The Appeal

Politics has always been a dirty game, now justice is too



John Grisham, an author of twenty bestselling books unveils ‘The Appeal’ as a legal thriller, a genre that he has not inaugurated but has dominated for about two decades. What works for Grisham is his enduring and lawyerly way of dramatizing urgent moral issues. He achieved success writing legal thrillers, some based loosely on his life as a lawyer while others are strictly non-fiction works. Critics say “though legal thrillers are his forte, he ranges widely within and sometimes beyond the genre, telling stories that are close to his heart.” Grisham remains the only author to have written a novel that topped the best seller lists for seven consecutive years.
In ‘The Appeal’, the author unfolds his tale of a lawsuit against a New York based Krane Chemical, a company that has been illegally and negligently dumping chemical waste for years, and allowing it to seep into the water supply of Bowmore town. As a result, the water becomes contaminated and the cancer rate increases 15 times the national average. It becomes a cluster of disease so conspicuous that a national magazine dubs the area as ‘Cancer County USA’. A local husband and wife law firm-Wes and Mary Grace Payton- battle against Krane to seek justice for their client Jeanette Baker who lost her husband and young son to cancer caused by the carcinogenic pollutants. The Paytons wager everything, including their home, and spend years marshalling evidences against Krane. Their painstaking efforts lead them to win a 41 million dollar verdict which in theory means more than 13 million dollar for them and 29 million dollar for their long suffering client.
It represents not only justice for their client but also the fee that will put them back on their feet. There is however still the matter of the company’s inevitable appeal. Krane’s Manhattan based CEO Carl Trudeau  is reluctant to slip down from the Forbes 400 list of Wealthiest Americans. He vows to do whatever  is necessary to overturn their decision and save his company’s stocks. He defiantly promises his colleagues that “not one dime of our hard earned profits will ever get into the hands of those trailer park peasants.”Since the appeal won’t be heard for months, before then, elections can alter the balance of power in the State’s Supreme Court. A consultant hired by Trudeau senses that Judge Sheila McCarthy, one of the court’s moderate judges is vulnerable. So he invests millions of dollars to have the judge replaced with a hand picked candidate, Ron Fisk, who will shift the court’s traditional spilt in a more favorable direction. Fisk has no judicial experience but is quickly caught up in the euphoria of his surging popularity once his candidature is announced. And by all the new attention lavished on him by his backers, he barely has time to wonder why they find him so appealing or where all those campaign funds are coming from. With Fisk on the Supreme Court, the outcome of the appeal seems guaranteed. However, Grisham orchestrates a convenient crisis of conscience for the newly bought and elected jurist, and then toys with his reader’s sympathies by going in an unexpected direction in the book’s closing chapter.
‘The Appeal’ is a fascinating narrative which delivers a real picture of a real problem. Grisham not only moves to a surprising ending but also makes a real point about how judicial elections undermine the integrity of any justice system. More important, he focuses on the absurdity of judicial elections. There is a clear contrast between the haves and the have nots, the rich and the poor, the power players and the powerless. Readers will come away from ‘The Appeal’ with little doubt about the point Grisham is trying to make. His anger at the way money influences the electoral system seethes from each page. ‘The Appeal’ is an entertaining page turner that by showing readers a perversion of the system yearns for justice. The book is suggested as an engrossing read.

(The  author is Social Welfare Officer, in the Department of Social Welfare, J&K Govt. She can be reached at

Lastupdate on : Mon, 24 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 24 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 25 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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