Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Time to Kill, A Time to Sellabrate, by Kait Carson

Once upon a time there was a hungry novelist and his name was John Grisham. The guy couldn’t sell a book to save his life. That’s right. John Grisham couldn’t sell a book. And he was desperate. The man came from a working-class background. He had his law degree, and like many of his characters, he took on the hard cases. Cases he believed in. Cases for indigent clients. Cases that would let him learn his trade. It beat his earlier jobs, heavy construction and selling tidy whities at Sears.

Sitting in the back of a courtroom watching a trial unfold he learned more than his trade. He learned anger and rage and had no place to channel them. It wasn’t his case. Lacking a way to control the outcome, he put pen to paper and A Time to Kill was born. Like many first born, it was a slow, painful, process. It took three years. After all that emotion, time, sweat and tears, the darn thing tanked. Grisham went back to the practice of law, hoping someday he would get good enough at it to quit.

This should be the part of the story where we write the rest is history. Except there’s a twist. Why not, Grisham writes thrillers. Ya gotta have a twist or two. Grisham’s second book The Firm turned into a runaway best seller. The book was optioned, Tom Cruise played the lead and a novelist star was born. Overnight fame (never mind those two pesky years between books) doesn’t get much better than that.

Grisham continued to churn out best sellers and the movies kept calling, The Pelican Brief followed The Firm, then The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker followed a year apart. The guy was no longer practicing law. Or if he was, his partners were shouldering the briefs. At some point, A Time to Kill made its second debut. Looking back, the book was ahead of its time. It horrified the reading public on a visceral level. Much the same way the true-life crime must have horrified Grisham. Horrified him enough to confess that he modeled the revenge shooting on his own desire.

A funny thing happened to A Time to Kill. The book of Grisham’s heart was a book he couldn’t give away. In fact, he claims to have forty or fifty buried in his back yard. These days, you can buy it on Amazon, probably eBay too, or you can go to a rare book store. If you are lucky you can find a first edition, for about $3,000 to $4,500. Talk about the ultimate backlist!

Readers, have you read A Time to Kill?
Writers, are you feeling as hopeful as I am about those early books that only jump off the shelves in earthquakes and hurricanes?


  1. I have not read A Time to Kill. Interesting history of Grisham’s work. I remember hearing Sue Grafton talk about how many manuscripts she had rejected before A is for Alibi made her name.

    ~ Jim

  2. Maybe, doubtful, but then, I have another idea--perhaps this one?

  3. @ Jim - A the drawer of rejections! Most writers have (had) them. In these days of Amazon and the like, quality writers are lucky to have additional options. We can go the Scout route, or self-publish.

    I found myself trying to slip the author of the article virtual notes to ask Grisham what made him write the second novel when he professed no burning desire to be an author. Hope I meet him at a conference. I would like an answer to that question.

  4. Kait, I have sixteen of his books and "A Time to Kill" is one of those. I think I'll reread it since it's been so long since I did that I don't remember the plot.

  5. @Warren - I remember liking it when I read it. I think it was the third of his that I read. It was visceral and truly hit home on so many levels.

  6. @Gloria I was thinking I should get the Kindle version for much the same reason. Although I do remember the plot. It really struck a chord with me for some reason, it has been years since I read it. I'll be curious to know what you think if you do re-read it. Check the edition number - you may have a valuable edition if it's a first.

  7. I remember reading A Time to Kill - visceral is the right word. Talk about difficult and tragic subject matter. It's heartening that he didn't give up!

  8. You read about so many writers who didn't give up--Tom Clancy being one of them. They are inspiring.

  9. I haven't read it yet, but it's definitely on my list!