Executive Times






2008 Book Reviews


The Appeal by John Grisham








Click on title or picture to buy from amazon.com






John Grisham provides a decent election year novel titled, The Appeal, that plays to the themes of money and power. In it, he presents a Mississippi Supreme Court campaign and election, and the maneuvering of serious money to try to ensure that the new judge will be sympathetic to powerful interests. There are enough twists and turns to keep readers captivated, as well as provide thoughtful reflection on whether judges should be elected or appointed. Here’s an excerpt, from Chapter 2, pp. 24-29:


Mr. Trudeau's car was a black Bentley with a black chauffeur named Toliver who claimed to be Jamaican, though his immigration documents were as suspicious as his affected Caribbean accent. Toliver had been driving the great man for a decade and could read his moods. This was a bad one, Toliver determined quickly as they fought the traffic along the FDR toward midtown. The first signal had been clearly delivered when Mr. Trudeau slammed the right rear door himself before a lunging Toliver could fulfill his duties.

His boss, he had read, could have nerves of cold steel in the board­room. Unflappable, decisive, calculating, and so on. But in the solitude of the backseat, even with the privacy window rolled up as tightly as possi­ble, his real character often emerged. The man was a hothead with a massive ego who hated to lose.

And he had definitely lost this one. He was on the phone back there, not yelling but certainly not whispering. The stock would crash. The law­yers were fools. Everyone had lied to him. Damage control. Toliver caught only pieces of what was being said, but it was obvious whatever happened down there in Mississippi had been disastrous.

His boss was sixty-one years old and, according to Forbes, had a net worth of almost $2 billion. Toliver often wondered, how much was enough? What would he do with another billion, then another? Why work so hard when he had more than he could ever spend? Homes, jets, wives, boats, Bentleys, all the toys a real white man could ever want.

But Toliver knew the truth. No amount of money could ever satisfy Mr. Trudeau. There were bigger men in town, and he was running hard to catch them.

Toliver turned west on Sixty-third and inched his way to Fifth, where he turned suddenly and faced a set of thick iron gates that quickly swung back. The Bentley disappeared underground, where it stopped and a security guard stood waiting. He opened the rear door. "We'll leave in an hour," Mr. Trudeau barked in Toliver's general direction, then dis­appeared, carrying two thick briefcases.

The elevator raced up sixteen levels to the top, where Mr. and Mrs. Trudeau lived in lavish splendor. Their penthouse rambled over the top two floors and looked out from its many giant windows at Central Park. They had purchased the place for $28 million shortly after their momen­tous wedding six years earlier, then spent another $10 million or so bring­ing it up to designer-magazine quality. The overhead included two maids, a chef, a butler, his and hers valets, at least one nanny, and of course the obligatory personal assistant to keep Mrs. Trudeau properly organized and at lunch on time.

A valet took his briefcases and overcoat as he flung them off. He bounded up the stairs to the master suite, looking for his wife. He had no real desire to see her at the moment, but their little rituals were expected. She was in her dressing room, a hairdresser on each side, both working feverishly on her straight blond hair.

"Hello, darling," he said dutifully, more for the benefit of the hair­dressers, both young males who seemed not the least bit affected by the fact that she was practically nude.

"Do you like my hair?" Brianna asked, glaring at the mirror as the boys stroked and fussed, all four hands doing something. Not, "How was your day?" Not, "Hello, dear." Not, "What happened with the trial?" Just simply, "Do you like my hair?"

"It's lovely," he said, already backing away. Ritual complete, he was free to go and leave her with her handlers. He stopped at their massive bed and looked at her evening gown—"Valentino," she had already ad­vised him. It was bright red with a plunging neckline that might or might not adequately cover her fantastic new breasts. It was short, almost sheer, probably weighed less than two ounces, and probably cost at least $25,000. It was a size 2, which meant it would sufficiently drape and hang on her emaciated body so the other anorexics at the party would drool in mock admiration at how "fit" she looked. Frankly, Carl was growing weary of her obsessive routines: an hour a day with a trainer ($300 per), an hour of one-on-one yoga ($300 per), an hour a day with a nutritionist ($200 per), all in an effort to burn off every last fat cell in her body and keep her weight between ninety and ninety-five pounds. She was always ready for sex—that was part of the deal—but now he some­times worried about getting poked with a hip bone or simply crushing her in the pile. She was only thirty-one, but he had noticed a wrinkle or two just above her nose. Surgery could fix the problems, but wasn't she paying a price for all this aggressive starvation?

He had more important things to worry about. A young, gorgeous wife was just one part of his magnificent persona, and Brianna Trudeau could still stop traffic.

They had a child, one that Carl could easily have forgone. He al­ready had six, plenty, he reasoned. Three were older than Brianna. But she insisted, and for obvious reasons. A child was security, and since she was married to a man who loved ladies and adored the institution of marriage, the child meant family and ties and roots and, left unsaid, le­gal complications in the event things unraveled. A child was the protec­tion every trophy wife needed.

Brianna delivered a girl and selected the hideous name of Sadler MacGregor Trudeau, MacGregor being Brianna's maiden name and Sadler being pulled from the air. She at first claimed Sadler had been a roguish Scottish relative of some variety, but abandoned that little fiction when Carl stumbled across a book of baby names. He really didn't care. The child was his by DNA only. He had already tried the father bit with prior families and had failed miserably.

Sadler was now five and had virtually been abandoned by both par­ents. Brianna, once so heroic in her efforts to become a mother, had quickly lost interest in things maternal and had delegated her duties to a series of nannies. The current one was a thick young woman from Rus­sia whose papers were as dubious as Toliver's. Carl could not, at that mo­ment, remember her name. Brianna hired her and was thrilled because she spoke Russian and could perhaps pass on the language to Sadler.

"What language did you expect her to speak?" Carl had asked.

But Brianna had no response.

He stepped into the playroom, swooped up the child as if he couldn't wait to see her, exchanged hugs and kisses, asked how her day had been, and within minutes managed a graceful escape to his office, where he grabbed a phone and began yelling at Bobby Ratzlaff.

After a few fruitless calls, he showered, dried his perfectly dyed hair, half-gray, and got himself into his newest Armani tux. The waistband was a bit snug, probably a 34, up an inch from the early days when Bri­anna stalked him around the penthouse. As he dressed himself, he cursed the evening ahead and the party and the people he would see there. They would know At that very moment, the news was racing around the finan­cial world. Phones were buzzing as his rivals roared with laughter and gloated over Krane's misfortune. The Internet was bursting with the lat­est from Mississippi.

For any other party, he, the great Carl Trudeau, would simply call in sick. Every day of his life he did whatever he damned well pleased, and if he decided to rudely skip a party at the last minute, what the hell? But this was not just any event.

Brianna had wormed her way onto the board of the Museum of Abstract Art, and tonight was their biggest blowout. There would be de­signer gowns, tummy tucks and stout new breasts, new chins and perfect tans, diamonds, champagne, foie gras, caviar, dinner by a celebrity chef, a silent auction for the pinch hitters and a live auction for the sluggers. And, most important, there would be cameras on top of cameras, enough to convince the elite guests that they and only they were the cen­ter of the world. Oscar night, eat your heart out.

The highlight of the evening, at least for some, would be the auc­tioning of a work of art. Each year the committee commissioned an "emerging" painter or sculptor to create something just for the event, and usually forked over a million bucks or so for the result. Last year's paint­ing had been a bewildering rendering of a human brain after a gunshot, and it went for six mill. This year's item was a depressing pile of black clay with bronze rods rising into the vague outline of a young girl. It bore the mystifying title Abused Imelda and would have sat neglected in a gal­lery in Duluth if not for the sculptor, a tortured Argentine genius ru­mored to be on the verge of suicide, a sad fate that would instantly double the value of his creations, something that was not lost on savvy New York art investors. Brianna had left brochures around the penthouse and had dropped several hints to the effect that Abused Imelda would be stunning in their foyer, just off the elevator entrance.

Carl knew he was expected to buy the damned thing and was hop­ing there would not be a frenzy. And if he became its owner, he was al­ready hoping for a quick suicide.

She and Valentino appeared from the dressing room. The hair boys were gone, and she had managed to get into the gown and the jewelry all by herself. "Fabulous," Carl said, and it was indeed true. In spite of the bones and ribs, she was still a beautiful woman. The hair very much re­sembled what he had seen at six that morning when he kissed her good­bye as she sipped her coffee. Now, a thousand dollars later, he could tell little difference.

Oh, well. He knew very well the price of trophies. The prenuptial gave her $100,000 a month to play with while married and twenty mil­lion when they split. She also got Sadler with liberal visitation for the fa­ther, if he so chose.

In the Bentley, they hurried from beneath the apartment building and were onto Fifth Avenue when Brianna said, "Oh, my, I forgot to kiss Sadler. What kind of mother am I?"

"She's fine," Carl said, who likewise had failed to say good night to the child.

"I feel awful," Brianna said, feigning disgust. Her full-length black Prada coat was split so that the backseat was dominated by her amazing legs. Legs from the floor up to her armpits. Legs unadorned by hosiery or clothing or anything whatsoever. Legs for Carl to see and admire and touch and fondle and she really didn't care if Toliver had a good look, ei­ther. She was on display, as always.

Carl rubbed them because they felt nice, but he wanted to say something like "These things are beginning to resemble broomsticks." He let it pass.

`Any word from the trial?" she finally asked.

"The jury nailed us," he said.

"I'm so sorry"

"We're fine."

"How much?"

"Forty-one million."

"Those ignorant people."

Carl told her little about the complicated and mysterious world of the Trudeau Group. She had her charities and causes and lunches and trainers, and that kept her busy. He didn't want and didn't tolerate too many questions.

Brianna had checked online and knew exactly what the jury de­cided. She knew what the lawyers were saying about the appeal, and she knew Krane's stock would take a major hit early the next morning. She did her research and kept her secret notes. She was gorgeous and thin, but she was not stupid. Carl was on the phone.


I anticipated that I wouldn’t care much for The Appeal, because I had found many of his prior works to be tedious or poorly written. The Appeal more than exceeded my low expectations. I finished the book a little sad that it was over, and I found myself weeks later still thinking about whether or not it takes direct experience, close to home, to achieve real understanding and insight. Read The Appeal and find out what I mean.


Steve Hopkins, March 21, 2008



Buy The Appeal

@ amazon.com

Go To Hopkins & Company Homepage



Go to 2008 Book Shelf

Go to Executive Times Archives


Go to The Big Book Shelf: All Reviews





*    2008 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the April 2008 issue of Executive Times


URL for this review: http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/Books/The Appeal.htm


For Reprint Permission, Contact:

Hopkins & Company, LLC • 723 North Kenilworth AvenueOak Park, IL 60302
Phone: 708-466-4650 • Fax: 708-386-8687

E-mail: books@hopkinsandcompany.com