John Grisham, Jr., was born in 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas. His father was a construction worker and cotton farmer, and his mother was a homemaker. The family moved frequently but finally settled in Southaven, Mississippi, in 1967.
Young John dreamed of becoming a pro baseball player and even tried out for the Delta State University team, but eventually realized he "didn't have the right stuff." He changed his focus, earning a B.S. in accounting from Mississippi State University in 1977. He enrolled at the University of Mississippi with the intention of studying tax law but soon found that he did not enjoy it and turned his attention to criminal law.
After earning his law degree in 1981, he opened his own practice, working in criminal defense and personal injury litigation for almost ten years.
In 1983, he ran for the office of State Representative in Mississippi's Seventh District as a Democrat and won. By his second term, he was vice-chairman of the Apportionment and Elections Committee, and was a member of the Insurance, Judiciary A, and Military Affairs Committees. Yet Grisham was lonely without his family and frustrated with the slow pace of the state legislature. In his boredom, he began to come up with ways to pass the time; he once introduced a resolution commending singer Herbert Khaury (better known as Tiny Tim). Still, he held office until 1990.
A new diversion presented itself in tragic circumstances in 1984 at the DeSoto County courthouse—Grisham witnessed the testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and decided to write about what might have happened had her father killed her attackers. A Time to Kill was published in June 1988. Despite publishers' lukewarm reception of this first novel, Grisham had already begun another novel, The Firm, the film rights to which sold to Paramount for $600,000. Suddenly, Grisham was on the map, and a new career as a writer was assured.
Since A Time to Kill Grisham has published a new book each year. Each has become an international bestseller, and nine have been adapted for film (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas). At present, over 235 million John Grisham books are in print worldwide.
John Grisham and his wife, Renee, have two children, Ty and Shea, and split their time between a Mississippi farm and a Virginia plantation.