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Playing For Pizza: A Novel Hardcover – September 24, 2007

3.6 out of 5 stars 803 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Playing for Pizza: A Q&A with John Grisham

Q: American football in Italy seems like an unlikely subject for a John Grisham novel. What was the inspiration for Playing for Pizza?

A: Three years ago when I was in Bologna researching "The Broker", I discovered American football. One of my guides in the area played football for the Bologna Warriors for 10 years. I couldn't believe that American football actually existed there, but the more I heard about it the more intrigued I became.

Q: There is some great football writing in this novel. What kind of research was involved in capturing how this American institution is played in small town Italy?

A: The only way to research the book was to go to Parma and watch a game. The coach is an American who played at Illinois State, and he proved to be extremely valuable. I met many of the Italian players and the story simply unfolded.

Q: Speaking of research, you write lovingly of Italian food and wine in this book. What's your idea of the perfect Italian meal?

A: First course: prosicutto and melon; second course: stuffed tortellini; third course: roasted stuffed capon, all served with a great Barolo wine.

Q: Without giving away too much of the plot, your protagonist falls in love by the novel's end. Did you know when you started writing that Rick would get the girl?

A: Of course.

Q: You have a new legal thriller coming in January 2008. Can you give us any hints about what to expect?

A: I really don't like to talk about a book until it's finished. Sorry. But it will not be another work of non-fiction, nor will it be about football. Lots of lawyers in the next one.

From Publishers Weekly

Third-string Cleveland Browns quarterback Rick Dockery becomes the greatest goat ever by throwing three interceptions in the closing minutes of the AFC championship game. Fleeing vengeful fans, he finds refuge in the grungiest corner of professional football, the Italian National Football League as quarterback of the inept but full-of-heart Parma Panthers. What ensues is a winsome football fable, replete with team bonding and character-building as the underdog Panthers challenge the powerhouse Bergamo Lions for a shot at the Italian Superbowl. The book is also the author's love letter to Italy. Rick is first baffled and then enchanted by all things Italian-tiny cars! opera! benign corruption!-and through him Grisham (The Firm) instructs his readership in the art of gracious living, featuring sumptuous four-hour, umpteen-course meals. The writing sometimes lapses into travel-guide ("most Italian cities are sort of configured around a central square, called a piazza") and food porn ("[the veal cutlets are beaten with a small bat, then dipped in eggs, fried in a skillet, and then baked in the oven with a mix of parmigiano cheese and stock until the cheese melts"), but it's invigorated by appealing characters and lively play-by-play. The result is a charming fish-out-of-water story.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (September 24, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385525001
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385525008
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (803 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #214,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, John Grisham was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Mississippi law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby--writing his first novel. Born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn't have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears and majored in accounting at Mississippi State University. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade in Southaven, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. One day at the DeSoto County courthouse, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl's father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987. Initially rejected by many publishers, it was eventually bought by Wynwood Press, who gave it a modest 5,000 copy printing and published it in June 1988.That might have put an end to Grishams hobby. However, he had already begun his next book, and it would quickly turn that hobby into a new full-time career. When he sold the film rights to The Firm to Paramount Pictures for $600,000, Grisham suddenly became a hot property among publishers, and book rights were bought by Doubleday. Spending 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, The Firm became the bestselling novel of 1991.The successes of The Pelican Brief, which hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Client, which debuted at number one, confirmed Grisham's reputation as the master of the legal thriller. Grisham's success even renewed interest in A Time to Kill, which was republished in hardcover by Doubleday and then in paperback by Dell. This time around, it was a bestseller. Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, Grisham has written one novel a year (his other books are The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, The Broker, Playing for Pizza, and The Appeal) and all of them have become international bestsellers. There are currently over 225 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 29 languages. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man.

Photo credit Maki Galimberti

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
John Grisham spent a lot of time in Italy writing his legal thriller THE BROKER, and I guess he liked the country so much, he decided to write another novel based in Italy, and the result is PLAYING FOR PIZZA. In PLAYING FOR PIZZA, Rick Dockery is a 3rd string NFL quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. In the AFC championship game, the Browns are winning 20-0 when the top two quarterbacks are injured. Dockery enters the game and engineers an epic collapse and the Browns lose. Dockery is hated in Cleveland and laughed at everywhere else. His agent finds a team that might actually want him, the Parma Panthers. The Panthers play American football in Italy, where the crowds are sparse, the fields are rough, and the players play for the love of the game and the pizza and beer afterwards.

Rick joins the team in Italy, hoping for a new start in life, trying to avoid a paternity suit, and wanting to hook up with the team cheerleaders. His new teammates embrace him and Rick is given a tutorial in Itialian culture, including the long four hour meals. The description Grisham gives of the meal was enough to convince me that I must go to Italy just for the food. The team's goal is to win the Italian Super Bowl and the face a lot of hurdles during their quest. They lose players to injuries or apathy, and they get sidetracked by women and partying.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel because Grisham is a good writer. But while I enjoyed Rick and his escapades, I didn't really care for Rick because Rick didn't care for anything. Sure, he wanted to put the horrible Cleveland performance behind him, but he is still a shallow, horny, irresponsible person. The romance toward the end of the book seemed without substance.
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Format: Hardcover
Known and loved for his legal thrillers, John Grisham has managed to break free from expectations with whimsical novels such as "Skipping Christmas" and "Bleachers." He delved into literary writing with "A Painted House," and wrote a decent if a bit dry non-fiction work. I've enjoyed each of these departures for different reasons and in varying degrees.

"Playing for Pizza" captured my interest with its continental flair and themes of failure and commitment. Rick Dockery, formerly and ignobly of the NFL, has escaped to Parma, Italy, where he can play for pizza and a pittance, while avoiding the troubles back home. Along the way, he discovers a few things about himself. As I started the book, I thought it might pull together all the pieces and give us a great Italian meal--humor, pathos, wisdom, and history in a fine recipe.

I was wrong. Though this modern tale gives nice insights into Italian architecture and cuisine, it is short on humor, and the wisdom is diluted by Rick's incessant selfishness and bland approach to many things. It's hard to believe an emotional and physical slacker such as this could've ever made it to the NFL in the first place. Even in conclusion, he resolves very few of his own issues back home, and instead continues to escape from them. I kept wanting to like him. I kept wanting to like the book. But even the women he picks for relationships are shallow or weak.

As usual, Grisham's writing moves at a fast clip. The book is--thankfully--not long. It's worth a few hours for those who love anything Grisham writes, and it has its satisfying moments. Overall, though, this is more spaghetti than cannoli, more Vespa than Ferrari.
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I have missed John Grisham - Bleachers wasn't my favorite, but the title, Playing for Pizza made me take a closer look. It is the story of a third string quarterback, Rick Dockery, who has pretty much played himself out of American and Canadian football - part is wrong timing, part is he is not much of a scrambler, but he lost a really big game and ended up in the hospital with injuries - There is practically a lynch squad outside the hospital. Rick's agent is running out of options where to place Rick- there is a very intruiging offer - a position for a quarterback - a starting quarterback with the Panthers - no, not Carolina, Parma - Parma Italy! They have football teams there and while most of the members of the team play for the passion and fun of it, they are willing to pay to have an American play with them - The dollar figure offered is not great, but after some difficulties in the states, Rick goes to Italy -
He is welcomed, but soon, in spite of perks of being paid, a car, an apartment gratis, he has to train with the rest of the team - forget about quarterbacks not training with the team - he had to get into shape - and prove himself. He comes to love the Panthers, his team mates, his new country - And the football action is fantastic.
Yes, it is a story of redemption, but it is so much more - and beautifully and lightly written by Grisham -
He states his next book will have 'lots of lawyers' - I wish one of them represented the Panthers and had to visit them in Parma -
This is maybe my 2nd favorite Grisham - the first being A Time to Kill - there is no comparison between the two, but they are wonderful in their own rights.
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