Between the three, they have written: "A Time to Kill," "Presumed Innocent," "Personal Injuries," "The Burden of Proof," "The Client," "The Rainmaker," "The Firm," "The Fifth Floor," "The Chamber," "The Brethren," "The King of Torts," "The Associate," "The Third Rail," "The Chicago Way," "The Pelican Brief," "The Runaway Jury," "The Confession," "The Appeal," "The Last Juror," "Pleading Guilty," "Reversible Errors" and "Innocent." There are many others, of course; if Grisham, Harvey and Turow never lived, airport bookstores would sell only
This piece first ran in Printers Row Journal, delivered to Printers Row members with the Sunday
Grisham has sold 250 million books. Turow has sold 25 million. And Harvey — who published his first novel just five years ago, two decades after Turow wrote his first, "Presumed Innocent" — less than a million.
The game, the Chicago Cubs vs. the
Grisham sat against the dugout. He sat on the edge of his seat. Harvey slouched in his, the collar of his jacket rising up. Turow sat with perfect posture, his hands in his lap, occasionally curling into loose fists. Grisham wore Ray Bans and a Cubs starter jacket and a Cubs hat. Harvey, who lives in the neighborhood and teaches at Northwestern, wore nothing bearing an insignia. Turow, a Chicago guy, an Evanston resident, wore Ray Bans, a starter jacket similar to Grisham's, a Cubs hat with "Tuneful Turow" stitched in the back.
In the first inning, Harvey turned to Grisham and said in his thick Boston accent: "Read the book. Liked it."
Grisham, in his own soft musical Mississippi tones, replied: "It's a sweet story."
They left it at that.
Turow leaned across Harvey. "You know, John, I was with
Grisham said: "Dennehy. Great guy."
Turow said: "Terrific guy. He wanted me to say hi to you. He and
CRACK! Routine grounder to Cubs shortstop
"Future of the Cubs," Turow said, biting his hot dog, talking through the food. "That's the future, man."
Harvey and Grisham nodded solemnly.
The reason they were here together was Grisham. He wrote a new novel about baseball, "Calico Joe," a pleasant day at the park of a book about beanballs, retaliation, forgiveness, centered around a fateful game between the Cubs and the
For the record, Grisham's pitch — a little high.
Before the game, before he threw the first pitch, Grisham, unrecognized by the crowd filing in, sat in his seat and watched batting practice, his cap pulled low, a few strands of sandy colored hair poking out of his hat. He didn't turn and talk to me. He stared straight ahead, paying close attention to swings, throw, bunts.
"This summer I'll go to a
We watched a bit.
"I had serious dreams when I was in high school," he said. "Baseball wise. I had big dreams and small talent. I played everywhere but pitcher and catcher. I loved the outfield. I loved to shag fly balls. When I was in high school, I was at first and in the outfield. I was a .350 hitter. I was good enough to dream of playing in college. There were a lot of scouts around. But they never looked at me. One of the pitchers I played with later went to prison. I was his lawyer. Total head case. Anyway, I tried to play in college. Was not good enough to play in college. I tried out. I played one year of juco (aka, junior college baseball) and sat the bench and for some reason thought I was too good for that, so I tried out at a D2 school (aka, an
A book about a beanball, I said, that could be a legal
"Yeah, but you'd need dead bodies. You'd need lawyers."
But all baseball books are sad.
"Just about. You're right. The biographies are not always sad. But the fiction, almost always sad. Almost."
Grisham, Harvey and Turow ended up sitting together — two of the most successful mystery writers of all time, one acclaimed up-and-comer — because Grisham invited them, Grisham explained to me earlier. They know each other, though not especially closely: "In 1987, when 'Presumed Innocent' came out and I was struggling with my writing at first, it was a hugely motivating thing to watch what Scott went through, so successful right away. But my own first book, 'A Time to Kill,' didn't sell 5,000 copies, not right away. We met a couple of times at conferences and book expos and Scott came to Mississippi a few years back and we did a function for the Innocence Project (the New York-based legal clinic dedicated to exonerating prisoners it feels were wrongly accused). Sometimes we talk books. Most of the time, we talk baseball. He and Harvey have the same agent, too. And anyway, last summer when I was doing this book, Michael read the manuscript for me and pointed out several mistakes and I came here last August and we drove around Wrigleyville to get details. We're writers who get along with each other — and most writers don't get along."
Second inning in, Turow leaned over Harvey: "Did you get your hot dog, Mr. Grisham?"
Turow leaned across Harvey again. The guy who sang the National Anthem, he said, "that guy is a great story, one of the great Chicago stories." He meant Wayne Messmer, the longtime
"Wow. A great story," Grisham said. "A terrific story. Guy's a Chicago institution?"
"Chicago institution," Turow said.
The third inning stretched to the fourth.
They talked friends ("Nice guy." "Hell of a nice guy."), steroids in sports, the Justice Department allegations against Apple and several publishers (pointedly off the record). With the blare of the stadium speakers, they had to lean forward to say anything and strain to hear. Snippets popped out — "He died in penitentiary" (Grisham), "Candidly, I've known the president a long time and — " (Turow). Harvey stayed mostly quiet. Cubs filtered from the dugout, shot a glance toward them, then, blank-faced, turned to the field for practice swings.
Alfonso Soriano bounded from the dugout. "This guy," Turow said, "in the race to be the highest-paid player."
"Think he'll win that race?" Grisham said, laughing to himself, then stood and said he was getting beer.
"John, they'll bring it 'round," Turow said, calling after Grisham, though Grisham was gone. A few moments (and, indeed, two beer guys later), Grisham returned and snapped open a bag of peanuts, gently cracking each shell between his fingers and dropping the remains at his feet. The subject swung around to golf.
"You play much ball, John?" Turow asked.
"Just started, few years ago. Started playing at 53, though. It's an ugly game, let me tell you."
"I play a couple times a week," Turow said.
"Yeah," Turow said, "but you got land, right? A lot of land?"
"Yeah, I do."
"Put in a putting green. I got one, up at our house in Wisconsin."
"You go outside when you're done writing? Walk around?"
"Yeah, I do."
An usher appeared with a couple of Grisham books and passed them down the line. Grisham signed each one carefully then passed the books back down the line. A beer guy appeared and Grisham, Harvey and Turow ordered three beers, and then the beers came down the line, passing the books. "If you guys had better seats, you'd be sitting in the dugout," the beer guy said to Turow, passing one, two, three beers.
"Heh," Turow said.
"But then you guys'd be getting paid," the beer guy said, and picked up his beer and hiked up the steps.