John Grisham’s Calico Joe

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I finished up reading John Grisham’s Calico Joe last night. It was a very quick read.

Was it good? Yeah, it was pretty good. But what struck me is that it was just so goddamn *readable*. I bought the book because I had a flat tire on Sunday, and I desperately needed something to read in Canadian Tire while I waited for them to replace the wheel, after I’d hobbled in on the spare. Normally, I’d have no desire to read a book featuring baseball, but at Shopper’s I didn’t have a lot of options. Yet Calico Joe was actually very difficult to put down.

If I describe Grisham as *eminently readable,* am I plagiarizing something? I don’t know, but boy, Grisham sure is eminently readable. I had the same reaction reading Grisham’s Playing for Pizza, though, ironically, I actually didn’t finish that one. I think I will now, and I might even try his really popular books (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, etc., y’know, the ones that feature “lawyers and stuff,” and were made into movies), even though, again, the genre is not my cup of tea. At all. But I still want to read more, because I respect that skill.

It’s easy to slot Grisham in with various other airplane fiction fluff (Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, Dan Brown, et al.). But actually writing a good book that’s impossible to put down is a skill to be respected. And I think Grisham does it better, if only because — of the books I’ve read — he doesn’t rely on traditional suspense techniques. Calico Joe is hard to put down, but there is no global conspiracy, no promise of either riches combined with dire risks of death for the protagonists, and no traditional McGuffin. You keep reading because you want to see Joe and Warren Tracey meet. That’s the hook. And by itself, who cares? Two fake baseball players meeting? Boring. But the novel itself makes the hook what it is. And I did care. That ain’t easy.

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