Thursday, July 3, 2014

Howard, This One's for You.


It’s no secret; I’m a huge, huge fan of John Grisham’s work, but quite honestly, only his legal thrillers.  I don’t care for his writing when he strays away from that genre and tries something else.  For example, I didn’t like A Painted House and I’m not crazy about his Theodore Boone series, but then those are for young adults anyway.
I am a firm believer in writing what you know, and John Grisham knows the law really well. 
Today, I’m talking about The Chamber, the movie vs. the book.
I was actually introduced to John Grisham’s writing by my father-in-law, Howard Hughey, who was an avid reader.  He has since passed on and I can only hope he’s still reading John’s good work and my K. T. Roberts mysteries as well.   Now you know I had to put a plug in here for my own work, right?
What I like about John’s writing is that he captures your attention from the first chapter and the suspense mounts with each chapter.  I love stories where I find myself routing for the villain—so odd, isn’t it?  But I think that’s a sign of a real good writer.
The Chamber is another story from the 60’s era and about Sam Cayhall, (Gene Hackman) a Klansmen who’s a racist bigot from America's ole' South and is now on death row awaiting the gas chamber for killing two Jewish children who were in a building he’d bombed that had been scheduled to go off at 5:00 AM, but went off at 8:00 instead. 
Sam’s 26-year old grandson, Adam Hall (Chris O’Donnell), shows up at the Mississippi State Penitentiary only 28 days before he’s scheduled to be killed.  Adam is a new anointed attorney. This is the first time Adam and Sam are meeting, but he’s come to appeal his grandfather’s conviction.  It doesn’t take long for Adam's motivation of fighting this battle to become clear.  Truth is, he’s always been ashamed of having Sam as a relative, hence the reason his last name has been changed from Cayhall to Hall.  Several years earlier, Adam’s father committed suicide because he couldn’t fathom the thought that his father was such an evil person and part of the reason Adam has come to heal the wounds.
I thought both the book and the movie were wonderful, yet John Grisham himself called it a disaster and a train wreck from the beginning and wished he’d hadn’t sold the rights of the film before he’d ever finished writing it.  I didn’t see either of them that way, but once again, Hollywood takes liberties with the story to meet their budget constraints.
At the time this movie came out, I was reading the book and had three chapters to go before I finished it, so I put aside and figured I’d find out how it ended from the movie. Howard was so annoyed that I hadn’t read it because he said it was different and wished I’d read it so we could discuss it.  Well, Howard, if you’re reading this, I just read those three chapters, and you’re right, it was different.   In the end, Sam admits he’s killed a lot of people, but we find out that he did not kill those two children.  He had nothing to do with it but figured no one would ever believe him.
Howard, this ones for you!