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Playing for Pizza: A Novel Mass Market Paperback – January 31, 2012
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“Delightfully comic . . . a deeply satisfying story.”—The Boston Globe
“Fans of John Grisham live for his legal thrillers, but now and then he serves up something unexpected. That’s exactly what he does, with great success, in Playing for Pizza.”—USA Today
“A light-hearted story of football, food and love.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch
About the Author
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, and The Broker) and all of them have become international bestsellers. The Innocent Man (October 2006) marks his first foray into non-fiction.
Grisham lives with his wife Renee and their two children Ty and Shea. The family splits their time between their Victorian home on a farm in Mississippi and a plantation near Charlottesville, VA.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Unfortunately, Grisham's liberal political leanings are also on display. Far too much. In telling the story, Grisham actually makes a compelling argument against the death penalty. Even though I'm a proponent of the death penalty, I recognize the possibility for innocent men being a victim of it as Grisham's Donte Drumm is in "The Confession", and I don't have a problem with an author's political leanings finding their way into his novels. I'm a big fan of Vince Flynn's work - on the other side of the political spectrum from Grisham. What I do have a problem with, though, is Grisham's annoying practice of painting EVERY character in the book, whose politics differ from his own, as an ignorant, racist redneck with zero redeeming qualities - and that's what he does in "The Confession". Every character - from the cops who forced the confession, to the governor who gleefully denied all appeals for clemency, all the way down to the victim's mother, who Grisham manages to paint as a hateful shrew, even in her mourning - is portrayed in the same manner. Not one proponent of capital punishment in this book showed any inclination to want to find out if the accused could possibly be innocent. They have no interest whatsoever in either justice or the truth. They are ALL racists interested only in using the power of the state to kill a poor, wrongfully accused black man. This is the kind of inaccurate, lop-sided presentation of issues that dominates our media, and it doesn't show any better in Grisham's fiction than it does in real life. This isn't the first time Grisham has shown this annoying tendency, of course, but I think it's the most obvious.
Grisham's writing skills are on display enough in this novel to make it a worthwhile read. The story itself is very interesting and well told. His holier than thou attitude, though, and his insulting portrayal of those who don't share his views cannot be overlooked. Liberals who share his self-conferred moral superiority will love this book. Others, though, maybe not so much.
Along the way, Grisham provides a memorably disturbing portrait of a true serial killer-rapist, although without any gratuitous sex or violence.
The problem with the book, as with so many of Grisham's books, is structure. As usual, he builds a complex and suspenseful story throughout the first half--but then does a rather mechanical job of tying up the loose ends throughout the second half. By the end of the book, I sensed the writer wanting to get the job finished, and the reader may feel the same way.
The main plot of the story is great and I loved it; there are a few secondary parts to the story that were a bit annoying to say the least. The fact that in Texas the whites and the blacks were completely against each other. Donte Drumm being black had all the support of the black community while the white people all believed he was guilty and should be executed. Grisham makes the white folk look very snooty in comparison to the black folk; and although most of the black folks in town are responsible for inciting riots and car bombings; when some white police officers try to break things up they are ones who are made to look bad. Its hard to not put some of your own personal beliefs into stories that you read; but I find it hard to believe that every single white person would be against Donte Drumm and every single black person would be on his side. I don't doubt there would be some racial discord for the simple fact that a black man is accused of killing a white girl and we all know how that normally plays out; however, I believe there would be some white folks who believed him innocent or at least not want him executed and some black folk who believed he was guilty.
A lot of the third section seemed so politically driven that it made the rest of the story more unbelievable to me. Whether you are pro-capital punishment or against it, whether you believe in the justice system or not; it seemed the story was a bit far fetched no matter what side of the fence you sit on. I'm no legal expert and I've only done a little research into capital punishment, but I found the death sentence based on a single confession alone to be reaching. I don't want to give away anything from the book, but it lost some of its steam in the final section. I think the book would have still made its point and been a great read had things been wrapped up in a concluding chapter or two; instead of going on and on.
Overall the book was a good read. John Grisham seems to produce books I either Love or Hate; this one was just so-so.