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The Summons Hardcover – 5 Feb 2002

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Century; 1st edition (5 Feb. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712684263
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712684262
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 674,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, he 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. In 1983, he was elected to the state House of Representatives and served until 1990.

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 Grisham's hobby. However, he had already begun his next book, and it would quickly turn that hobby into a new full-time career--and spark one of publishing's greatest success stories. The day after Grisham completed A Time to Kill, he began work on another novel, the story of a hotshot young attorney lured to an apparently perfect law firm that was not what it appeared. 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, The Appeal, and The Associate) and all of them have become international bestsellers. There are currently over 250 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. The Innocent Man (October 2006) marked his first foray into non-fiction, and Ford County (November 2009) was his first short story collection.

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.

Grisham took time off from writing for several months in 1996 to return, after a five-year hiatus, to the courtroom. He was honoring a commitment made before he had retired from the law to become a full-time writer: representing the family of a railroad brakeman killed when he was pinned between two cars. Preparing his case with the same passion and dedication as his books' protagonists, Grisham successfully argued his clients' case, earning them a jury award of $683,500--the biggest verdict of his career.

When he's not writing, Grisham devotes time to charitable causes, including most recently his Rebuild The Coast Fund, which raised 8.8 million dollars for Gulf Coast relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He also keeps up with his greatest passion: baseball. The man who dreamed of being a professional baseball player now serves as the local Little League commissioner. The six ballfields he built on his property have played host to over 350 kids on 26 Little League teams.

Product Description

Amazon Review

An intelligent, low-key thriller, The Summons continues John Grisham's exploration of the common decencies of a strain of American commercial story-telling in literature and film that we often link to the work of Frank Capra or O Henry. He is not afraid of parable or of setting up situations that are at once archetypal and attractively specific. This is a tale of two brothers--one is righteous, more or less, and one is not--and a question of their inheritance. Ancient Mississippi judge Atlee summons his two sons to his deathbed, but dies before he can explain himself, leaving Ray, who arrives on time unlike his drunkard brother Forest with the difficult problem of the three million dollars in used notes which are lying around the house in shoe-boxes. Ray worries about his father's posthumous reputation, about the Inland Revenue Service and about how quickly Forrest could drink himself to death with unlimited funds.

Grisham is very acute indeed on how the best of intentions lead Ray not to any significant crime or atrocity but to quietly unconscionable behaviour. And then he realises he is being followed... Grisham can build suspense out of remarkably little and has a real gift for understanding the quiet anxieties of an ordinary man. --Roz Kaveney


All of Clanton, Mississippi, came out to pay their respects to the late Judge Atlee. Even though he had been ousted from office nearly 10 years previously he was held in high esteem by his legal colleagues and all those he helped either through the courts or through his endless charity. His two sons, Ray, a Professor of Law and Forrest, a dissolute alcoholic and substance abuser, are the only heirs. Following a summons from their father a week earlier, Ray arrives in Clanton first to discover his father already dead from cancer in the family home. Before his brother arrives he makes the bewildering discovery of $3million in cash, carefully packed away in boxes in a side cabinet. Unwilling to tell Forrest of his discovery in case he squanders his share on drugs and alcohol, Ray begins a journey to discover its origin. Thus begins a tale of tawdry casinos, intimidation and crooked tort lawyers. A return to the legal settings after his diversion in "The Painted House", this is an easy read, and pleasant enough, addressing both the moral dilemmas involved in such a discovery and the difficult relationships that can exist within a family.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 Jun. 2002
Format: Hardcover
I am a massive John Grisham fan having read every one of his books. I waited with anticipation for this book, and was very disappointed. The characters are very difficult to relate to and the plot is very weak. It is not a page turner like other Grisham novels and I read the book in one sitting.
Finding 3 million dollars in your dead fathers house is a good idea, but Grisham does not really develop the plot. The book is basically about what to do with it. Keep it, or give some to the brother who incidently is a drug addict and the money could destroy him? Yawn. There are so many possibilities for the plot, but they are under developed and the ending is rubbish. There is no action and fast pace like previous Grisham novels. Disappointing, but I recommend all other John Grisham titles!!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By on 26 Mar. 2002
Format: Hardcover
Lazy, tired writing. The central characters lack of a life, of friends, his pale watercolour existence, reflects it seems to me, Grisham's state of mind. "Must churn out another book," appears to be his modus operandi in writing this. It is listless, the professor's reactions seem odd for a man of his intelligence, trawling up and down the country obsessively dragging the money around with him is patently odd. Would he really be petrified of the taxes on the money, given the resultant number would still be huge? Ultimately he had to declare it to his brother anyway so why all the contrived fuss? Grisham's novels typically have to bend to the unlikely improbable human reaction to move the plot on; this story took it to a new extreme.
But, it was readable, even at low ebb Grisham can still get the reader turning pages. Unfortunately at the end of this one only shrugs ones shoulders and moves on. Where's the pace, the energy of the early books I wonder. Is Grisham written out and should he take a sabbatical himself. I think there are clues in the novel; the professor is on the edge of a sabbatical, there is a book that he needs to write but it's only a chore to him. I suspect Grisham is right there with him. Take a break John, and come back refreshed and stronger
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Christine L HALL OF FAME on 15 Feb. 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a good story and a welcome return to Clanton and the setting of A Time To Kill. But when I compare those two books this latest one feels even more disappointing. In A Time To Kill Grisham created a memorable story with characters that are still fresh in my mind. Most of all, he set a very high standard of writing that he's failed to live up to with his latest book.
The Summons lacks all the charm and details that made A Time To Kill such a good read. It starts off slowly and opens a lot of possibilities that are never explored to their full potential.
I applaud Grisham in his choice of villain. I found it quite obvious relatively early on, but there's a web of fascinating facts to go through and a row of suspects to be discarded before we find out who the bad guy is.
This is one of Grisham's worst books to date and the only reason I read it so quickly was that the magic of A Time To Kill made me want to find out if we'd get to catch up with any of the other characters from that story, other than Harry Rex and Judge Atlee.
Loyal Grisham fans such as myself will buy this book no matter what I write here. I'll also buy his next book because I know what he can produce. But if you've never read a John Grisham book in your life you're much better off trying A Time To Kill, The Client, The Partner or The Runaway Jury.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By O. Doyle on 27 April 2003
Format: Paperback
I really didn't enjoy this book as much as I have the other Grisham books. It just didn't seem to have the old Grisham oomph that his earlier books had and to be brutal was a bit boring and predictable. With his other books I could not wait to get back to find out what happened next.....not this one. I only finished it because it felt like a mission. Very disappointing.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 April 2002
Format: Hardcover
I had always been a fan of John Grishams books, looking forward to when the next would emerge. However, his last few books have for me lost his initial enthusiasm and in all honesty I found this latest offering dull. I was excited as I read the cover of the book, he appeared to be resurrecting characters originally introduced in 'A time to kill'. However the characters lacked depth, the plot was non-existant, and the ending predictable. After this final dissappointing effort, I think I am unlikely to try any of his future releases.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Frankiesam on 16 Mar. 2002
Format: Hardcover
I chose this book as I was in the mood for a good story and the storyline on the cover appealed. I relied - mistakenly it now seems - on the good name of jg and the reviews quoted on the cover.
I was very disappointed. There was, I'd admit, some sense of time and place but really, beyond that, I found it lacked pace and was not exactly gripping. I gave it 2 stars as I did finish it - mainly I skipped lots of paragraphs in an effort to get ahead in the hope of being gripped further on.
This was very disappointing as I felt it was a good story let down in the telling - not a crime in itself but somehow made worse when chosen as a book by a very successful writer. I'm not sure if I should give jg a second chance by trying another...
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Andy D. on 19 Dec. 2002
Format: Paperback
Most of the reviews here seem to have missed the point: they criticise this novel for not being a twisty-turny shock-a-minute thriller. They fail to spot it's not trying to be. Grisham doesn't seem terribly interested in writing that sort of stuff any more.
This is deliberately slow-paced. It's more about examining people's characters, reactions and decisions than about putting them in danger all the time. If all you want is flying bullets and car bombs then you've missed the boat - Grisham's moved on.
There are some plot twists - most of which I didn't see coming - but not many. Its weaknesses are that the characters aren't as fully-realised as they ought to be, and some of the central character's decisions are not properly explained. It IS credible that an intelligent man would make stupid decisions under pressure, but it needs Grisham to spell it out a bit more.
This has flaws, but it's still more than readable. Grisham's not burned out - he's just trying to move from writing potboilers to writing literature. Some of his fans are going to be left behind as he does so.
Get used to it.
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