The Rainmaker (novel)

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The Rainmaker
The Cover of The Rainmaker.jpg
First edition cover
AuthorJohn Grisham
CountryUnited States
GenreLegal thriller novel
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages434 pp
813/.54 20
LC ClassPS3557.R5355 R35 1995

The Rainmaker is a 1995 novel by John Grisham. This was Grisham's sixth novel. It differs from most of his other novels in that it is written almost completely in the simple present tense.


Rudy Baylor is about to graduate from Memphis State Law School. He secures a position with a Memphis law firm, who then loses his job when the firm is bought out. As one of the few members of his class without a job lined up, a desperate Rudy is introduced to J. Lyman "Bruiser" Stone, a ruthless but successful ambulance chaser, who makes him an associate. To earn his fee, Rudy is required to hunt for potential clients at the local hospital and sign them up to personal injury lawsuits. He is introduced to Deck Shifflet, a less-than-ethical former insurance assessor who received a law degree but doesn't practice law, having failed to pass the bar exam six times.

Rudy signs two clients. One is his new elderly landlady, who needs a revised will drawn. The other is a poor family, Dot and Buddy Black, whose insurance bad faith case could be worth several million dollars in damages. With Stone's firm about to be raided by the police and the FBI, Rudy and Deck set up their own practice and file suit on behalf of the Blacks, whose leukemia-stricken son, Donny Ray, could have been saved by a bone marrow transplant for which his identical twin brother is a perfect match. The procedure should have been covered and paid for by their insurance carrier, Great Benefit Life Insurance, but the claim was instead denied.

Rudy, having just passed his bar exam, has never argued a case before a judge or jury. He now finds himself up against experienced and ruthless lawyers from a large firm, headed by Leo F. Drummond. On his side, Rudy has several supporters and a sympathetic, newly-appointed judge. While preparing the case in the local hospital, he meets and later falls in love with Kelly Riker, a young battered wife recovering from injuries inflicted by her husband Cliff.

Donny Ray dies just before the case goes to trial. Rudy uncovers a scheme by Great Benefit to deny every insurance claim submitted, regardless of validity. Great Benefit was playing the odds that the insured would not consult an attorney. A former employee of Great Benefit testifies that the scheme generated an extra $40 million in revenue for the company. The trial ends with a plaintiff's judgment of $50.2 million. Great Benefit quickly declares itself bankrupt, thus allowing it to avoid paying the judgment. This leads to a series of lawsuits which forces Great Benefit out of business. Ultimately, there is no payout for the grieving parents and no fee for Rudy, although Dot was never concerned with the settlement money, because for her helping to put the company out of business is an even greater victory.

During the Black trial, when Kelly is beaten again by Cliff, Rudy helps her file for divorce. While he and Kelly retrieve items from her home, Cliff arrives and threatens to kill Rudy, attacking him with a baseball bat. Rudy wrestles the bat away from Cliff and cracks his skull with it. Kelly intervenes and orders him to leave. Cliff dies from the injuries and Kelly allows herself to be charged with manslaughter to protect Rudy. Rudy gets the charges dropped, but Cliff's vengeful family have made several death threats against them both. Rudy and Kelly leave the state, heading for someplace where Rudy – who has become disillusioned with the law – can become a teacher, and Kelly can attend college.

Film adaptation[edit]

In 1997, The Rainmaker was adapted into a film directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Matt Damon, Danny DeVito, Claire Danes, Jon Voight, and Danny Glover.