This Is Not an Exclusive Excerpt from John Grisham’s New NovelImage courtesy of Shutterstock Comedy Features satire
We know what this looks like, but sorry, this is NOT actually an exclusive excerpt from the next John Grisham novel. Check out that byline: it says Jason Rhode, not John Grisham. This is the work of a Paste staff writer (and former Jeopardy contestant) from Lubbock, Texas, not an internationally renowned author and former lawyer from Oxford, Mississippi. We understand how confusing this might be, but don’t be embarrassed: you aren’t the first person to make this mistake. Now sit back and enjoy the first chapter of The Mandamus, which is probably not the name of John Grisham’s next book.
Charlie Perk sat in his law office, feeling things. Sleepiness, drunkenness, and sadness, all at once. His square handsome face felt the effect of these three big emotions. He had been born inside a blue-collar whiskey distillery in Kenosha. He had gone to Harvard, Yale, and then Stanford and Yale again. He had even been accepted into Hogwarts, but decided to follow the law instead. He had graduated from the four schools with top honors. He had played college basketball and mastered magic on the weekends. He had transformed into a bird a thousand times in private. Perk knew enchantment would be useful to him. After all, he was a rural jurist in the South.
Although he was only 24 and 4 months old, he had a bright future. He was sure he would drive a cherry-red BMW and do so with magna cum laude honors. The biggest law firms and pasta eateries in America had offered him huge deals. Charlie was a big eater and big talker. The most lucrative offer had come from a company based in the Memphis Pyramid. That firm’s name was McGurk, Donovan, Powerchrist & Dr. Frog. They were a mysterious company. They had hands in every pie you could think of. They had hands in pies you had not thought of. It was safe to say they were in every pie that had ever lived. Charlie took a pricey sip of the expensive cognac. The sip was an astounding success. Soon he would be drunker. Drunker than even now.
There was a knock on the door. A loud one. The door had been made of Memphis wood, grown in Alabama. No human man could kick it in. They didn’t need to. Perk walked over to the door. He opened the door. The well-built door opened in the direction of Charlie. In the world of law, that was how doors were designed to open: to benefit the person inside. The people inside doors had money and power. The people knocking on the doors didn’t.
That’s the way of the world, Charlie thought. No wonder my poor, dead family was eaten by the coal factory. I should be teaching the law, not living it, he told himself. It would not be the last time his thinking brain thought these thoughts.
Outside the door, Perk saw his former girlfriend, Kitt Faulkner. She was a lawyer too. Now she wore expensive clothes, which was a subtle hint that her values had changed. She had studied legality at the Oxford University school of law, in England, which was in Europe. They had joked about it, back when they dated, which had been in the past.
“England isn’t actually in Europe, Charlie,” she had said back then. “It is an island.”
“In the coal factory, my folks had a saying,” he had replied, “If a man is an island he hasn’t tried hard enough to be a continent.”
“What does that even mean,” she had said, laughingly. Then they had drunk whiskey and did adult business.
Kitt was the daughter of a rich chalkboard dealer in Oglesburg, Mississippi. Her people wanted nothing to do with the intelligent, tall Charlie Perk. That was because he was the kind of man who opened his own door.
Now Charlie looked lawyerishly at Kitt, and said “In law school, we learned to be careful of a client who comes to our doors at 3 AM. That means they’re either in trouble, or about to be.”
“Same old Charlie,” she said, “Still using words like ‘law’ and ‘school.’ Why so idealistic? I would have expected you to wise up by now.”
“Maybe it’s just my Kenosha values,” he said, with slightly warm anger, “When you’re born in a whiskey still, the only way to go is up. You tell yourself you’re never going to drink whiskey again, unless it’s your own terms. But soon enough you discover your own terms don’t pay well. You get out of law school and you figure out that your profession isn’t about mastery of the law. It’s about things like knowing how to tie your own tie, and your own shoelaces. Pretty soon you discover that you need to buy a whole new set of clothes to be a lawyer. Pretty soon even Words with Friends becomes Words with Clients. Then one day you’re drinking whiskey in your office alone. You realize you haven’t come very far from your whiskey still at all.”
“Welcome back to the whiskey stall,” she said, and handed him a manila folder.
Charlie opened the folder. With his hands. Inside were a bunch of typed pages. He sighed inwardly. Great. More small squiggles on pages I have to read, left to right, and extract meaning from. Sometimes it seemed that law school never really ended. Suddenly he came across three words he recognized: “President,” “Law,” and “law.”
“Is this right?” he said. “Is this the Mandamus file?”
Kitt nodded Kittishly. “Yes. The President of the United States is suing his First Lady for public intoxication. This document shows he has prominent cause, nullum sensum facit haec, to do so.”
Charlie Perk used his brain to narrow his handsome face. “But the First Lady sits on the Supreme Court.” The wheels turned in his head. “That means …”
“The mafia,” whispered Kitt. “This goes all the way to the top.”
It was turning out to be a more interesting night after all, Charlie Perk thought.
Coming soon: Anything but more chapters of The Mandamus.
Jason Rhode is a staff writer for Paste. He is not John Grisham. He’s on Twitter @iamthemaster.