After a two-year break, John Grisham returns to the courtroom

Tuesday, February 5th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ He doesn't like the bad reviews, and he probably doesn't need the money. But John Grisham couldn't stay away from the kind of book for which he is famous.

With Tuesday's official publication of ``The Summons,'' one of the book world's brand name authors ends a two-year break from the courtroom.

``I'd be foolish to get away from the legal thriller,'' the author of such blockbusters as ``The Client'' and ``The Firm'' told The New York Times in a recent interview.

Although he tried his hand at other literary forms, Grisham remained steady on best seller lists. His two previous books, the coming-of-age novel ``A Painted House'' and the novella ``Skipping Christmas,'' were major commercial successes. ``Skipping Christmas,'' especially, was credited with helping book sales during the post-Sept. 11 holiday season. The book remains at the top of best seller lists.

``It's the fastest selling Grisham book in history,'' said Stephen Rubin, publisher of Doubleday Broadway, which releases Grisham's work. Rubin said ``Skipping Christmas'' quickly sold out a first printing of 1.6 million.

The publisher added that the first printing of ``The Summons,'' in which a divorced law professor is caught up in a world of legal schemes and family secrets, will be 2.8 million.

``We never doubted he would write thrillers again,'' Rubin said in an interview with The Associated Press. ``But we were also completely supportive of his other books. I never saw it as a hiatus. He simply had a couple of ideas and he tried them. He probably has had other ideas I've never seen.''

As of Monday afternoon, ``The Summons'' was No. 1 on the best seller list of

Rarely popular with critics, Grisham acknowledged that he wouldn't write thrillers if he wasn't getting paid for them. But he is also proud of ``A Painted House,'' which he calls his best book, and said he does care about his reputation.

``When you write popular fiction, you would like to write something that would be critically accepted,'' he told The New York Times. ``My problem is that I have sold too many books to ever be accepted.''

Grisham can claim at least one rave for ``The Summons.'' USA Today critic Deirdre Donahue called the new book ``my absolute favorite (of Grisham's work) in many years'' and praised it for an ending ``too delicious and morally instructive to give away.''