Grisham, John: The Runaway Jury
(researched by Krista Peters)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
John Grishamís, The Runaway Jury, was published in June 1996 by Doubleday, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1540 Broadway, New York, New York. The copyright 1996 is held by the author, John Grisham. In addition to the regular first edition, a parallel large print edition and a limited edition were also published.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first edition of the novel is in hardback, charcoal colored board, with a black cloth binding around the outside of the spine.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
There are 208 leaves, 401 pages, and 43 chapters in the novel. [12] [1] 2-8 [9]10-17 [18] 19-29 [30] 31-42 [43] 44-52 [53] 54-64 [65] 66-75 [76] 77-86 [87] 88-96 [97] 98-106 [107] 108-115 [116] 117-124 [125] 126-138 [139] 140-150 [151] 152-160 [161] 162-177 [178] 179-187 [188] 189-195 [196] 197-203 [204] 205-211 [212] 213-222 [223] 224-228 [229] 230-423 [244] 245-250 [251] 252-261 [262] 263-267 [268] 269-276 [277] 278-284 [285] 286-294 [295] 296-302 [303] 304-313 [314] 315-320 [321] 322-328 [329] 330-336 [337] 338-344 [345] 346-351 [352] 353-357 [358] 359-366 [367] 368-373 [374] 375-380 [381] 382-388 [389] 390-397 [398] 399-401 [3].
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
The Runaway Jury has no introduction however, there is a dedication after the title page that is transcribed; To the memory of | Tim Hargrove | (1953-1995). There is also a page of Acknowlegments which is transcribed: [57mm rule] | Acknowledgments | [57mm rule] |
ONCE AGAIN, I am indebted to my friend Will Denton, now of Bi- | loxi Mississippi, for providing much of the research and many of the | stories upon which this one is based; and to his lovely wife Lucy, for | the hospitalities extended to me while I was on the Coast. | Thanks also to Glenn Hunt of Oxford, Mark Lee of Little Rock, | Robert Warren of Bogue Chitto; and to Estelle, for finding more mis- | takes than I care to think about.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
There are no illustrations in the novel.
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?)
The Book dimensions are 1.35"x 9.56"x 6.48", while the page dimensions are 23.5cmx 15.0cm. The type size is 85R, and there are about 22 mm margins around the outside of the text. The pages are easily readable and the book itself is of good size and quality, with no deterioration or flaws as of 2002.
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 used in the novel is thick, slightly cream colored paper. There is no staining or yellowing on the pages. There are also no tears. The paper is in excellent condition as of 2002.
11 Description of binding(s)
The binding is a 1.35" wide black cloth binding. There are thirteen gatherings of pages in the stitched binding with 16 leaves each. The front cover is charcoal gray with John Grishamís signature in copper gilt embossed on the bottom right hand corner. The text on the binding is in copper gilt and reads horizontally The Runaway Jury John Grisham. In addition, the symbol for Doubleday publishers, of an anchor and a dolphin, is vertically embossed in gilt copper and the name DOUBLEDAY is in gilt copper underneath the symbol. There are two thick rust-colored leaves inside the jacket of the book that are part of the binding.
12 Transcription of title page
The title page is actually two pages. The verso is transcribed: John | [63mm rule] | Grisham | [63mm rule] | Doubleday | New York | London | Toronto | Sydney | Auckland | The next recto page is transcribed: The | [63mm rule] | Runaway | [63mm Rule] | Jury The following verso side of the title page is transcribed: [doubleday symbol of anchor and dolphin] | PUBLISHED BY DOUBLEDAY | a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc. | 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036 | [ space] | DOUBLEDAY and the portrayal of an anchor with a dolphin | are trademarks of Doubleday, a division of | Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. | [space] | This novel is a work of fiction. The characters, names, incidents, dialogue, and plot | are the products of the authorís imagination or are used fictitiously. | Any resemblance to actual persons, companies, or events is purely coincidental | [space] | Book design by Paul Randall Mize. | Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data. | Grisham, John. | The Runaway Jury / John Grisham.- 1st edition | p. cm. | I. Title. | PS3557.R5355R8 1996 | 813í.54-dc20 9613872 | CIP | ISBN 0-385-47294-3 | ISBN 0-385-48015-6 (large print) | ISBN 0-385-48016-4 9 (limited edition) | Copyright 1996 by John Grisham | All Rights Reserved | Printed in the United States of America | June 1996 | First Edition | 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
Typed versions of most of the chapters in The Runaway Jury can be found in the John Grisham Special Collections exhibit at Mississippi State University, along with manuscripts of several other books by the author.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
One of the introductory pages inside the novel lists the other works by John Grisham and it is transcribed: ALSO BY JOHN GRISHAM | A Time to Kill | The Firm | The Pelican Brief | The Client | The Chamber | The Rainmaker The front cover of the dust Jacket is illustrated with a background in different shades of green. There are images of statues which resemble those of statues seen on the outsides of courthouses. There is an image of a statue that represents the Lady of Justice who is supposed to be blind. The background is outlined in a thin line of shiny copper which goes around the outside perimeter of the cover. In boldface on the front cover of the jacket, the authorís name, John Grisham is printed in white and below his name in the same shiny copper as the outline is written, the | Runaway | Jury. The back cover of the dust jacket reproduces the same green images of statues and has the same copper outline. On the back there is a slogan written in white which reads,
Every Jury has a leader and the verdict belongs to him.
On the inside front flap of the dust jacket there is a small synopsis of the book which reads,
In Biloxi Mississippi, a landmark tobacco trial with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake begins routinely, then swerves mysteriously off course. The jury is behaving strangely, and at least one juror is convinced heís being watched. Soon they have to be sequestered. Then a tip from an anonymous young woman suggests she is able to predict the jurorsí increasingly odd behavior. Is the jury somehow being manipulated, or even controlled? If so, by whom? And more importantly, why?
The back inside flap has a photograph of John Grisham and a small description underneath the picture which reads,
John Grisham is the author of six previous novels. He lives with his family in Mississippi and Virginia. The jacket design is by Whitney G. Cookman.
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
The first publication of The Runaway Jury was in three editions. The first was the Hardcover, the second was Large Print, and the third was a Limited 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 2.8 million printings of the first edition.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
In addition to those publishers noted here, there have been several international publishers who have printed The Runaway Jury in translations. These publishers can be found in section 13. Grisham, John. The Runaway Jury, London: Arrow. 1996 Grisham, John. The Runaway Jury, Island Books 1997 Grisham, John, The Runaway Jury, Turtleback Books; Demco Media Limited Edition.Jan.1997
6 Last date in print?
The Runaway Jury is still in print in several editions and formats. The following are editions still in print: Grisham, John, The Runaway Jury, Dell Publishers. Mass Market Paperback. Feb. 1997 Grisham, John, The Runaway Jury, Island Books; Dell Publishing. Mass Market Paperback. Jan.1997 Grisham, John. The Runaway Jury, Turtleback Books; Demco Media. Limited Edition. ISBN: 0606181083 Grisham, John. The Runaway Jury, Doubleday Limited Edition. New York. June 1996 Grisham, John. The Runaway Jury, Doubleday Publishers. Hardcover Edition. New York May 1996
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
At the end of 1996, the total number of copies of The Runaway Jury sold were totaled at 2,775,000. While the number of copies sold to date is unknown, at the end of 1999, The Runaway Jury was number ten on the list of the top ten bestsellers of the decade. It spent 23 weeks on the top ten bestsellers lists in Publisher's Weekly in 1996 and seven weeks as the number one bestseller in Publisher's weekly in June and July of 1996.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
Sales Figures for The Runaway Jury are unknown, however, at the end of 1996, the year of its publication, Forbes magazine estimated that Grisham's income was thirty million. In the first week of its publication, combined sales at Walden and Barnes and Noble alone had sales of The Runaway Jury at an estimated $80,000.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
The following is a promotion in People Weekly magazine on May 20, 1996. The title is Smoke and Mirrors:
It doesn't take much digging to uncover the inspiration for John Grisham's new novel, The Runaway Jury, the story of a high-stakes lawsuit against a tobacco company, which arrives in bookstores this week. 'I hate the tobacco industry,'says Grisham,'they lie, they cover up, they give lip service to trying to prevent kids from smoking when it is known that the industry's survival depends on hooking the next generation.' On the other hand, Grisham doesn't have much sympathy for people who try to collect damages from the industry either. 'Everybody knows smoking can cause cancer,' he says, 'so if you do it for thirty-five years, why should you be able to sue?' Whether you do or don't, Grisham, 41, won't be your lawyer or anyone else's. With six blockbuster legal thrillers behind him- not to mention three films and three movies in the making- he never has to set foot in a court room again. And he would rather not. His return to court this year, after a seven year absence, to finish a case he had taken on in 1991,'scared me to death,' he says. 'They expected Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird, and I was a little rusty.' Following is an exclusive excerpt from The Runaway Jury. The article then proceeds with an excerpt from Chapter 2 of the novel.
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
While The Runaway Jury is not seen in other media such as stage or film, there are two occasions in which Grisham's novel was published alongside other novels in volumes. The following is publication information for those volumes: Reader's Digest Condensed Books Vol.1, Critical Judgement, Icon, Capitol Offense, The Runaway Jury, Palmer, Michael; Forsythe, Frederick; Mikulski, Barbara and Oates,Mary Louise; Grisham,John. Reader's Digest Association. Pleasantville,NY.1997 Penguin Readers Level 6. Saving Private Ryan, The Chamber, Snow Falling on Cedars, Wuthering Heights, Anna Karenina, Charles Dickens, The Runaway Jury, Cummings, Max Allen; Grisham John; Guterson; Bronte, Emily; Tolstoy, Leo; Dickens, Charles; Grisham, John. Harlow, Essex, England: Addison Wesley Longman/ Pearson Education. 1998
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
There are currently performances in tape and CD form. The Runaway Jury. John Grisham. Books on Tape Inc. Feb,1997. Read by Frank Muller. (12 cassettes) The Runaway Jury. John Grisham. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishers. (Abridged) Audio. May 1996. Read by Michael Beck (4 cassettes) The Runaway Jury. John Grisham. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishers. (Unabridged) Audio. Nov. 1996. Read by Michael Beck (12 cassettes) The Runaway Jury. John Grisham. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishers. (Abridged) Audio CD. May 1996. Performed by Michael Beck (5 CDs) While there are currently no other performances in other media, John Grisham sold the script of Runaway Jury for 8 million dollars. The script was adapted by Matthew Chapman. The cinematic release date will be in 2003 and the movie will star John Cusak (Say Anything), Dustin Hoffman ( Rainman), and Rachel Weisz ( Enemy at the Gates).
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
Grisham, John, El Jurado, Barcelona: Ediciones B. Spanish 1996, 1997 Grisham, John, El Jurado, Punto de Lectura, Madrid. Spanish 2000 Grisham, John, Shi Kong de Pei Shen Tuan, Taibei Shi: Zhi ku wen hua gu fen yu xian gong si. Chinese 2000 Grisham, John, Verdikt, Moskva: AST, Russia. 1998, 2000 Grisham, John, Lawa Przysieglych, Warszawa: Wydawn, Amber. Polish. Poland 1996, 2000,2001 Grisham, John, O juri, Editora Rocco: Rio de Janeiro. Portuguese 1998 Grisham, John, Das Urteil, Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe, German 1997 Grisham, John, Das Urteil, Munchen: Wilhelm Hayne Verlay, German 2000 Grisham, John, Baishen Hyoketsu, Tokyo: Shinchosa, Japanese 1997 Grisham, John, Sarajin Paesimwon, Soul: T'ukpyolsii, Sigongsa. Korean 1997 Grisham, John, Mishak-ha-mushba'im, Tel-Aviv: Zemorah-Bitan. Hebrew 1996 Grisham, John, La Giuria, Milano: A. Mondadori. Italian 1996, 1998 Grisham, John, Prisudata Roman, Sophiia: Obsidian. Bulgarian 1996 Grisham, John, De Utvalda, Stockholm: Albert Bonneis Forlay. Swedish 1996 Grisham, John, In heit Geding, Utrecht: AW Bruna Uitgivers BV. Dutch. 1996 Grisham, John, Le Maitre du Jeu, Paris: Le Grand Livre du Mois. French 1998 Grisham, John, Le Maitre du Jeu, Paris: R. Laffont. French 1998
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
There is no evidence of serialization of The Runaway Jury itself, however, it has been published in volume form along with other books. The following is publication information for those volumes. Reader's Digest Condensed Books Vol.1, Critical Judgement, Icon, Capitol Offense, The Runaway Jury, Palmer, Michael; Forsythe, Frederick; Mikulski, Barbara and Oates,Mary Louise; Grisham,John. Reader's Digest Association. Pleasantville,NY.1997 Penguin Readers Level 6. Saving Private Ryan, The Chamber, Snow Falling on Cedars, Wuthering Heights, Anna Karenina, Charles Dickens, The Runaway Jury, Cummings, Max Allen; Grisham John; Guterson; Bronte, Emily; Tolstoy, Leo; Dickens, Charles; Grisham, John. Harlow, Essex, England: Addison Wesley Longman/ Pearson Education. 1998
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
N/A
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
Please refer to the entries on The Chamber, by Katie Sachs and The Client, by Jeff Braintwain for a biographical overview of John Grisham. The Runaway Jury is John Grisham's seventh legal thriller and it deals with the complicated and controversial issue of whether or not the tobacco industry should be held responsible for the deaths of persons who smoke cigarettes. Grisham makes it clear through the plots of his previous novels about where he stands on issues of debatable subject matter, such as in The Rainmaker, in which a recent law school graduate takes down an insurance agency over its negligence in the case of a boy suffering from leukemia; or in The Firm in which a corrupt law firm is taken down by a single lawyer when he discovers its corrupt and illegal practices. It is clear from these previous novels that Grisham is against big industry, as the little man always triumphs over the corrupt and immoral practices of big business. However, with The Runaway Jury, Grisham's actual feelings may not be so revealed by the outcome of the novel. In an interview with People magazine in May of 1996, just before the publication of The Runaway Jury, Grisham states,
I hate the Tobacco Industry. They lie, they cover up, they give lip service to trying to prevent kids from smoking when it is known that the industry's survival depends on hooking the next generation.
And in a later interview with USA Today, Grisham similarly claims,
I have no respect for the industry. I don't own any tobacco stocks. I would not own tobacco stocks.
The descriptions of how unhealthy smoking is and the cynical way in which he depicts CEOs of the tobacco industries in the novel would appear to support these claims, however, Grisham is simultaneously unsympathetic to those persons who smoke and then sue these same firms. He states in the same USA Today interview that,
Jurors have always said ?everybody knows smoking is dangerous, so if you do it for thirty-five or forty years and you die, don't run to court and expect us to make you rich'?We all know somebody who has quit smoking.
Perhaps Grisham feels this way because surprisingly, Grisham himself, enjoys smoking cigars. In fact, he enjoys about four cigars a week according to an interview held with Katy Kelly of USA Today.
I cannot say that I am a non-smoker, but there's a big difference in (smoking cigars) and smoking cigarettes, three packs a day. You don't inhale cigars.
Grisham is able to see both sides of the issue in the real world, even though the novel does portray the tobacco industry in a rather more unflattering way than it does the claimant in the novel. It may also be because of this dual perspective that Grisham focuses equally on the concept of jury tampering as on the aspect of the tobacco industry in the novel. His inspiration for Runaway Jury is similar to that of the inspiration for his first novel, A Time to Kill, in that just as a real life court case of the rape of a twelve year old girl launched Grisham's career as a writer with Time, so the case of a trial in Mississippi inspired Runaway Jury. The trial was over whether a tobacco industry was to be held responsible for the death of the claimant's spouse and was tainted by rumors that the jury had been manipulated. Grisham states,
The alleged wrongdoing has been attributed to both sides. There were just so many stories about it. I don't know what's fact or fiction, but it's still talked about in legal circles in Mississippi.
Grisham turned these rumors into the tenth bestseller of the nineteen-nineties, with The Runaway Jury.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
John Grisham's seventh novel, The Runaway Jury, received a variety of mixed reviews when it was published. Because the novel has several levels, critics had several avenues upon which to focus criticism. Grisham, in Runaway Jury, not only deals with the corporate evils of Big Tobacco and on the legal issue of whether or not the tobacco industry should be held responsible for the injurious effects their products have on their consumers, it also brings the topic of jury tampering and manipulation into the center of the plot. Ironically, when the book was published in 1996, critics tended to like one aspect or the other, but usually were not overly enthusiastic about both. In the May 23rd 1996 edition of the NY Times, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote in his review of Runaway Jury,
True, the prose continues to be chunky, the dialogue merely adequate and the characters as unsubtle as pushpins. But the story cleverly exploits the literally burning issue of the tobacco industry's liability to smokers?The plot's eventual outcome is far more entertainingly unpredicatable than anything Mr. Grisham has done before?For once he is telling us a story of genuine significance.
Lehmann-Haupt, though he criticizes Grisham's writing of dialogue and unbelievable characters as well as inadvertently criticizes Grisham's other works by using such phrases such as "for once", believes that Grisham's novel is effective at getting at an significant issue. There are other critics who agree with him such as Mark Quartararo, from bookreporter.com who stated when the book came out that:
The Runaway Jury is timely if only because it fits neatly into the current debate on litigation reform and the limitation of huge punitive rewards in product liability cases.
Among others who took this viewpoint are David Gates from Newsweek. Gates also elaborated upon and advocated Grisham's addressing a contemporary issue that was prominent in courtrooms at the time it was published. While some critics believed that the focus on corporate evil was a highlight of the novel and that it made Runaway Jury stand out from other Grisham novels, several critics disagreed entirely with that viewpoint. USA Today reporter Deidre Donahue believed that the greatest aspect of Grisham's novel was his ability to illustrate jury tampering. She states in her article on May 27th,1996:
Many Americans believe that cigarette makers have their clothes specially tailored to hide their cloven hooves and pointed tails. It's simply not surprising when Grisham starts in with the companies targeting teen-agers or denying that nicotine is addictive? The most enjoyable aspects of Runaway Jury emerge from Grisham's clever delineation of how the jurors meld into a sometimes rebellious entity?Although he is famous for writing about lawyers, in fact, Grisham is one of few writers who accurately and empathetically describes working-class Americans of all races and both sexes.
To Donahue and others, such as Maclean's magazine, the theme of Big Tobacco's corrupt and evil ways was not a new or interesting idea. The most intriguing points to them lie in Grisham's depiction of the jury. While many critics differed on their enthusiasm towards the main themes of the novel; the tobacco industry and the prevalence of jury tampering in the legal system, and some, not including Lehman-Haupt, did not think it was his best novel, most agreed that Grisham's novel, published in the middle of his present writing career, was once again a page-turning suspense worth reading. They must have been right because Runaway Jury was on the top-ten Bestseller list for 23 weeks in Publisher's Weekly. NY Times, May 23rd,1996 NY Times, June 30th,1996 USA Today, May 1996 Time Magazine May 27th 1996 Newsweek, May 27th 1996 Maclean's, July 8th, 1996 Bookreporter.com 1996 Archives
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
John Grisham's seventh novel, The Runaway Jury, received a variety of mixed reviews when it was published. Because the novel has several levels, critics had several avenues upon which to focus criticism. Grisham, in Runaway Jury, not only deals with the corporate evils of Big Tobacco and on the legal issue of whether or not the tobacco industry should be held responsible for the injurious effects their products have on their consumers, it also brings the topic of jury tampering and manipulation into the center of the plot. Ironically, when the book was published in 1996, critics tended to like one aspect or the other, but usually were not overly enthusiastic about both. In the May 23rd 1996 edition of the NY Times, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote in his review of Runaway Jury,
True, the prose continues to be chunky, the dialogue merely adequate and the characters as unsubtle as pushpins. But the story cleverly exploits the literally burning issue of the tobacco industry's liability to smokers?The plot's eventual outcome is far more entertainingly unpredicatable than anything Mr. Grisham has done before?For once he is telling us a story of genuine significance.
Lehmann-Haupt, though he criticizes Grisham's writing of dialogue and unbelievable characters as well as inadvertently criticizes Grisham's other works by using such phrases such as "for once", believes that Grisham's novel is effective at getting at an significant issue. There are other critics who agree with him such as Mark Quartararo, from bookreporter.com who stated when the book came out that:
The Runaway Jury is timely if only because it fits neatly into the current debate on litigation reform and the limitation of huge punitive rewards in product liability cases.
Among others who took this viewpoint are David Gates from Newsweek. Gates also elaborated upon and advocated Grisham's addressing a contemporary issue that was prominent in courtrooms at the time it was published. While some critics believed that the focus on corporate evil was a highlight of the novel and that it made Runaway Jury stand out from other Grisham novels, several critics disagreed entirely with that viewpoint. USA Today reporter Deidre Donahue believed that the greatest aspect of Grisham's novel was his ability to illustrate jury tampering. She states in her article on May 27th,1996:
Many Americans believe that cigarette makers have their clothes specially tailored to hide their cloven hooves and pointed tails. It's simply not surprising when Grisham starts in with the companies targeting teen-agers or denying that nicotine is addictive? The most enjoyable aspects of Runaway Jury emerge from Grisham's clever delineation of how the jurors meld into a sometimes rebellious entity?Although he is famous for writing about lawyers, in fact, Grisham is one of few writers who accurately and empathetically describes working-class Americans of all races and both sexes.
To Donahue and others, such as Maclean's magazine, the theme of Big Tobacco's corrupt and evil ways was not a new or interesting idea. The most intriguing points to them lie in Grisham's depiction of the jury. While many critics differed on their enthusiasm towards the main themes of the novel; the tobacco industry and the prevalence of jury tampering in the legal system, and some, not including Lehman-Haupt, did not think it was his best novel, most agreed that Grisham's novel, published in the middle of his present writing career, was once again a page-turning suspense worth reading. They must have been right because Runaway Jury was on the top-ten Bestseller list for 23 weeks in Publisher's Weekly. NY Times, May 23rd,1996 NY Times, June 30th,1996 USA Today, May 1996 Time Magazine May 27th 1996 Newsweek, May 27th 1996 Maclean's, July 8th, 1996 Bookreporter.com 1996 Archives
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
The Runaway Jury, by John Grisham, was one of the top ten best-selling novels of the decade in the 1990's. However, when one examines the reviews for the novel when it was published in 1996, it is unclear why it achieved the status it did. Almost no critic found the book to be flawless. Several reviews find that the novel was suspenseful, yet lacked in characterization. Others found that the novel had poor subject matter in that it followed the course of a lawsuit against big tobacco companies and was not as exciting as Grisham's previous novels. Despite these criticisms, the novel spent twenty-three weeks on the top ten bestsellers list in Publishers Weekly in 1996, seven during which it held the number one spot. (Publisher's Weekly, 1996) The reasons for this are many, but primarily, the novel is so successful because its format allows it to exist prominently in the time period in which it was published as well as be altered to deal with other subject matter. Of course Runaway Jury does owe a significant amount of its popularity to its author's reputation. As John Grisham's seventh novel, Grisham had already captivated audiences with his bestsellers, The Firm and A Time To Kill. These legal thrillers had even been made into successful blockbuster movies. But Jury is not so cut and dry as these previous novels. Not only does it deal with a lawsuit, a good against evil match-up between corporate Big Tobacco and a plaintiff suing over her husband's death to lung cancer, but it also deals with the existence of jury tampering. Thus while Grisham's previous novels deal with such serious issues as firm malpractice in The Firm and questioning the existence of racial justice in A Time to Kill, The Runaway Jury has another dimension besides tobacco in its addition of jury tampering. This makes the novel even more interesting. The reader is not only captivated with whether or not the tobacco industry will be held responsible for selling addictive products, but is also intrigued by how the jury is being manipulated by the novel's main character, Nicholas Easter. While the novel is successful because of its author and its multiple angles of intrigue, the novel does owe much of its success to its subject matter. While readers may not be as interested in the subject of big tobacco today, the question of whether or not tobacco companies should have been held responsible for the illnesses developed by their consumers was the subject of great debate at the time the novel was published. Before 1996, there had only been one case in which a plaintiff who sued a tobacco company had won. (New Republic) This case, however, had been small in scale and was reversed after an appeal. (New Republic). In August of 1996, just a few months after The Runaway Jury was published, however, a 65 year old ex-smoker with lung cancer sued the third largest tobacco company and won. The plaintiff was awarded 750,000 dollars in damages. (New Republic) It was the first time a jury had come back with a verdict against the tobacco industry and the tobacco company's stock plummeted 15 percent. (New Republic). Of course Grisham's book can not be credited with causing such a verdict, but it is clear that the novel was dealing with a very prominent issue of the time. Other books were coming out about the tobacco industry's manipulation of the amount of nicotine they placed in cigarettes. Philip Hilts came out with a book of just this sort entitled Smokescreen. (New Republic) Also, following the case, advertising restrictions were placed on the tobacco industry, prohibiting it from publishing ads that were particularly appealing to a younger generation of children and teens. One might remember the disappearance of Joe Camel, the cartoon camel that promoted Camel cigarettes. After the FDA restricted advertising and began regulating the amount of nicotine that tobacco companies used in cigarettes, the impact of the tobacco issue began to diminish. After all, only persons who had begun smoking before 1966, as this is the year in which the surgeon general began placing warning on cigarette packages, had any valid case against tobacco companies. (New Republic) Thus any other cases against the tobacco companies were futile. Smokers now have plenty of warning about the dangers of smoking cigarettes. Even Grisham himself agrees with the notion that persons should not be able to sue tobacco companies when they know smoking causes illness. He stated in an interview with USA Today that:
Juries have always said, ?everybody knows smoking is dangerous, so if you do it for thirty-five or forty years and you die, don't run to us and expect us to make you rich.'? We all know somebody who has quit smoking.(USA Today)
This is not to say that smoking is not an issue to this day. However, it is a different kind of issue than it was in 1996. In fact, as of 2000, some restaurants were attempting to ban smoking from their premises and being sued for it. (MPR News.) But these cases deal with the civil liberty of smoking. They involve smokers exhibiting their right to smoke, not suing the companies who sell them their cigarettes. It would appear then, that to readers of this day and age, the issue of tobacco would be an old one, and not as interesting as say the race issue in A Time to Kill. Then why is there a movie version of The Runaway Jury currently in the making? In 2003, The Runaway Jury will be released into theaters starring Actress Rachel Weisz, (Enemy at the Gates), and Actor John Cusak, (High Fidelity.) The movie, however, will replace the concept of Big Tobacco with the more current and controversial issue of gun control and gun manufacturing. With recent events involving guns in the news; such as the school shootings at Columbine and the sniper shootings in the D.C. area, the issue of whether citizens should be allowed to own guns has become a serious one. In the movie, a widow of a man shot in an office shooting sues the gun manufacturer of the weapon used. In the movie she claims the manufacturer sold the weapon illegally. (Yahoo movies) The fact that Grisham's novel could be manipulated to focus on a different issue illustrates another reason for why Grisham's novel was so popular. The issue discussed originally in the novel may have been one that gradually grew out of significance over time, but gun control certainly takes the place of tobacco quite nicely in the plot; as would drug or alcohol manufacturers if these entities were controversially in the public forefront. Ultimately the novel addresses the responsibility of corporate America for actions they take which put the American public at risk. Thus Grisham's novel sets good against evil, and this combination has always been popular for bestsellers and for the entertainment industry at large. The way in which The Runaway Jury is alterable to fit the current times is characteristic of other bestsellers as well. For instance, Mickey Spillane's novel, Kiss Me Deadly, was originally a novel in which the protagonist took it upon himself to discover the reason behind why he was involved in the killing of an unknown woman and why he was beaten by the mob. In the novel, he discovers that the mob is hiding a two million dollar stash of dope. (Spillane) However, in the movie version, which appeared later, the stash of dope ended up being a nuclear weapon, and the mob was a faction of the government. ( Saville) In the same way, The Runaway Jury is manipulated to reflect issues of the time in which it is performed in other media. The fact that these two novels can be manipulated in other ways and still be effective in terms of the plot is undoubtedly another reason for their great popularity. What makes The Runaway Jury even more brilliant is that Grisham includes the other dimension of jury tampering in the novel. It is almost as if Grisham foresaw that the issue of Big Tobacco would eventually become irrelevant and if that issue had been the only one focused on in the novel, certainly the novel would not continue to sell so greatly. Even if Grisham's name were printed on the cover, people would gradually grow disinterested in an issue that had already been resolved in the public sphere. This is where the jury tampering side of the plot comes in. Much of the suspense of the novel is based on how the main character of Nicholas Easter will convince the Jury to side with him, and what exactly his motive is behind convincing the jury to produce the verdict that they eventually do. Regardless of what issue is being debated, the idea of runaway juries is intriguing in any case. For this reason, Grisham's novel has been able to survive and will be able to survive in the years to come. The novel's title is, The Runaway Jury and the caption in the front of the novel reads,
Every Jury has a leader and the verdict belongs to him.(Grisham)
This caption is what lures the reader in, it is not the tobacco plot. Thus The Runaway Jury, while not considered one of John Grisham's greatest novels, is popular for several different reasons; from the inclusion of John Grisham's name on the cover, to being included as a legal thriller which dealt with a controversial issue prevalent in the public sphere at the time of its publishing. But greatly essential to that popularity is Grisham's two-dimensional plot line. It is this format that greatly contributed to its popularity in its first publishing, and which allows the novel to remain popular to this day. Bibliography Grisham, John, The Runaway Jury, Doubleday Publishers, New York. Copyright 1996 Saville, Victor, Kiss Me Deadly, movie version 1955 Publishers Weekly, Vol.243. No.23-40 1996. Alderman Stacks. Z 1219.p98 1996- Number of weeks bestsellers lists Gladwell, Malcolm. Book Review, New Republic magazine. The New Republic Inc. Copyright Nov. 4, 1996 USA Today interview, People Weekly Magazine. "Smoke and Mirrors," Time Inc. May 20,1996 Accessed off Info Trac One File Plus. Search for Runaway Jury MPR News, Stephanie Hemphill, New Front opens Anti-Tobacco War,April 6th, 2000 Yahoo Movies, www.movies.yahoo.com, Greg Scmitz. Copyright, 2002 Yahoo Inc. Search for Runaway Jury Spillane, Mickey, Kiss Me Deadly, New American Library. Copyright 1951. The Mike Hammer Collection Vol.II, Copyright 2001.
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