Turow's novel "The Burden of Proof" is the sequel to his first mega-successful novel "Presumed Innocent". In writing "Presumed Innocent" a genre, legal thriller, was re-invigorated and became instantly popular. Much in the same way and for similar reasons, Ian Fleming's, James Bond, novels became instantly popular in the 50s and 60s with the events of the cold war. The Iran Contra hearing is one of the reasons the legal thriller genre became so popular in the 80s and 90s. Scott Turow, John Grisham, Ian Fleming, and John LeCarre are all professionals working in the same field their books were written about. Fleming and Grisham both produced/produce on average a book a year which is written using a particular formula, and both are considered less serious writer in their genres. Turow and Le Carre produce/produced on average one book every three years and are considered more serious writer in their genres the way they purposefully mix the genres to achieve a high suspenseful level of complexity.
"The Burden of Proof" was released three years after Turow's first mega successful fictional novel "Presumed Innocent". In 1987, when "Presumed Innocent" was released it became an instant bestseller. "Presumed Innocent" remained on New York Times bestseller list for forty-four weeks, eight of those weeks it was listed number one, and remained on Publisher's Weekly bestseller list for forty-three weeks holding number one for ten of those weeks. By November of 1987 700,000 hardback copies of "Presumed Innocent" had been sold. One of the reviewers raved "Presumed Innocent" is without a doubt a ambitious and absorbing novel, the work of profoundly gifted writer with a fine, distinctive voice." (Stephanie Osbourne, "Presumed Innocent" Database entry) Turow instantly became a household name with this profoundly successful novel, a rare event for most authors first fictional novel. This type of success and popularity opened the doors for Turow's second novel "The Burden of Proof". Upon "The Burden of Proof" release in June of 1990 it promptly became a number one bestseller on both the New York Times and Publisher's Weekly bestseller list.
Turow reinvigorated the legal thriller genre with "Presumed Innocent". Some believe this genre became so popular because of world events. During the release of "Presumed Innocent" American's were glued to their televisions watching the litigation of the Iran Contra hearings. Much like in the 50s and 60s with the events of the cold war being the center of everyone's attention the spy thriller genre became instantly popular. Novels by Ian Fleming, James Bond, and Le Carre, "The Spy who came in from the Cold", became huge bestsellers. In the 50s and 60s Fleming's, James Bond, novels were made into blockbuster movies. Le Carre novels were also made into popular movies and popular television miniseries while not performing as well as the James Bond movies. During this time television shows such as I Spy, the Saint, and Mission Impossible became popular. It seemed as though American's, the World, couldn't get enough of, spy thrillers. Much like in the 80s and 90s when legal thriller movies from Turow and Grisham became blockbusters, popular television miniseries, and several law themed television shows appeared such as Law and Order, currently in their 15th year, Matlock, and JAG became and remain very popular. Fictional Law thriller television shows weren't the only popular law themed shows; shows such as Judge Wapner and Judge Judy became very popular and currently air during daytime hours on many television stations. Even Playboy jumped on the law craze with their version of Judge Wapner and Judge Judy, just with a twist, called Sex Court.
Scott Turow is a practicing lawyer who writes legal thrillers. Grisham, while he is not currently practicing, is a lawyer who also writes legal thriller. Fleming and Le Carre were both spies who wrote spy thrillers. Having worked in the field of their subject matter gives the Authors the advantage to create a more realism through out their novels with the attention to detail. The CIA criticized Le Carre's novel "The Spy who came in from the Cold" as being to realistic and hurting the reputation of the department. Ian Fleming's character, James Bond, is thought to be a prototype of Fleming even to having similar physical characteristics. Grisham gives details to his courtroom scenes but he lacks details on the characters in his novel. One reviewer, from Times Union stated "Grisham's books are more like screen plays, populated by one-or at best two-dimensional characters (Times Union 8/7/87). The reviewer went on to say that this was why Grisham's books have been turned into such popular movies stating, "There is nothing to simplify. Bring in star actors and let them by their very presence define the characters, because the men and women in Grisham's tales have such little identity" (Times Union 8/7/87). This is somewhat true with Ian Fleming's, James Bond, character. Actors such as Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Pierce Bronson while having general physical characteristics (tall, thin, and dark hair) the actors themselves help further define Bond's character. Creating the legend James Bond; the person everyone wants to be.
Fleming and Grisham novels were both written using a formula. Formulas give the readers a comfortable level of familiarity with their books. Readers know the basic storyline and probable outcome prior to reading the novels. They know they will like Grisham's or Fleming's novels prior to purchasing them. In most cases these authors tend to write with simpler "Reader Friendly" language. This style of writing also allows the writer to produce novels faster. Fleming and Grisham on average produced/produce a book a year. The Authors are also credited as being less serious writers within their genres. When Laura Lippman, from the Baltimore Sun, asked Turow about John Grisham, Turow's response was "I always tread lightly here" but he went on to say, "The truth is, I don't have the same ambitions. There are many things to admire about John Grisham's work. He has the broadest readership probably of any American novelist working. His books are going to be read by junior high school students, blue-haired ladies in their 80s and everyone in-between. That, I think is very much by design, and I give him credit for that. There is much more about his story telling that is utterly seamless. But, I obviously tarry longer with characters and language. John is far and away the most popular of the lawyer writers, and god bless him for it. When my 12 year-old asked if she could read "Personal Injuries", I said, go ahead and try but I doubt she'll be able to" (The Baltimore Sun 10/17/99). Turow and Le Carre are different type of writer than Fleming and Grisham. Their books do just as well as Grisham's and Fleming's but their writing styles are very different. Turow and Le Carre don't use formulas to write their novels. Turow and Le Carre deliberately mix the genres to create complex characters, dialogue, and plot through out their novels. In "The Burden of Proof" Turow purposefully mixes the genre of legal thriller with that of psychological and emotional thriller. Sandy Stern, Turow's main character, is forced through out the novel to examine his own life as he would one of his clients. Le Carre mixes the spy thriller genre with the romance genre in his novel "The Russian House". Turow and Le Carre produce/Produced on average one book everyone three years and both have received many reviews complimenting the literary quality of their novels.
"The Burden of Proof" being the sequel to Turow's first mega successful fictional novel "Presumed Innocent" which reinvigorated the legal thriller genre because of events with the Iran Contra hearings causing American's seemingly unable to get enough of it in the 80s and 90s. Turow, and other authors, being a professional in the their subject matter aids to the popularity of the genre. Unlike Grisham, Turow deliberately not using a formula and purposefully mixing the genres to create a high suspenseful level of complexity in his characters, dialogue, and plot to produce a number one bestseller.
Database Entry by Brandis Russell, Turow, Scott: "Pleading Guilty"
Database entry by Stephanie Osborn, Turow, Scott: "Presumed Innocent"
Database entry by Lonette Merriman, Grisham, John: "The Pelican Brief"
Database entry by Jeff Braintwain, Grisham, John: "The Client"
Database entry by Meegan Yates, Grisham, John: "The Firm"
Database entry by Katie Sachs, Grisham, John: "The Chamber"
Database entry by Jill Johnson, Fleming, Ian: "The Man with the Golden Gun"
Database entry by Joseph Maloney, Fleming, Ian: "You Only Live Twice"
Database entry by Edward Martin, Le Carre, John: "The Spy who Came in from the Cold"
Database entry by Nate Hagerty, Le Carre, John: "The Russia House"
Database entry by Jason Hoffman, Le Carre, John: "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"
The Baltimore Sun 10/17/1999
Times Union 12/7/1997
The Chronicle Publishing Co 6/12/1990
The Washington Post 6/9/1990
Bestseller Index All Books, Publisher's Weekly and the New York Times through 1990 PG 309.