudd is interesting to read about but is a very unlikable main character. I can’t find anyone to like in this book - ex wife, Judith, her partner, various attorneys, law enforcement officials, government officials, cage fighters, security man/driver/lackey Partner, even his son Starcher, not to mention his clients - there isn’t anyone to like here. I feel empathy for Mr. Renfro and the young Kemp woman, but that’s about it. Law enforcement, local government officials, the legal profession - all of them are sly, sleazy, ‘on the take’, dishonest, unethical, rude, vindictive - I don’t want to believe what I read about these people. I know this is fiction, but the book leaves me with a feeling of unease, suspicion and abject disappointment. The writing style is like reading several closely connected short stories. I had to stop reading at times and find something cheerful to think about in order to take my mind off these horrible, nasty, cruel, unhappy characters. I would recommend this title for the fascinating read that it is. John Grisham is an excellent writer, but the content is disturbing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed this very much. Grisham is always a pleasure to read. Rudd is very interesting!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After the first "chapter" I couldn't believe this was Grisham!!! It's a book of short stories!! Save your $$$
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love reading John Grisham books and have read them all but this one is my least favorite.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I looked forward to this book for quite a while. Rudd is one of those lawyers who fits the joke "what do you call 1000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start." Criminal defense lawyers deal with sleazy criminals. However, Rudd scared me in some spots with his obvious flouting of procedures. Then again, there are people who do it. The story on the whole seemed a bit fragmented to me. There were too many characters and things going on outside of the case. Then again, that is life as an attorney. So it was accurate. I hit the end of the story, thought there would be a new chapter... and boom. That was the end. Not a cliffhanger, but more like a fall from one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Trash the first 100 pages. Trite, boring, did someone else write this part? Grisham is too fine a writer with too much knowledge of the legal system to publish this book. Because I had paid for this as an ebook, I hung in. The last parts were excellent. Clean up the editing and I'll buy another Sebastian Rudd book.