Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Racketeer—A Review of John Grisham’s Novel

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“Helluva job.” (366)

The Racketeer (published in 2012) can be hailed in a one-liner. But this work of fiction is more than conclusive in a single line of exclamatory phrase. John Grisham, in his latest novel pulled off a smart job as a writer of thrillers. The Racketeer is an ideal suspense thriller, with none in elegance and ingenuity to follow. In Grisham’s own words, which he notes at the ‘Author’s Note’ section of the book; “This is a work of fiction and more so than usual…Almost nothing in the previous 340 pages is based on reality….Long paragraphs of fiction were used to avoid looking up facts.” As controversial and audacious a statement this is, this attitude of the author invites criticisms as well.

The Racketeer received mixed reviews and most of the negative ones are tending to whack the author on the wrist for either supplying an entirely fictional background for the story, or shying away from painstaking research, which is, as some readers may feel, meant by “long paragraphs of fiction were used to avoid looking up facts.” I remember from somewhere, fiction is the truth in the lie we live in. However, above all criticisms, The Racketeer shins as the peak of a writerly success in two ways—one; the imaginary landscape of Grisham spreads beyond the limitations and dominating structures of facts and the so-called ‘researched writing’. Two—Malcolm Bannister aka Max Reed Baldwin is a remarkable character, who could win a space in the line with Holden Caulfield and David Copperfield, though much farther in the line.
 
John Grisham
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The Racketeer narrates the story of Malcolm Bannister in first person. A black, small town lawyer, Malcolm Bannister, got arrested under the RICO—Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, “an often flexible and famously flexible federal law.”

He is in prison and decides to help the Federal Bureau of Investigation in solving the murder of a federal judge—Judge Raymond Fawcett. “It’s payback time,” says the front cover, but you might not get the slightest idea what or when this is going to happen. The climax is awaited, eagerly, with the turn of each page. And the reader knows that the narrator is taking him or her into a journey of intriguing suspense, with the promise of catharsis at the end. If TheConfession and The Racketeer are to be read as one long novel, with the two books being two parts of the large one book, with different characters connected with similar backgrounds, then The Racketeer could rightly be called one long cathartic moment, from the beginning of the story to its ending. The Federal Government is avenged for the murder of Donte Drumm.  
 
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Though some areas in The Racketeer’s plot, especially the scenes related to the airport, international travel and the FBI, seem foggy and shallow, the skilled Grisham keeps his control and never fails his craft. The very statement “long paragraphs of fiction were used to avoid looking up facts” shows the risk in writing this book. Grisham overcomes this risk elegantly. The story is in total control of the writer. Readers must wait and watch the ‘reality show’ the Malcolm Bannister (or John Grisham) puts up.

The Racketeer is also about the fight of the individual in a world run by corrupted agencies and systems, where “it didn’t matter if a couple of us might be innocent, nor did it matter that our version of truth would be distorted by the government.” (63) In order to subjugate the Power Clouds and the structures of dominance, resorting ‘facts’ or accepted norms would be the last of the measures to succeed. The Racketeer is a writerly response toward such a world system that never negotiates terms with the ordinary individual. Malcolm Bannister’s fight is against the modern dictatorship of the United States of America, very much similar in its response to justice to every other so-called sovereign nation across the world.   
 

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The message of hope in The Racketeer is very much similar to Wall of Colours. This message awaits each and every reader going through its pages; it silently whispers to us that you don’t always need to be on the receiving end.  

This book review is sponsored by Mysmartprice.com/books

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