John Grisham’s 1992 novel, A Time to Kill, is about law, of course. But this story very much involves the intricacies and emotions of race and prejudice as well. At a time when many white southerners are beginning to accept African Americans as equals, others are aghast to think that this could be happening.
How fair a trial do you think a black man could get in Mississippi, USA, after blatantly shooting two white men, in plain view of a crowd, inside a courthouse? How about when one of the bullets from his shotgun mistakenly hits a white court officer—leaving him with an amputated leg? A Time to Kill brings you into the mayhem, from the safe distance of your easy chair.
Wild over the sheer audacity of such an action by a Negro, some of the town folk don’t even want to hear about Carl Lee Hailey’s reasons for the double murder. Others are sympathetic as they learn the details of the incident that prompted Hailey’s revenge.
Of those who feel they would have done the same as Hailey, many still can’t wrap their minds around the idea of this black man walking free. The few, who can, soon begin changing their minds—or ending up dead, or with burned down houses.
Jake Berghantz is Carl Lee’s young white lawyer. He knows he has his work cut out for him, and he knows Carl Lee can’t pay. He has to deal with the state prosecutor, Buckley, who is soon to be running for governor (and is in everybody’s pocket), and a judge who doesn’t believe in changing venues.
His best friend, and legal mentor, gets drunk for breakfast, his secretary is threatened into quitting, and his wife is mad because he didn’t stop Carl Lee from doing this crazy thing to begin with.
Jury selection is coming up and its Berghantz’s job to convince the ones he can, and eliminate from the group the ones he knows he never will. The only bit of luck he gets is in the form of a young, radical, female law student who waltzes into town to help him, for free, because she wants the experience.
If Jake can only get her to eat grits and put on a bra, the sexy Boston-ite just might survive this southern town trial.
With remarkable insight into the strength and depth of deep-rooted, ignorant, prejudice, Grisham brings to light the fierceness, and cruel mentality, of those who would revel in organizations such as the Klu Klux Klan. In A Time to Kill, he starts with the minds of the rapists and tormentors of sweet, innocent, ten-year-old Tanya Hailey.
Beck is good, but there were a few times I couldn’t understand what he said. He had the accents down pat, there were just times his voice was too low.