A liking for John Grisham’s writing is something that has only happened to me recently. I couldn’t get excited about his bestselling legal thrillers, which were well written and had interesting plots but whose characters weren’t interesting enough to engage me.
After many successes he seems to have mellowed enough to write about flawed, but more interesting characters. The last novel I read, Playing for Pizza, published in 2007, isn’t even a thriller and doesn’t include a murder or even a mystery of any kind. Of course a competent writer like Grisham does create some suspense, but in this story it’s only the modest cliff-hanger of whether the hero’s amateur American football team in Italy will win, or even reach, the local super bowl.
Rick Dockery was the third-string quarterback for the Cleveland Browns when he managed to lose the game for his team in such a spectacular way that his lackluster career in American pro football was essentially over. Rick is a decent guy and basically a competent quarterback with a great throwing arm, but his instinct to avoid injury causes him to make mistakes at crucial moments.
In Playing for Pizza, Grisham writes entertainingly about football, the food in Parma, and how a small town boy from Ohio broadens his horizons to include Italian cuisine, opera, and intellectual women.