The Broker: Grisham's bestsellin' machine

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The HooK: HOTSEAT- <I>The Broker</I>: Grisham's bestsellin' machine

 

 

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Here's what doesn't worry John Grisham about the release of his 18th book: Whether it will instantly go to number one on the New York Times bestseller list.

"I wouldn't be upset," says the Charlottesville-based author who's sold more books than just about anyone. "We'd scratch our heads."

That's because after 15 consecutive years of releasing at least one new book a year, publishing a Grisham novel is practically a science. The January 11 release of The Broker, an international espionage thriller, is the earliest his annual tome has ever come out. March used to be the release month, but Doubleday wanted to try earlier. For one, no one else is publishing then.

"January used to be the slowest month," says Grisham. "That's changed with gift cards from Borders and Barnes & Noble."

One thing does worry Grisham a little about this year's release: He's appearing on Jon Stewart's Daily Show. "I'm a little nervous about that," he confesses on the eve of The Broker's release. "I've never done that before."

While other authors have to beg their publishers to even give them a book tour, Grisham has whittled it down to what suits his fancy and convenience– testimony to his weight as the best-selling author of all time– at least until that upstart Harry Potter appeared on the scene.

"I hesitate to even call it a book tour," says Grisham. He goes to six bookstores, and they're the same ones every year: New Dominion here and five in Mississippi.

The latter "are the ones who helped me out over the years," he says. "I go back and the same people come and we have a party."

Once upon a time Grisham would sign books for 15 hours. "Four thousand was not unusual," he says. One bookstore brought in a massage therapist, and another had a chiropractor come in to give him an adjustment.

Those days of writer's cramp are long gone. Alone and in private, he can sign 600 books an hour. "When you have a line, it takes an hour to do 50 people" because of the personalizing.

Now if you want a book personalized, you have to special order it. "New Dominion is the only place you can get a personalized autograph," advises Grisham. He goes there throughout the year to sign books that have been ordered in advance.

Publicity for The Broker includes a few days in New York to do a handful of media interviews. "I just got canceled by CNN because they're all in Thailand," he says without dismay.

Interviews he doesn't do? Jay Leno has been trying to get him on the show for 12 years, but there's one big problem: "He's on the other coast and I don't want to go out there," he explains. "And I don't want to do Letterman," he adds without elaboration.

Grisham isn't averse to all travel, however. The Broker is set in Italy, a country he's very fond of, and he did what he loosely refers to as his "research" in Bologna with a friend who knows all the best chefs in the city.

And he came back from Bologna with more than a setting for his novel. Writes Grisham about the book, "In the course of our tedious work, I put on about 10 pounds."

Robert DeNiro and Renee Zellweger would understand.

Age: Three weeks away from 50

Why here? Because we didn't know anyone. Then we fell in love with Central Virginia.

Worst about living here? Eastern Standard Time

Favorite hangout? Cove Creek Park

Most overrated virtue? Can't think of one.

People would be surprised to know: I live a normal life.

What would you change about yourself? I'd find the energy to clean my garage once a month.

Proudest accomplishment? Hanging on to Number Two behind Harry Potter.

People find most annoying about you: My lousy Virginia accent. I say "house" instead of "hoose" and "about" instead of "aboot."

Whom do you admire? Dead– William Faulkner. Alive– William Styron.

Favorite book? The Grapes of Wrath

 Subject that causes you to rant? Sprawl, slash and burn development, loss of open spaces.

Biggest 21st-century thrill? Both kids doing well in college.

Biggest 21st-century creep out? Cardinals losing four straight to the Red Sox. (At least it wasn't the Yankees.)

What do you drive? Chevy Trail Blazer

In your car CD player right now: Van Morrison's Greatest Hits

Next journey? A quick book tour, then Costa Rica

Most trouble you've ever gotten in? It's one of those old college stories I'd rather my kids never hear about.

Regret: Another old college story.

Favorite comfort food: Nothing in particular– all food is comforting. Everything!

Always in your refrigerator: At least 10 different cheeses.

Must-see TV: ESPN Sports Center

 Favorite cartoon: The Far Side

 Describe a perfect day. Sleep until 7, write two pages before 10, a long run, a long nap, no phone calls, never leave the farm.

Walter Mitty fantasy: Playing centerfield for the St. Louis Cardinals. Or right field. Or left.

Who'd play you in the movie? Hugh Wilson

Most embarrassing moment? It's a long story that involves the passing of gas in a crowded church service. Not by me (I swear) but I nonetheless got blamed for it.

Best advice you ever got? Write at least one page every day– no exceptions.

Favorite bumper sticker? I hear voices (and they don't like you)



PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO

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