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John Grisham was born on February 8th in 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas. He was raised in a family of five children. During his youth he moved around a lot because his father was a construction worker. They lived in many different places, for example in Crenshaw, Mississippi. Finally the Grisham family settled in Southaven, a little town outside Memphis, when he was twelve and then he started studying at the Southaven High School.
During his school years he was an athlete and he wanted to play either professio nal football or baseball. This interests moved him to study at the Northwest Mississippi Junior College in 1973. At the Northwest he played baseball for a year and he really did not care for his grades, he just wanted to play baseball. Grisham moved to the Delta State University after a year at Northwest to improve his skills in baseball. At the Delta State University he found out that he really was not meant to be a baseball player and so he decided to concentrate on his studies, which he had not done before. So he moved once again, this time to the Mississippi State University (1975). John Grisham really liked the University. Since he could not become a professional baseball player anymore he now thought of becoming a tax lawyer. Grisham graduated from the Mississippi State University in 1977. After studying at the Mississippi State University he went to law-school at the University of Mississippi, from which he graduated in 1981. In the same year as he graduated from lawschool he married Renee Jones.
John Grisham was now a lawyer and he got himself an office in Southaven where he practised criminal and civil law. He was also politically engaged at this time and in 1983 he was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives. During his time at Mississippi State University he had started on two books, none of them were ever finished. In 1984 he started writing a third. This time he finished it. The original title of the book was Deathknell, but the publisher didn't like that so he changed it to A Time to Kill. In April 1987 three agents called and the year after, in 1988 the book was sold to Wynwood Press. A year after it was published and 5,000 copies were printed. During these years he had been writing his second book, the Firm, which was finished in 1988.
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Today he lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with his wife Renee and his two kids Ty and Shea. Grisham writes six months a year and coaches his son`s Little League team the other half. He only gives a few interviews a year and he has said that he hates reviews. John Grisham just wants to write books and live peacefully and undisturbed with his family.
In this story the eleven-year old Mark Sway unwillingly makes acquaintance with a Mafia-lawyer. The man, before killing himself, tells Mark where a dead body is buried. His client, a killer of the Mafia, shot a US senator and hid the body. Only the lawyer knows where it is hidden and fears that the killer would also want to murder him, now that he knows everything. On the other hand, also the FBI is after him, who need the body for their investigation, they already know that his client is the killer. But as the American law says: no body no trial. The public already knows about this story and so the FBI is forced to find this body. Before committing suicide he talks to Mark, who is out in the woods together with his younger brother Ricky, who is nine years old. The lawyer had seen Mark crawling around in the woods and watching him, even taking the tube out of the car's exhaust pipe. He grabs him and tells him that he wants Mark to die together with him. He feels confident that Mark is going to die with him, so he tells him the story and also tells him where the body is hidden.
Now he wants to shoot himself after Mark. But Mark is able to escape out of the car. Before he and his brother manage to leave the scene, the lawyer stumbles out of his car, screaming, and then he finally shoots himself, putting the gun into his mouth.
The two boys run off home where Mark calls the police. Ricky, however faints, and
after these traumatic views goes into a strange kind of coma. The police soon arrives at the scene of crime and catches Mark, sneaking around and watching what is going on.
They soon find out that he had been the one who called the police and take him
home. By the time his mother has arrived home and is very concerned about Ricky's state of health.
A policeman immediately calls the ambulance to take care of Ricky. When the officer
drives together with Mark to the hospital where his mother and brother already are,
he starts to ask strange questions. He has found some weak points in Mark's story. Mark, however, is a rather smart boy and manages to stay quiet, fearing that he could worsen the situation. The policeman doesn't want to give up the story and soon also the FBI shows up and starts to question the young boy.
But at the same time Mark already had an unpleasant meeting a with a Mafia killer, though he is able to flee in the last moment. The killer made it quite clear, however that if he talks, the Mafia would be after him and his family. So Mark remains to be silent. The FBI starts to put up more pressure, extortionary the young boy also in illegal ways. Soon he doesn't know how to handle the situation anymore and decides to hire a lawyer. The only problem is that his mother lost her job while staying with Ricky at the hospital and so the family has no money at all. Soon also the trailer where they live is burned down by some men of the gang. So he starts to search for a
lawyer who would help him for little money. But everywhere he is turned out, because being a kid, an unimportant young kid. Finally he comes into the office of Reggie Love, an ambitious elderly women who is ready to help him for the fee of one dollar. She doesn't really need money but she helps him.
The lady turns out to be a very clever lawyer, succeeding in getting the upper hand
over the FBI agents and also managing to end the pressure on Mark. The FBI is only
ready to offer a witness protection program if the body is really where Mark
supposes it to be. In any other case they will not put him into the program but Mark
fears that the Mafia would kill him sooner or later because he interfered with them.
They start to work out a way about how to make him tell without getting killed and
finally the FBI simply sends Mark to prison. He is accused of holding back important
information about a crime. Mark is able to escape from prison on his own, always
aware that the Mafia would find him anywhere.
He calls up Reggie and they both go to Chicago under false ID's to find out if the dead lawyer has told Mark the truth. They know that the Mafia is not able to get the body at the moment because the hiding place is crowded with police, although they do not know that they are so close to their searched body. The "place" is the dead lawyer's house, where the corp is buried under his boat.
In the middle of the night Reggie and Mark show up to check if the body is still there.
They find it where it was supposed to be but the can't get rid of the Mafia boss, Barry
Muldanno and his partner. Mark finally is not so sure about their abilities anymore and decides to reveal where their body is. So they call the FBI and he accepts the witness
protection program of the FBI. So in the end, he and his family leave to a secret place, not even Reggie knowing where they will go (Phoenix).
In this book, the Mafia is characterised as morons, who are brutal but not
clever at all. The FBI knows almost every step they will take and the Mafia lives in
fear of the federals.
Mark fears the Mafia because he considers them to be able to find him anywhere.
The men of the Mafia are described as stupid, very simple people and
the only thing they can do well is killing and scaring people, but even a smart eleven
year-old boy is able to deal with them. In this book also the political and social influences the Mafia exerts are rather lower than in other books and the only men who keep them out of prison are their lawyers who are so scared to death that they don't even realise anymore that the Mafia is just a crowd of incapable men.
The story contains two protagonists Mark Sway and his lawyer Reggie Love.
Mark lives with his mother Dianne Sway and with his brother Ricky in a trailer. Mark is eleven years old, three years older than his brother. Their parents divorced a couple of
years ago. Dianne earns not very much money so they can´t afford a lot of luxury goods. His "ex- father"(so calls Mark his father) is an alcoholic and beated Dianna and her children very often. Now Mark has to be the man in the house and so he is really mature and intelligent for his age.
Reggie Love, who is fifty-two, owns a law firm. She looks very smart, she is not married and lives in an apartment together with her mother. She was married and when they splitted up she lost her children and most of her money.
The FBI-agents act almost in the same way. They think that Mark Sway owns important
informations and therefore they try everything to get them from him. They don't really care about the Sway-family at the beginning.