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Grisham's 'Appeal' Tackles Down-and-Dirty Politics

In John Grisham's new novel, Mississippi judges are bought, marketed and sold.

Grisham opens his thriller, The Appeal, with a bang: In a crowded courtroom, a jury delivers a multi-million-dollar verdict against a chemical company accused of tainting a town's water supply with waste.

The chemical company retaliates with an appeal, but in order to win, it attempts to rig the state Supreme Court. As judicial elections loom, the company hand picks an unsuspecting judge and manipulates him for the job.

In The Appeal, Grisham — who practiced law and served in the Mississippi House of Representatives before his literary career — provides a cautionary tale about judicial elections and political campaigns in general. Like the so-called "swift-boating" of political candidates in the last presidential election, Grisham's characters resort to harsh smear tactics to defeat their opponents.

Jacki Lyden spoke with Grisham about his novel, judicial politics and his personal political engagement.

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