Ford County: Stories

By John Grisham
Binding:Hardcover
Publisher:Doubleday, (11/3/2009)
Language:English



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In his first collection of short stories John Grisham takes us back to Ford County, Mississippi, the setting of his first novel, A Time to Kill.

Wheelchair-bound Inez Graney and her two older sons, Leon and Butch, take a bizarre road trip through the Mississippi Delta to visit the youngest Graney brother, Raymond, who's been locked away on death row for eleven years. It could well be their last visit.

Mack Stafford, a hard-drinking and low-grossing run-of-the-mill divorce lawyer gets a miracle phone call with a completely unexpected offer to settle some old, forgotten cases for more money than he has ever seen. Mack is suddenly bored with the law, fed up with his wife and his life, and makes drastic plans to finally escape.

Quiet, dull Sidney, a data collector for an insurance company, perfects his blackjack skills in hopes of bringing down the casino empire of Clanton's most ambitious hustler, Bobby Carl Leach, who, among other crimes, has stolen Sidney's wife.

Three good ol' boys from rural Ford County begin a journey to the big city of Memphis to give blood to a grievously injured friend. However, they are unable to drive past a beer store as the trip takes longer and longer. The journey comes to an abrupt end when they make a fateful stop at a Memphis strip club.

The Quiet Haven Retirement Home is the final stop for the elderly of Clanton. It's a sad, languid place with little controversy, until Gilbert arrives. Posing as a lowly paid bedpan boy, he is in reality a brilliant stalker with an uncanny ability to sniff out the assets of those "seniors" he professes to love.

One of the hazards of litigating against people in a small town is that one day, long after the trial, you will probably come face-to-face with someone you've beaten in a lawsuit. Lawyer Stanley Wade bumps into an old adversary, a man with a long memory, and the encounter becomes a violent ordeal.

Clanton is rocked with the rumor that the gay son of a prominent family has finally come home, to die. Of AIDS. Fear permeates the town as gossip runs unabated. But in Lowtown, the colored section of Clanton, the young man finds a soul mate in his final days.

Featuring a cast of characters you'll never forget, these stories bring Ford County to vivid and colorful life. Often hilarious, frequently moving, and always entertaining, this collection makes it abundantly clear why John Grisham is our most popular storyteller.
 
 
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"Ford County: Stories"
By John Grisham

Average Rating:

This book has not been rated


The Gentleman
The Gentleman
By Forrest Leo

 
 
 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.
 
 

1. How do the small-town lawyers in Ford County compare to some of the high-powered attorneys featured in John Grisham’s other works? What struggles and temptations do they all have in common?

2. When Roger, Aggie, and Calvin decided to travel to Memphis to give blood in “Blood Drive,” what were they each hoping to gain? Was Calvin the only one who lost his innocence on the trip? What ultimately was your impression of Bailey—the character we only meet through hearsay?

3. In “Fetching Raymond,” Inez Graney and her sons Leon and Butch don’t see Raymond’s situation in quite the same way. What accounts for the difference between Raymond and his brothers? What determines whether someone will end up on the wrong side of the law?

4. John Grisham’s first work of nonfiction, The Innocent Man, recounted the story of Ron Williamson, who was sentenced to death for the 1982 murder of an Oklahoma waitress despite a spurious trial. In the fictional Raymond Graney’s case, we’re told on page 75 that he confessed to Butch, and that Butch and Leon knew their brother had ambushed Coy. Nonetheless, was it right for Raymond to receive the death penalty?

5. What drove Mack Stafford to go to such great lengths of dishonesty in his “Fish Files” escape? Was his life in Mississippi beyond salvage? Did he do any real harm in executing his brilliant plan?

6. What is Sidney Lewis’s best ammunition against Bobby Carl Leach? What really ruined Sidney and Stella’s marriage? Did money put it back together again at the end of “Casino,” or was something else at play?

7. In “Michael’s Room,” was Stanley in fact facing enormous lies of his past, or had he simply presented a different version of the truth in the courtroom? Why did Jim Cranwell lose his case? Could any amount of legislation have ensured a victory for him?

8. How did your perception of Gilbert Griffin change as you read “Quiet Haven”? What were your first impressions of him? Were you hoodwinked as well? Could someone like him dodge prosecution forever?

9. What does “home” mean to Emporia and Adrian in “Funny Boy”? What does their friendship prove about the people who make Clanton’s most powerful families feel threatened? What is Adrian’s greatest legacy to his newfound friend?

10. How do the residents of Ford County imagine city life—Memphis, San Francisco, New York? What determines whether they fear it or crave it?

11. What does Ford County tell us about the nature of small towns? What makes them safe havens? What makes them dangerous?

12. Whose lives are changed for the better by the legal agreements and maneuvers described in Ford County? What is the most significant factor in whether the law is a force for good or evil in these stories?

13. Tort reform has received much publicity in recent years. Discuss the question of damages raised in stories such as “Fish Files,” “Michael’s Room,” and “Quiet Haven.” When should an injured person be entitled to financial compensation? What should drive the dollar amount of that compensation?

14. Adrian reads much fiction by William Faulkner, who also created a fictional southern locale (Yoknapatawpha County) as the setting for many of his works. How does Grisham’s take on small-town Mississippi compare to Faulkner’s? What aspects of Ford County have remained unchanged since Grisham created it for A Time to Kill?

15. What makes Grisham’s approach to storytelling so appropriate for short fiction? Linked by time and place, do the stories in Ford County form a novel, in a way?

Clubie Submitted Discussion Questions
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Amazon.com Review

Amazon Exclusive: Pat Conroy Reviews Ford County 

Pat Conroy is most recently the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller South of Broad, as well as eight previous books: The BooThe Water Is WideThe Great SantiniThe Lords of DisciplineThe Prince of TidesBeach MusicMy Losing Season, and The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life. He lives on Fripp Island, South Carolina. Read his exclusive Amazon guest review of Ford County: 

In the mail last week, I received a copy of John Grisham’s latest fiction. It surprised me that the book was comprised of seven short stories. From the time I first began publishing at Doubleday, they have always made sure that I received a copy of a Grisham book long before it went on sale in the bookstores. He has written 22 books, and I’ve read them all as soon as they were available in crisp review copies.

I have loved the Grisham books for the same reason that I love the works of John Irving, Richard Russo, or Anne Rivers Siddons: I get hooked by an early page, and pure habit forces me to read until I am issued my walking papers and can return to my normal life. These writers are all wish-bringers who cast spells with the bright enchantment of their stories, and the power of story has retained its glamour and necessity for me. I’ve always liked it when Grisham took a sabbatical from his impressive fiction to romp in the field of sports or non-fiction.

John surprised me by entering the ring of danger that the short story represents for all writers. In the world of writing, the poets come first as they finger the language like worry beads and wonder where their next meal is coming from. The art of the short story writer is one of economy, concision, and the genius of trying to craft a whole world inside a mason jar. The modern world punishes the short story writer with inattention. The literary reviews keep the short story alive and finger-popping in America today, while the New Yorker tries to strangle the form with its bare hands. But a great short story is a source of joy, and the reading of Chekhov, de Maupassant, Flannery O’Connor and others offer pleasures unmatched by any other form. Since I’m incapable of writing the short story form, I wanted to see how Grisham fared, knowing the critics would sharpen their swords against him no matter how accomplished his stories might be.

Ford County is the best writing that John Grisham has ever done. One of the many things I’ve admired about his books is his intimate chronicle of Mississippi life in the generations following William Faulkner and Eudora Welty. Grisham writes equally well about the plantation south, the black south, and white-cracker south. Over the years he has used the legal system as an instrument to illuminate the world of mansions and sharecroppers and everything in between as he not only defined Mississippi but also staked it out as his home fictional territory. His short stories were a surprise to me. All of them are very good; three of them, I believe, are great. Grisham has always had a rare gift for breaking hearts when he invokes unforgettable images of the broken, hopeless South. Some of the stories are hilarious, and Grisham’s gift of humor has never found a showcase like this. One of these stories should find its way into the anthologies of the best short stories of 2009. It might not happen, but I for one think the stories in Ford County are that damned good.--Pat Conroy

(Photo © David G. Spielman)


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About the Author
Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, Grisham has written one novel a year (his other books are The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, and The Broker) and all of them have become international bestsellers. The Innocent Man (October 2006) marks his first foray into non-fiction.


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