Book Review: The Appeal (2008)

A novel by John Grisham

AppealMr. Grisham is a big time writer and when you read this book on what happens when the corporate power buys justice, you’ll appreciate more why. Nobody can produce the authenticity of life at the top (how the 1% live: executive boardroom machinations; posh parties; help from sleazeball US senators; billionaire stock manipulation; and making clean, ever so stylish getaways in luxury automobiles, fast jets, and oceangoing yachts) and life among the long-suffering people without access to privilege (the most unfortunate of the 99% who are continually injured and killed by corporate criminals) better than Grisham.

The previous time I started a Grisham legal-beagle story, I remarked to myself haughtily, “My gosh, he’s writing this book as if it were already a screenplay, to facilitate tapping into the big money of Hollywood. How gauche.” Well, I forgot the name of the book I then suspended reading.

Successful life, I’m finding, is a long series of giving up addictions and prejudices, and via The Appeal I’ve given up my prejudices contra John Grisham. This one is transportive, causing me to wonder whether the good guys or bad guys are going to win or lose on every page. But especially as I come to the end, which of course I shan’t spoil.

The conflict couldn’t be more dramatic nor the split between Good and Evil in realistic peoplehood. Also degrees of good and evil exist on the stage: the prime mover of Evil is a corporate billionaire ‘industrialist’ who has knowingly caused the water to be poisoned (by dumping toxic waste) in a county in Mississippi, causing a vast swath of injury and premature death mostly from cancers. A local, heroic husband-and-wife trial attorney team goes for broke to bring a class action suit that a results in a record multimillion-dollar award for punitive damages. Yay!

Unfortunately, the defendant still has the right to appeal to the state supreme court. To reverse the lower court verdict. That opportunity, which is all too real nationwide, sets up a series of maximum-sleaze actions by Mr. Evil and Minions of the System… that System being the same global pathocracy that I write about incessantly. Only the subjects of The Appeal are actually the cream of the crop 1% subsystem that lives and breathes in the US of A while making living and breathing more and more difficult for the rest of us. Mr. Evil will circuitously endeavor to buy a supreme court judge, using a ‘can’t miss’ operation that the reader just knows is standard procedure in real life.

Regarding the adversarial legal system, Grisham is objective and balanced about both sides of the corporate law. He’s also clearly on the side of the Good, despite recounting how ostensibly foolproof a project can be purchased for a paltry number of $millions. As the author goes through the machinations of the miscreants, one now recognizes why justice doesn’t always prevail—to say the least. You also come to the conclusion that a LOT of real people realize they are facilitating acts of aggression by their corporate bosses but, by golly, that Mercedes and the cottage up north quiet the conscience. How do they live with themselves, let me count the ways. Crime pays.

If it didn’t, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama, and hundreds of their royal entourage would be pounding sand in Sing Sing instead of still sucking succulently at the Grand Crony-Capitalist Teat. Think of this for a minute: Karl Rove and Dick Cheney have yet to spend a day in jail. The real question is, “How long?” (can crime pay). Gandhi has the answer:

“[A]ll through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall – think of it, always.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Well, we all sure wish the way of truth and love would step more lively. We have a crisis here. As for The Appeal, regardless of how this particular ‘bought judge’ operation turns out, Grisham accomplishes a searing indictment of this moral, inhuman morass our political-legal system has descended into. His brilliance is that he always keeps the hopes up and the lights on. Great read. Plus you will understand a zillion times better how the politics of Evil works.

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