- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (October 10, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385517238
- ISBN-13: 978-0385517232
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1,799 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #353,586 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town Hardcover – Print, October 10, 2006
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John Grisham tackles nonfiction for the first time with The Innocent Man, a true tale about murder and injustice in a small town (that reads like one of his own bestselling novels). The Innocent Man chronicles the story of Ron Williamson, how he was arrested and charged with a crime he did not commit, how his case was (mis)handled and how an innocent man was sent to death row. Grisham's first work of nonfiction is shocking, disturbing, and enthralling--a must read for fiction and nonfiction fans. We had the opportunity to talk with John Grisham about the case and the book, read his responses below. --Daphne Durham
20 Second Interview: A Few Words with John Grisham
Q: After almost two decades of writing fiction, what compelled you to write non-fiction, particularly investigative journalism?
A: I was never tempted to write non-fiction, primarily because it's too much work. However, obviously, I love a good legal thriller, and the story of Ron Williamson has all the elements of a great suspenseful story.
Q: Why this case?
A: Ron Williamson and I are about the same age and we both grew up in small towns in the south. We both dreamed of being major league baseball players. Ron had the talent, I did not. When he left a small town in 1971 to pursue his dreams of major league glory, many thought he would be the next Mickey Mantle, the next great one from the state of Oklahoma. The story of Ron ending up on Death Row and almost being executed for a murder he did not commit was simply too good to pass up.
Q: How did you go about your research?
A: I started with his family. Ron is survived by two sisters who took care of him for most of his life. They gave me complete access to the family records, photographs, Ron's mental health records, and so on. There was also a truckload of trial transcripts, depositions, appeals, etc., that took about 18 months to organize and review. Many of the characters in the story are still alive and I traveled to Oklahoma countless times to interview them.
Q: Did your training as a lawyer help you?
A: Very much so. It enabled me to understand the legal issues involved in Ron's trial and his appeals. It also allowed me, as it always does, to be able to speak the language with lawyers and judges.
Q: Throughout your book you mention, The Dreams of Ada: A True Story of Murder, Obsession, and a Small Town. How did you come across that book, and how did it impact your writing The Innocent Man?
A: Several of the people in Oklahoma I met mentioned The Dreams of Ada to me, and I read it early on in the process. It is an astounding book, a great example of true crime writing, and I relied upon it heavily during my research. Robert Mayer, the author, was completely cooperative, and kept meticulous notes from his research 20 years earlier. Many of the same characters are involved in his story and mine.
Q: You take on some pretty controversial and heated topics in your book--the death penalty, prisoners rights, DNA analysis, police conduct, and more--were any of your own beliefs challenged by this story and its outcome?
A: None were challenged, but my eyes were open to the world of wrongful convictions. Even as a former criminal defense attorney, I had never spent much time worrying about wrongful convictions. But, unfortunately, they happen all the time in this country, and with increasing frequency.
Q: So many of the key players in this case are either still in office or practicing attorneys. Many family members and friends still live in the same small town. How do you think The Innocent Man will impact this community and other small rural towns as they struggle with the realities of the justice system?
A: Exonerations seem to be happening weekly. And with each one of them, the question is asked--how can an innocent man be convicted and kept in prison for 20 years? My book is the story of only one man, but it is a good example of how things can go terribly wrong with our judicial system. I have no idea how the book will be received in the small town of Ada, Oklahoma, or any other town.
Q: What do you hope your readers will take away from The Innocent Man?
A: A better understanding of how innocent people can be convicted, and a greater concern for the need to reimburse and rehabilitate innocent men after they have been released.
From Publishers Weekly
Grisham's first work of nonfiction focuses on the tragedy of Ron Williamson, a baseball hero from a small town in Oklahoma who winds up a dissolute, mentally unstable Major League washout railroaded onto death row for a hometown rape and murder he did not commit. Judging by this author-approved abridgment, Grisham has chosen to present Williamson's painful story (and that of his equally innocent "co-conspirator," Dennis Fritz) as straightforward journalism, eschewing the more familiar "nonfiction novel" approach with its reconstructed dialogues and other adjustments for dramatic purpose. This has resulted in a book that, while it includes such intriguing elements as murder, rape, detection and judicial injustice, consists primarily of objective reportage, albeit shaded by the now-proven fact of Williamson's innocence. The absence of dialogue or character point of view could make for a rather bland audio. Boutsikaris avoids that by reverting to what might be called old-fashioned round-the-campfire storytelling, treating the lengthy exposition to vocal interpretations, subtle and substantial. He narrates the events leading up to the 1982 rape and murder of a young cocktail waitress with a mixture of suspicion and curiosity, moving on to astonishment at the prosecution's use of deceit and false testimony to convict Williamson and Fritz and, eventually, elation at the exoneration of the two innocent men. Throughout, he maintains an appealing conversational tone, an effect made all the more remarkable by the book's nearly total absence of conversation.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
On the other hand the details are presented logically, sometimes with lovely touches of well deserved sarcasm, and even though you know how the story is going to end , the brief appearances of the real murderer throughout the book are real attention teasers.
There's just something missing - even in a work of fiction I expect to be able to connect or relate to the characters. Reading a book of non-fiction and the appalling abuse of the justice system, I expected to feel some connection with the individuals presented. But in this book everyone seemed distanced, two dimensional and though the horror and trauma of the situation is well described, it seems to purposely keep you at arm's length.
The book made me angry along with other emotions. Extremely well written and documented, it must have taken a 100 years of research. But... I was looking for a final round up of persecution of the guilty, new reforms and procedures that have been put in-place to, at the very least, put roadblocks on manipulations, contrivance, hiding of evidence and such like
I find it difficult to put down Grisham's novels and I have read them all. I found that I could put "The Innocent Man" down and often looked for an opportunity to do so. But I read every word. That's what fans of Grisham do.
It was a very hard book for me to read mainly because of my anger at the obvious injustices. Along with Mr. Grisham, I would vote that he return to fiction, a much safer and saner place to be.
No wonder real criminals slip through cracks and don't get convicted.
Mental illness is tough and those who have it are often not treated properly.
Because of the insurance won't pay for certain medication, some doctors will miss diagnosis and there are those who have no insurance to get the help they need.
But for the state not treating the convicts for medical needs is wrong.
It alert me that Justice is game, it's a very fragile game with a set of rule that's so complex and bias to the state by their almost absolute power during any criminal investigation. When a defence can only find the truth by objecting the result of an investigation with a purposeful incrimination on a person, I feel innocence until proven guilty in court is more like an notion than a practical principle.
Police are so dangerous if they are only equipped with the resource and force, but not a straight value of their works. Sadly, with Ron, Dennis, Tom and etc, seem it's somehow more than a knowledge for people live in the less civilised part of the world, but it does happens all over the world even in our modern age...
Most recent customer reviews
it was a true story. Would recommend to anyone. I have a New thought about the death penalty.