Pair Movies with Books: The Innocent Man

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Innocent Man
by John Grisham

The sleepy town of Ada, Oklahoma was rocked by a murder in the 1980s. A local sports hero, Ron Williamson, and his friend Dennis Fritz were arrested for the murder of a woman. The two had been in trouble with the law before and their bungled trials did nothing but cement their guilt in the eyes of the community.

As the title of the book suggests, Grisham’s nonfiction account of the crime, trial, imprisonment and eventual exoneration focus on the fact that Williamson was never guilty to begin with. It was both disturbing and eye-opening to realize how quickly the system can turn against you when you are arrested. It was also incredible to see how far forensic evidence has come in only a couple decades.

I tend to really enjoy books like this, I think it’s the journalist in me. I don’t read a lot of true crime, but nonfiction books chronicling some big event or injustice (think Erik Larson or Sebastian Junger) are right up my alley. Grisham’s knack for writing thrillers worked well with this subject matter. In another author’s hands it might have become stale and repetitive, but he made the whole process interesting. This one isn’t a new favorite, but I enjoyed it and I’d highly recommend the audio version.

BOTTOM LINE: If you enjoy nonfiction books like Devil in the White City or The Monster of Florence, you’ll probably like this one. I loved learning more about the justice system and its inevitable flaws. If you are expecting a cookie-cutter Grisham novel with twists and lots of action then skip this one. It’s not fiction, so it won’t have the same breakneck pace of his novels.

Pair with a viewing of the The Life of David Gale and the film Conviction, which is based on actual events. Both films deal with men convicted of murder and facing either the death penalty or life in prison.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I tend to be a little snarky about Grisham, just because his fiction books have become so formulaic. But I truly enjoyed this one. He did an excellent job with his first dabbling into true crime. Between this book and The Monster of Florence, I officially have the fear of God in me when it comes to being caught at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Joanna Hennon said...

I haven't read the book but remember seeing The Life of David Gale a long time ago and loving it. Must be scary, to be accused of something you didn't do!

Care said...

I do like nonfic that tells like a story. I think I've seen the David Gale movie, not sure. I am hoping to do more book-movie combos this year. I just read The Great Gatsby and watched the 1974 movie last night which was both well-done and cheesy sometimes. The film-making and the drama even though it does deserve some kind of heavy drama intensity. I am so thrilled to be ready for Leo - I could see Leo doing the lines as I watched Redford! goose-pimple producing

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - I feel the same! I didn't want to read it for the longest time, but it was so good!

Joanna - I can't even imagine going through that!

Care - I'm so excited about the new Gatsby! I think it looks really good.

Cecelia said...

I'm not much into legal procedurals or nonfiction, so this doesn't appeal to me, but I like your suggestions of films/books to go with. Very helpful! And come to think of it, my roommate loves Grisham...

Jenners said...

I did not know that Grisham wrote a non-fiction book. might be interesting!

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

This is one of those that I read and then passed around to everyone in my family. Think even Scott read it! It's definitely a fascinating and horrifying read.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Cecelia - It's been a long time since I read a Grisham novel, but I do love nonfiction.

Jenners - That was my thought! I think it was a good decision for him to branch out and try that. He already had the legal background to understand what was going on, so it worked well.

Trish - I love finding books like that. There are some that I pimp out to everyone I know (*cough The Book Thief cough*