Author John Grisham is enjoying a pretty special week.
His new book “Sycamore Grove” hit bookshelves today, and the Broadway play based on his novel “A Time to Kill” opened on Oct. 20. However, Grisham told NPR the almost-matching dates were completely unplanned.
“You know it makes us look real smart,” the author said. “There is no way, if we had planned, that it would ever happen. It is completely coincidental.”
Both feature the same protagonist, Grisham’s lawyer Jake Brigance. The novel “Time” was first released in 1989 and “Sycamore” is the first novel in which Jake has made a reappearance.
Jake is the closest to an autobiographical character that he’s written, Grisham said, having written “Time” when he was still working as a lawyer himself.
“I dreamed of the big case, a big showdown, a big murder case with everybody watching, and a lot at stake and big issues and stuff like that," he told NPR. "Those were my dreams back then, and I had this idea for a case, a trial, and it eventually became what we now know as A Time to Kill, and that's how Jake Brigance came to life.”
So far, Sycamore is earning mainly positive reviews, with Washington Post writer Patrick Anderson saying that “Grisham’s return to Clanton is triumphant. ‘Sycamore Row’ is easily the best of his books that I’ve read” and calling it one of the best novels in recent years.
“It’s an ambitious, immensely readable novel,” Anderson wrote. “’Sycamore Row’ is enlivened by many colorful characters.”
USA Today writer Dennis Moore agreed with Anderson’s positive assessment, giving the novel three-and-a-half out of four stars.
“Jake is one of the most fully developed and engaging characters in all of Grisham's novels,” Moore wrote. “Grisham's acute sense of place permeates the book.”
Meanwhile, the “Time” Broadway adaptation was called “sturdy but dated” by Variety writer Marilyn Stasio.
“There’s a distinctly dated feeling to the material — not the topic of Southern racism, but the youthful idealism of its hero,” she wrote.
New York Times writer Charles Isherwood agreed.
“This workmanlike version of Mr. Grisham’s book never succeeds in generating much steam,” he wrote. “This efficient but hardly pulse-racing night at the theater features some terrific actors, but it doesn’t give any of them much red meat to chew on.”