Clanton, Mississippi

When one can clearly imagine, as if it is were a real scene, the okra growing, the heat rising off the land, the back-country roads, the courthouse square, and the coffee shop where locals gather early in the morning for grits and coffee…well, you know you have picked up a gem of a book.

Clanton. Mississippi has long been that fictional place where John Grisham takes his readers. He has crafted several books with engaging legal plots using Ozzie the sheriff, Dumas the local newspaper reporter, and of course the young lawyer, Jake Brigance. There is the rough-edged divorce lawyer Harry Rex Vonner, and the at-times drunk owner of the building housing the law offices, Lucien Wilbanks. The racial atmosphere of fictional Ford County is a constant and powerful theme, as much as is the tightly packed dialogue that Grisham excels at in whatever book he has written.

Shortly after the election, and in dire need for a change of focus, I picked up Grisham’s latest Clanton treasure, A Time For Mercy. If there are tonics for the soul in book form, this one is clearly an example. The storyline plot is tragic and yet the escape to Clanton, a place so wonderfully designed to capture the readers’ imagination and allow for some genuine laughs and smiles, makes for an adventure.

Roughly 25 years ago I started reading Grisham’s first book, A Time to Kill, on the back lawn of the Hancock family home before a Sunday cookout. It was his first book and one set in Clanton. (I have a rather odd memory of memorable books and where I read a portion of them.) The author has stated that he was not overly fond of that first effort at a book, but there is no getting around the fact his use of ”local charm’–both good and bad–is something he is a master at creating.

I have been reading Grisham books for decades and enjoy the fast plotting and engaging characters he develops. But it is Clanton, and the mood of the place which he uses as a device to wrap around his courtroom creations, which gives that added dimension this reader loves.

If you wish to travel to a locale without a car or plane and stay safe during this pandemic, while also stepping way back from the political chaos I suggest visiting Clanton, Mississippi.