sycamore rowFirst, writers are readers. Even though this is my author blog, anyone who tells you they are a writer but doesn't have time to read, will never be a good writer. In order to get better you have to learn and the best way to learn is by reading what other writers have done.

That doesn't always mean reading Shakespeare or even Faulkner. My favorite writers are Stephen King and John Grisham, although I don't read Grisham as much as I used to.

Sycamore Row is reminescent of Grisham's first, and in my opinion best, book so far A Time to Kill and also reads a lot like Playing for Pizza (his book about pro football, kind of).

In A Time to Kill, Grisham absolutely caught what it is like to be a lawyer in a small town. His hero, Jake Brigance, had the same problems, faced the same hard choices, and had good and bad days just like real lawyers do. Grisham writes about real people.

In Sycamore Row, Grisham returns to Ford County and writes about Jake Brigance, three years after the Carl Lee Hailey trial from A Time to Kill. All of the characters make a return including Lucius Wilbanks and Harry Rex Vonner.

The topic this time isn't a murder trial but rather a probate hearing aka a will contest. From experience I can tell you that probate work can be both the most boring and the most dangerous work a lawyer can do. Lay-people think that family law cases are the most antagonistic but they haven't seen anything until they see a family fight over a few dollars in an estate. The only time I ever felt like I needed a gun in court was in a will contest case that ended with an 80+ year old man using a walker pulling a pocketknife on a 40+ year old woman, who was scrambling to get a straight razor out of her purse when the bailiff broke it up.

Grisham does an absolutely masterful job in setting the scene and building his characters. I had forgotten just how good he was at this and how accurately he portrays lawyers, judges and clients in the book.

Sycamore Row gets a big thumbs up and a five star rating from me.