Grisham, John: The Firm
(researched by Meegan Yates)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

Grisham, John. The Firm. New York, New York: Doubleday, 1991. Copyright 1991 by John Grisham. All rights reserved. Although Doubleday also publishes in London, Toronto, Sydney, and Auckland, I have not been able to find sufficient evidence that the book was simultaneously published in any of these places. I will continue to try to locate this information. Source: First edition of the book.

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

3. The First American Edition was published in trade cloth binding. I cannot find a paperback published in the same year. In looking at the Random House homepage (Doubleday is a branch of Random House), the first paperback seems to have been published in 1992.

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

216 leaves, pp. [10] 1 - 421 [422].

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?

This edition is neither edited nor introduced

6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?

6. The only illustrations in the book appear on one of the title pages and on each chapter page. It is a simple black and white (almost a sketch) top part of a column. No illustrator is listed.

7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

Measurement of page: 9.25" X 6". Measurement of top and bottom margins: a little over 1". Measurement of side margins: a little under 1". Size of type: 57R. The print is large and clear, which makes it easy to read. It is printed with dark black ink that is not smudged. No type description is noted. At the beginning of each chapter, the first letter is the same size as three lines of the print regularly used in this book. Also, the first two to four words of each chapter are written in all caps. My copy of the book does not have a book jacket.

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

The paper is rather thick and has a rough texture. This particular copy of the book shows not signs of wear and tear. The corners and edges of the paper are still straight and crisp. The color of the paper is on off-white, but does not appear to have stained or dulled with time. This book has only been published for 9 years, and this copy does not appear to have been read often.

11 Description of binding(s)

The binding is black cloth on the spine and about 2 inches from the spine onto both the front and the back of the book. There, the cloth is replaced by a thick, smooth black paper which wraps around the remainder of the front and back. There is no stamping on either the front or the back of the binding. The end-papers are a tan color. Transcription of spine: /The/Firm/[column illustration]/ JOHN/GRISHAM/[Doubleday illustration]/DOUBLEDAY

12 Transcription of title page

It appears that this edition has three title pages. The first is the first unnumbered page. The transcription is simple: /The Firm/, and the back is blank. The transcription for the second title page on the fifth unnumbered page is: /JOHN GRISHAM/[solid line]/The Firm/ [column illustration], and the back contains the publication and copyright information. The transcription of the third page which is the ninth unnubered page is the same as the first, and the back page is also blank.

13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

I have not been able to locate the original manuscript yet, however there are several drafts of The Firm which were donated by John Grisham to Mississippi State University and are located in the "John Grisham Room" in the University library. Source: Mississippi State University homepage.

15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

In this version, there is a dedication to Grisham's wife, ReneË, on the seventh unnumbered page which reads, "To ReneË". There is also an advertisement for another John Grisham book on the third unnumbered page which reads, "Also by John Grisham/A TIME TO KILL". A University of Virginia Libraries stamp is on the front endpage. Also, a film version of The Firm came out in 1993. By the time the film was released, there were more than 7 million copies of the firm in print. Source: The Gale Group: Contemporary Authors. Something I found interesting was in searching through the Random House WebPage, I found three copies of The Firm. Each had a different front cover. The first was a hardback published in 1991 ( I assume a first edition). The front cover had a green background with "The FIRM" in yellow letters and a man in a suit with a briefcase hanging from the I and R. The 1992 paperback version had a brown background with "The Firm" written in white and "John Grisham" written in gold. This cover showed a cropped picture of a conference table lined with chairs leading to three windows at the end. "The Firm" is written in large letters above the picture and "John Grisham" is written below the picture. The cover of the 1997 paperback version is gray, both the background and the letters. The picture is the shadow of a man with a briefcase looming over the book. "The Firm" and "John Grisham" are written over the picture. Source: Random House homepage.

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A

Doubleday, the original publisher, is a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. Another edition of The Firm was published by Dell the same year of the first edition. The first edition contains 431 pages and this edition contains 501 pages. Dell also published a 1992 edition.

2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

There were 50,000 first printings of the first edition. Source: Infotrak (excerpt from Publisher's Weekly)

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

[S.1.] Wing and the Wheel, 199u 1999. London: Penguin, 1995. Source: Books in Print.

6 Last date in print?

This book is still in print as of February 28, 2000. Grisham also has several other books still in print, including The Partner, The Chamber, The Client, and Pelican Brief. Source: Books in Print.

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

The Firm was published in 1991 and by the time the film version was released in 1993, there were over 7 million copies of the book in print. Source: The Gale Group: Contemporary Authors.

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)

According to the Bowker Annual of 1992, The Firm sold 544,079 copies in 1991. (Excerpted in Bowker from Publisher's Weekly, April 6, 1992.)

9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

In the January 24, 1991 edition of Publisher's Weekly, there was a page that included Doubleday releases scheduled for the coming spring and summer. There was a brief advertisement for The Firm which read: The Firm ($19.95) by John Grisham. A series of murders threatens the members of a prestigious law firm. I thumbed through Publisher's Weekly beginning with January 1990, then also the 6 months prior to The Firm's release, but I was unable to find any picture advertisements or even any advertisements promoting primarily The Firm or John Grisham.

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion

Underneath the small advertisement I found in Publisher's Weekly, the words -Ad/promo. Readers Digest Condensed Books Selection - appeared. However, I was unable to find any more information about any possible promotion of the book by Readers Digest.

12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A

Title: The Firm Publication info: [Hollywood, CA] : Paramount Pictures, 1993. Description: videocassette (154 min.) General notes: Based on the book by John Grisham. Academy screening ed. Originally released as a motion picture. Letterbox format. Editors: William Steinkamp, Fredric Steinkamp. Director of photography: John Seale. Executive producers: Michael Hausman, Lindsay Doran. Screenplay: David Rabe, Robert Towne, David Rayfiel. Director: Sydney Pollack. Source: Books in Print.

13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

There are several translations including: Warszawa: Amber, 1998 1991. (Polish) [S.1.] : Le Grand Livre bu mois, 1992. Warszawa: aSwiat Ksinaczki, 1996. (Polish) Paris: Robert Laffont, 1992. (French) Barcelona: Planeta, 1998. (Spanish) Seoul: Sigong-sa, 1991. Porvoo: Werner SËoderstrËom OsakeyhtiËo, 1992. Athens: Pataki, 1992. (Greek) MËunchen: Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, 1992. (German) Minsk: Belfaks, 1993. (Russian) Source: Books in Print.

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A


15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A


Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

(For a biographical overview of John Grisham, please see the entries in the database by Katie Sachs, Lonette Merriman, and Jeff Braintwain on Grisham's The Chamber, The Pelican Brief, and The Client, respectively.) Although John Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, did not send him soaring into success, Grisham did not let this hinder his passion for writing. While he was in search of a publisher for A Time to Kill, Grisham was working on his next novel, The Firm. Grisham was a busy man during this time. He was also serving on the legislature in his state of Mississippi and practicing law. How did he find time to write? According to Grisham, "The bulk of the first two books, A Time to Kill and The Firm? was written at five o'clock in the morning, from five 'til seven in the morning" Grisham also added, "By the time I had finished it [A Time to Kill], I had developed a routine of writing every day. When I finished it, I went to the next book, The Firm. Once that was written, everything started changing" (Achievement). Everything did change for Grisham. While he was working on his second novel, The Firm, Grisham decided not to seek re-election to the state legislature and he also closed his law practice in order to concentrate on his writing (Achievement). His determination paid off, because The Firm made John Grisham a household name. Before The Firm's publication in 1991, Grisham sold the movie rights in 1990 for $600,000. This was a huge achievement after A Time to Kill sold a mere 5,000 copies to begin with. However, The Firm was no disappointment to Grisham, spending 47 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and becoming the best-selling paperback on the Publisher's Weekly best-selling list. After The Firm's success, A Time to Kill also became widely published. After his success with The Firm, Grisham has continued to produce a novel a year, all of which have ended up on best-seller lists. However, it is interesting that although The Firm is the novel that sparked Grisham's success and all of his following books have been equally successful, A Time to Kill is "still the author's favorite" (Mr. Showbiz). But Grisham does give credit where credit is due, "we had a life before all of this happened - we call it BF, before The Firm, that's how we judge time" (Achievement). Grisham continues to write for six months out of the year, still producing a novel each year. Although his writing is very intense and he enjoys all of the fame that The Firm has brought his way, Grisham delights in the simple things in life. According to Grisham, "Ten years from now I plan to be sitting here, looking out over my land. I hope I'll be writing books, but if not, I'll be on my pond fishing with my kids. I feel like the luckiest guy I know" (Mr. Showbiz). Works Cited: Mr. Showbiz Celebrities ( American Academy of Achievement (

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

John Grisham's novel, The Firm, is credited for heralding his huge success as a writer. All of his legal thrillers since the publishing of The Firm have been compared to its success. Although Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, sold a mere 5,000 copies, since The Firm, immense popularity has been coming his way. So, with such an extremely popular novel, sending Grisham into instant fame and making him a household name, what could critics possibly find wrong with his books? Marilyn Stasio, a reviewer for the The New York Times, does not agree with Grisham's idea of a hero. In reference to Mitch McDeere, Stasio writes, "If this money-grubbing worm is what passes for a hero in today's legal profession, we'll stick with Portia." She also adds, "Mr. Grisham? writes with such a relish about the firm's devious legal practices that his novel might be taken as a how-to manual for ambitious tax-law students" (1991). Pagan Kennedy from Voice Literary Supplement also chose not to just give Grisham a big pat on the back. Kennedy points out that Grisham "concentrates less on his characters than on their conspicuous consumption." He also accuses Grisham of writing with an edge of racism. Kennedy does not choose to see the racism in the book as the author's way of portraying the racism that may still exist in a southern city such as Memphis. He writes, "The plot moves so quickly? you almost don't notice the bumps in the road, namely, the author's racism." In a final analysis of Grisham's blockbuster novel, Kennedy writes, "Reading this book was much like living in the '80s - you're repulsed, mesmerized, and glad it's over" (1991). Still, although some critics chose not to buy into Grisham's instant success with The Firm, other critics agreed with the general public. Barbara Conaty of Library Journal refers to Grisham as a "laser-sharp candidate for the best recent updating of the David and Goliath story" and she praises Grisham for his "suspense, wit, and polished writing." She also adds, "The author?has in this first novel set a daringly high standard, one that his readers will hope he can reach again and again" (1991). And that is exactly what he has done. Sources used: Conaty, Barbara. Library Journal. V.116. (Jan. 1991). Pg. 150. Rpt. in Book Review Digest. ( Kennedy, Pagan. Voice Literary Supplement. V. 97. (July/Aug. 1991). Pg. 7. Rtp. in Book Review Digest. ( Stasio, Marilyn. The New York Times Book Review. (March 24, 1991). Pg. 37.

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

I have not been able to find any recent reviews of John Grisham's The Firm. The only thing I have been able to find are many mentions of The Firm in reviews of Grisham's later novels in which these novels are compared to the success of The Firm, but they only mention facts such as the amount of the The Firm stayed at the top of the Bestsellers list. Also, there are brief appraisals of The Firm on websites which are selling the novel, but I did not consider those reviews.

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

John Grisham's novel The Firm became a bestseller in 1991. Having been published for just under 10 years, The Firm is still widely sold and read. Some could say that the reason for this continuing popularity of The Firm is due to the name that Grisham has made for himself. Because Grisham has become a household name with contemporary readers, all of Grisham's books continue to sell. We have seen this to be true with other contemporary novelists as well, such as Stephen King and Danielle Steele. However, although this could be partially true in The Firm's continuing popularity and I also believe this to be the case with some of Grisham's most recent books, (mostly selling the name of the author itself), this was not true initially in the case of The Firm. Grisham had made an attempt at making a name for himself with his first novel, A Time to Kill, but to his disappointment, it sold a mere initial 5,000 copies. The Firm was his second attempt. It seems that many people do not even realize A Time To Kill was actually published before The Firm, because its popularity, along with Grisham's, only began after the publication of The Firm. As a matter of fact, New York Times reviewer Marilyn Stasio and Library Journal's Barbara Conaty both refer to The Firm as a "first novel." So, even though it is tempting to accredit The Firm's popularity to the love of the author himself, we must delve further into this novel to see what it is actually telling us about bestsellers. The name, John Grisham, did not bring fame to The Firm. The Firm, on the other hand, brought fame to John Grisham, and there are reasons why. One category of bestsellers that The Firm readily fits into is that of legal thrillers. Readers enjoy legal thrillers because the law and legal system are supposed to protect us, but in actuality, there are several ways to twist it and it seems to always prove unpredictable. This unpredictability and amiable quality of the legal system peaks readers interest. The possibilities for plotlines in legal thrillers never seem to cease, just as legal cases in the world and in the media always continue. People enjoy the sense of being able to judge other people and their actions. Some of the most well-known and remembered events of the past few years have included the OJ Simpson trial, the case of Jon Bennett Ramsey, the Monica Lewinski trial, and most recently, the case of Elian Gonzales. Each of these cases has taken us into the courtroom and into the workings of the judicial system. Big networks have fought over coverage of these trials, and the ratings have been phenomenal. This is what legal thrillers, such as Grisham's, also give us. They take us into the courtroom and allow us to be the judge and jury. Grisham has been extremely successful in this category, not only with The Firm, but in fact, all of his current novels fit into it. However, The Firm does not actually take us into the courtroom. It instead gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of a law firm. It actually gives us a glimpse of those things the media cannot show us. This makes The Firm even more appealing. Although we can typically see courtroom proceedings, we cannot tangibly touch what goes on behind closed doors. But in The Firm, we can. When asked if he would ever consider branching out and writing about something other than law, Grisham replied, "One day, and I don't know when, I'll write other types of books. But not in the near future. I'd be foolish to abandon this genre at this time" (Book Reporter). Another trend in bestsellers that I think The Firm follows is the author's inside position on his subject. Attending law school and practicing law in Mississippi himself, we know that Grisham has experience in the material about which he writes. This allows the reader to not only get an inside glimpse of something he or she may not typically know a lot about, but it also causes the reader to be more apt to believe the story and what it is talking about. In Joseph Maloney's database entry on Ian Fleming's James Bond novel, You Only Live Twice, he also writes about the importance of this in bestselling novels, "the point? is clearly to get readers to think of Fleming himself as a man of action, a spy even. Even if the public does not go so far as to believe that Fleming is a real-life Bond, they at least want to feel that he knows what he's talking about in his spy thrillers" (Assignment 5). Another example of this is Betty Smith's novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. She was actually born on the same date as her heroine, Francie (although five years earlier) and she herself grew up in "the very world she re-creates? in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" (First Perennial). Although Francie is a fictional character, Smith maintains a respect from her audience because readers feel that she is not merely speculating about what this child experiences. She has gone through the hardships herself, and therefore has somehow earned the right to write about it. Grisham is not a real-life Mitch McDeere, either. But he has somehow earned the right to write about him. Knowing that Grisham did in fact practice law, readers do sense some real basis for his story, which makes it all the more appealing and captivating. One reader writes, "I think John Grisham is the best writer who has ever lived. Judging by his other books, I think he is good because he knows what he is talking about" (amazon). In one interview with Grisham, he was asked how helpful he felt his legal training was in writing legal fiction. His response was, "Crucial. I seriously doubt I would ever have written the first story had I not been a lawyer. I never dreamed of being a writer. I wrote only after witnessing a trial" (Book Reporter). Another aspect of Grisham's The Firm, and his novels in general, that seems to be repetitive in bestselling novels is a retelling of the David and Goliath story. The David and Goliath story has been popular throughout history. There are many more average or below-average people in the world than there are giants, whether it be physically, mentally, educationally, politically, etc. People enjoy seeing people like themselves, the smaller character with all odds against him, step up and overcome the larger, oppressive giant. Many of Grisham's books are written in this way. His first novel, A Time to Kill, has a poor, young black girl and her father defeat racism. The Rainmaker is about a rookie lawyer, Rudy, who by his charm and big heart defeats a monopolizing insurance company. In The Client, a young boy and his lawyer defeat the Mafia. Grisham himself admits to being a fan of this type of story, which is obvious in reading his novels. Mitch McDeere's struggle to defeat his Memphis firm and its Mafia owners is no exception. Grisham makes sure to stack the odds heavily against McDeere, making him young, poor, and vulnerable. He is presented as an extremely intelligent young man coming from a broken home who has already overcome extreme odds to even get here. That is why the firm believes they can sucker him in, he has already fought to get where he wants to be. But the spark in McDeere is inextinguishable, even for the Mafia. Conaty again writes, "[Grisham is] a laser-sharp candidate for the best recent updating of the David and Goliath story" (Library Journal). There are several categories that The Firm fits into to make it a bestseller, but there is also one it does not fit into that I think contributes to its success as well. Most stories have a happy ending, or at least a resolved one. However, in the Firm, although the McDeere's successfully get away on their boat at the end, there is no guarantee of their safety. We are made aware through the entire unfolding of the plot that the McDeeres will always be in danger. Mitch keeps reminding us, "The Mob never forgets?" (237). Even though the man who picks them up on the boat has successfully eluded the Mafia for years, there are still no guarantees. We leave the McDeeres on an island, wondering where they will be tomorrow and what will happen to them. We can feel their uneasiness, and we also walk away from the book with a feeling of uneasiness and without complete resolution. The producers of the film version of The Firm also felt uneasy about this ending. They changed the end completely, giving the dealings of the McDeeres with the Mafia total closure and ensuring a safe, happy life there afterwards. There are varying opinions on the ending of the novel. One reader writes, "Don't be fooled by the film portrayal with Tom Cruise where the ending has been Holywoodised. You will be held with the suspense and impending danger throughout making it totally addictive," and another argues, "The ending of the film - an excellent adaptation - is altogether much more satisfactory- and satisfying" (amazon). I think the fact that The Firm breaks this basic rule of tightly packaged endings adds to its success as a novel. The reader does not merely close the pages and walk away from the story completely. He or she is forced to put down the book still thinking about the McDeeres and wondering how their lives will turn out. There is a reason for Grisham's ending the book with the McDeeres on the run instead of happily at home, like in the film adaptation. In one interview he explains, "I have a fascination with life on the run. I really get into it? It's not as difficult as it may seem, to disappear?. Of course, I never told my clients to get out of town? one guy?went to jail and he escaped?. I was pulling for the guy not to get caught" (Book Page). Grisham's The Firm has many great aspects that make it a bestseller. Being a relatively recently published book, the general popularity of anything having to do with the law and legal system, whether in print or the media, has definitely contributed to the novel's success. That combined with the ever-popular story of David and Goliath make the novel a book for the masses. Yet, the mere contents of the book do not contain all we need to know about bestsellers. Although the name John Grisham did not in any way influence the initial selling of The Firm, the writer John Grisham did. His inside knowledge of the subject gives the novel a certain appeal and life-like quality, but there is one more component of Grisham's writing that shines through - his excitement. In speaking of his writing career, Grisham admits, "this is my third career in ten years. But it's the most fun I've ever had" (BookPage) Sources: Conaty, Barbara. Library Journal. v.116. January, 1991. p.150. Customer comments. Grisham, John. The Firm. Doubleday: New York, 1991. p.237. Kanner, Ellen. Interview. BookPage. March, 1992. Kornbluth, Jesse. Interview. Book Reporter. 1997. Maloney, Joseph. Essay on You Only Live Twice. Bestsellers Database. Smith, Betty. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. First Perennial Classics: New York, 1998. p.un-numbered (would be 485). Stasio, Marilyn. New York Times Book Review. March 24, 1991. p.37.

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