Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Appeal by John Grisham

One of the things I like about John Grisham is that he really likes the underdog. In his books, the person often the least likely to prevail does so, usually because he has a smart attorney, one who is paying attention and taking good care of the client. Warning – this book review contains a spoiler, so don’t go any further if you don’t want to know too much about the plot and resolution.


The Appeal is the exception. No one wins, not even the apparent winner, who sails off in the end with his empty, unsatisfying life. He schemes, he exploits, he lies, he buys elections, and he makes a fortune – and he isn’t satisfied. He is married to a woman who sounds more like a greyhound, all skin and bones and self-absorption.

The subject matter is a case where a chemical company has dumped toxic wastes into the ground in Mississippi, it has penetrated into the groundwater, and polluted the entire water system of a small fictional town. Two lawyers, married to one another, sacrifice everything and face bankruptcy to win a case for their client who has lost both husband and son to cancer caused by the toxic chemicals dumped. They win.

There is an appeal.

What this book is about isn’t just about groundwater contamination, or even about buying elections in Mississippi – it is an indictment of every state that elects judges. The core of the novel is about how big money, big corporations, pick candidates and fund them, legally and illegally, and insure that they win. They pack the courts with judges who are opposed to large settlements.

God bless John Grisham. With all his great legal thrillers, he has made a bundle and can take risks like writing a book like The Appeal, which should be an eye opener, and should be read by every caring citizen.

Judges should not be elected. When the judiciary are elected, they have to think about their next election, with every legal decision. It taints objectivity. It corrupts objectivity. It eliminates objectivity. Without an objective judiciary – why bother? They will always rule on the side whose interests are the most powerful and profitable.

Here are a couple quotes that tell you where the novel is going. My Kuwaiti friends are going to love this – I have taken so many shots at Kuwait corruption – so here it is, my friends, exposure of the institutionalized corruption in my country:

Barry laughed and crossed his legs. “We do campaigns. Have a look.” He picked up a remote and pushed the button, and a large white screen dropped from the ceiling and covered most of the wall, then the entire nation appeared. Most of the states were in green, the rest were in a soft yellow. “Thirty-one states are in the green. The yellow ones have the good sense to appoint their courts. We make our living in the green ones.”

“Judicial elections.”
“Yes. That’s all we do, and we do it very quietly. When our clients need help, we target a supreme court justice who is not particularly friendly, and we take him, or her, out of the picture.”
“Just like that.”
“Just like that.”
“Who are your clients?”
“I can’t give you the names, but they’re all on your side of the street. Big companies in energy, insurance, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, timber, all types of manufacturers, plus doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, banks. We raise tons of money and hire the people on the ground to run aggressive campaigns.”

* * * * * * * *

The Senator did not know who owned the jet, not had he ever met Mr. Trudeau, which in most cultures would seem odd since Rudd had taken so much money from the man. But in Washington, money arrives through a myriad of strange and nebulous conduits. Often those taking it have only a vague idea of where it’s coming from; often they have no clue. In most democracies, the transference of so much cash would be considered outright corruption, but in Washington the corruption has been legalized. Senator Rudd didn’t know and didn’t care that he was owned by other people. He had over $11 million in the bank, money he could eventually keep if not forced to waste it on some frivolous campaign. In return for such an investment, Rudd had a perfect voting record on all matters dealing with pharmaceuticals, chemicals, oil, energy, insurance, banks and on and on.

I like almost every book I read by John Grisham. He is a man with a conscience, and he is trying to raise our awareness of corruptive factors before our system goes entirely under. I couldn’t put this book down, and I can hardly wait to read the next one.

June 16, 2009 Posted by | Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Crime, Cultural, Fiction, Financial Issues, Fund Raising, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Social Issues | , , , | 3 Comments