The Racketeer (novel)
First edition cover
|October 23, 2012|
|Preceded by||Calico Joe|
|Followed by||Sycamore Row|
The Racketeer is a legal thriller novel written by John Grisham that was released on October 23, 2012 by Doubleday with an initial printing of 1.5 million copies. It was one of the best selling books of 2012 and spent several weeks atop various best seller lists.
The protagonist Malcolm Bannister, an African American and former United States Marine, is an attorney in a modest Virginia small-town law firm. A real estate transaction which he undertook in good faith turns out to have involved the purchase of a secluded hunting lodge where a crooked Capitol Hill lobbyist invited corrupt Congressmen for booze and drug-fueled orgies with underage girls. When the scandal is exposed, Bannister is caught up in a large FBI sweep, and his name is added to many others on a 100-page racketeering charge sheet as his protestations of innocence are ignored. He is charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), convicted and given a 10-year prison term. The story begins five years later with Bannister half way through his term; he has since been disbarred, divorced by his wife, lost contact with his son and is nursing a bitter grudge against the federal government in general and the FBI in particular. He gets his chance when the brutal murders of a federal judge, Judge Fawcett, and the judge's mistress make headlines in the media and the FBI investigation goes nowhere. Bannister knows the killer's identity and motive, what the judge's safe had contained, as well as the judge's hidden corruption.
He convinces the FBI to offer him a deal which will set him free as well as make him a member of the United States Federal Witness Protection Program, in return for information leading to the indictment of the murderer. He tells the FBI that Quinn Rucker, a drug dealer he met in prison, had escaped and murdered Judge Fawcett as revenge for a failed bribery attempt in which the judge took $500,000 but didn't follow through on his end of the deal. He provides information on the whereabouts of Quinn, who is arrested, confesses to the crime and is indicted. However, it is revealed later that Quinn is not the murderer and Bannister is aware of this.
After Quinn's indictment, Bannister is released and given a new face and identity, Max Reed Baldwin. After the FBI discovers that Rucker's gang knows Bannister's whereabouts and is seeking revenge, Bannister leaves the program and goes off the radar. He sets up a fake film company, called Skelter Films and proceeds to locate another man he had met in prison, Nathan Cooley. Bannister contacts Nathan and asks him to take part in the filming of a documentary about corruption in the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI. Thanks to the Witness Protection Program, Bannister ensures that Nathan is unaware of his real identity and succeeds in gaining his confidence and landing him in prison in Jamaica by drugging him while he's on a private plane and planting cocaine, a handgun and a fake passport in his luggage.
It is revealed that Nathan is in fact the real killer and that he stole approximately $8.5 million worth of gold from the judge who had taken it from a mining company, Armanna Mines, in exchange for a favorable ruling giving them permission to mine uranium in the region. Bannister tricks Nathan into giving him the location of the money and steals it. Meanwhile, charges are dropped against Rucker after it is found he has an alibi and it is revealed that they have been working together in order to steal the money Bannister learned about in prison. Bannister trades the identity of the real killer in exchange for immunity and tells the FBI to investigate the bribery that took place between Judge Fawcett and Armanna Mines.
The novel ends with Bannister celebrating with the Rucker family in his new house in Antigua with all the gold.
Commentators have noted that The Racketeer is unique among Grisham novels in that the main protagonist, Malcolm Bannister, is African-American. Grisham has stated that this came about after many years of fans encouraging him to feature a black hero but according to him, "It's no big deal. It's not about race."
The book debuted at number one on The New York Times Best Seller list on the November 11, 2012 list (reflecting sales for the week ending October 27, 2012), where it remained for three weeks ending with the November 25 list (reflecting sales for the week ending November 10, 2012). On December 2, it was surpassed by Vince Flynn's The Last Man. However, on the December 30 list (reflecting sales for the week ending December 15, 2012), it regained the top position, which it also held the following week. As of 18 February 2013[update] the book remained on the best seller list for the week ending February 24 (reflecting sales for the week ending February 9, 2013).
The book reached the top of the USA Today best seller list for the week of November 1 and remained atop the list the following week. It is Grisham's 18th book to reach number one on the USA Today list.
The book debuted at #1 on The Wall Street Journal Hardcover Fiction bestseller list on for the week ending October 28, 2012 in the edition of November 3. It remained at #1 for three weeks. It debuted at #1 on The Wall Street Journal Fiction E-Books and Fiction Combined bestseller lists on for the week ending November 4, 2012 in the edition of November 9, but fell to #2 the following week. By December 2, it had fallen to #5 on the Fiction E-Books list, and it fell out of the top ten for the first time the following week. It remained in the Fiction Combined top ten until the December 30 list in the edition of January 4, 2013. It remained in the Hardcover Fiction top 10 until the January 27 list in the edition of February 1.
Tom Nolan of The Wall Street Journal describes the book as an enigmatic puzzle to understand who the title character is: Bannister, murdered Judge Raymond Fawcett, or his killer. Nolan also views the book as insightful in its descriptions of the legal and penal system. He also lauds the book for its plot twists and scenery changes. Janet Maslin of The New York Times described the book as a departure from Grisham's normal legal novels. Although it began with the normal legal trouble, it then winds its way along an unexpected course. She says that rather than pursue the usual "triumph or a miscarriage of courtroom justice", this book is about reformation and revenge. The USA Today lauded the book's interesting twists when it named it as a recommended book on October 27.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox 2000 and New Regency agreed in February 2013 to develop a film adaptation of The Racketeer. They have signed on director Daniel Espinosa who previously directed Safe House, which starred Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds. When the book was first released in October, Washington was mentioned as a possibility to play the lead role of Malcolm Bannister in a film adaptation. Grisham hoped that Washington would play the role and many of his contacts encouraged him to pursue Denzel saying, he has "got to get Denzel!". However, on the potential of Washington being involved, Grisham has commented "nobody has heard from Denzel. And I learned a long time ago, you never get the one you want. You can never get the right actor."
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- Nolan, Tom (October 19, 2012). "Mystery Chronicle: Imperfect Crimes: A prosaic cop and a professor nicknamed "Detective Galileo" star in an engrossing Japanese take on Holmes and Watson". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 18, 2013.
- Kit, Borys (February 12, 2013). "John Grisham's 'The Racketeer' Picked Up by Fox 2000, New Regency (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 16, 2013.