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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.[1] It was one of the best selling books of 2012 and spent several weeks atop various best seller lists.

The Racketeer
The Book Cover Of The Racketeer.jpg
First edition cover
Author John Grisham
Country U.S.
Language English
Genre Legal thriller
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date
October 23, 2012
Preceded by Calico Joe
Followed by Sycamore Row



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.[2] The story begins 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 and the FBI.[3]

After hearing of the brutal murders of federal judge Raymond Fawcett and his mistress, Bannister makes a deal with the FBI to give them the name of the killer, in exchange for his release and being made a member of the United States Federal Witness Protection Program, supposedly to protect him from the killer's associates. He informs them that Quinn Rucker, a drug dealer he met in prison, had vowed to escape and murder 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. Acting on information from Bannister, the FBI arrest Quinn and despite having no evidence against him, manipulate him into confessing to the murder using legal interrogation tactics. Following the indictment, Quinn claims to have been unlawfully coerced into the confession.

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 and meets another man he had met in prison, Nathan Cooley. Thanks to the Witness Protection Program, Nathan doesn't recognize Bannister, who convinces him to take part in the filming of a documentary about corruption in the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI. He rents a private plane, ostensibly to fly the two to Florida, but drugs Nathan during the flight and has the plane fly to Jamaica, framing him for drug smuggling and gun running while doing so. As the only white prisoner in a jail where all other prisoners and the guards are black, Nathan finds himself the subject of vicious bullying from the other inmates.

Bannister tells Nathan that the Jamaican officials are the ones who framed him, and are demanding $500,000 for his release. Nathan tells Bannister of a secret stash of gold worth $8.5 million hidden in his backyard, which Bannister arranges for Vanessa, his lover and accomplice, to steal, before he returns to America. After the two of them hide the gold in a series of safety deposit boxes, Vanessa - in reality Quinn's sister - reveals to Quinn's lawyer that her brother has an alibi for the time of Fawcett's murder. The FBI, after receiving an email about the gold from Bannister, realize that he and Quinn have been working together; Quinn's arrest and indictment was all part of a plan to enable Bannister to leave prison and take the gold from Fawcett's killer, before clearing Quinn's name.

In exchange for immunity for both him and Quinn, Bannister reveals to the FBI that Nathan is the real killer of Fawcett. Before he was imprisoned, Nathan discovered the gold stash - which Fawcett had taken from a mining company, Armanna Mines, in exchange for a favorable ruling giving them permission to mine uranium in the region - and told Bannister about his plans to steal it while in prison in the hope of convincing the attorney to get him an early release, after refusing to accept that Bannister was unable to do so. Bannister promises to send a bar of gold with Nathan's fingerprints to the FBI as proof of his guilt, while also anticipating that Nathan will make a full confession to the murder in order to get out of Jamaica. Bannister warns the FBI to investigate the bribery that took place between Judge Fawcett and Armanna Mines, or he will give the story to the press. The novel ends with Bannister, Vanessa, Quinn - revealed to be Bannister's best friend - and Quinn's brother Dee Ray - who had helped fund the operation - celebrating 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."[4]



According to the book was the number eight overall best seller of 2012.[5]

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),[6] where it remained for three weeks ending with the November 25 list (reflecting sales for the week ending November 10, 2012).[7] On December 2, it was surpassed by Vince Flynn's The Last Man.[8] 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.[9][10] As of 18 February 2013 the book remained on the best seller list for the week ending February 24 (reflecting sales for the week ending February 9, 2013).[11]

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.[12][13] It is Grisham's 18th book to reach number one on the USA Today list.[14]

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.[15] It remained at #1 for three weeks.[16] 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,[17] but fell to #2 the following week.[16] By December 2, it had fallen to #5 on the Fiction E-Books list,[18] and it fell out of the top ten for the first time the following week.[19] It remained in the Fiction Combined top ten until the December 30 list in the edition of January 4, 2013.[20] It remained in the Hardcover Fiction top 10 until the January 27 list in the edition of February 1.[21]

Critical reviewEdit

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.[22] 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.[2] The USA Today lauded the book's interesting twists when it named it as a recommended book on October 27.[3]

Film adaptionEdit

Denzel Washington has been mentioned as the possible star of a screen adaptation.

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.[23] 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!".[4] 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."[4]


  1. ^ Minzesheimer, Bob (April 19, 2012). "John Grisham's 'Calico Joe' slides to No. 6 on book list". USA Today. Retrieved April 26, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Maslin, Janet (October 17, 2012). "The Ex-Lawyer (Disbarred) as a Good Guy". The New York Times. Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Weekend picks for book lovers". USA Today. October 17, 2012. Retrieved February 17, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c Cochran, Amanda (October 24, 2012). "John Grisham talks "The Racketeer," who may play in Hollywood adaptation". CBS News. Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
  5. ^ " Announces Best-Selling Books of 2012". The Wall Street Journal. December 14, 2012. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Best Sellers: November 11, 2012". The New York Times. November 11, 2012. Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Best Sellers: November 25, 2012". The New York Times. November 25, 2012. Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Best Sellers: December 2, 2012". The New York Times. December 2, 2012. Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Best Sellers: December 30, 2012". The New York Times. December 30, 2012. Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Best Sellers: January 06, 2013". The New York Times. January 6, 2013. Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Best Sellers: February 24, 2013". The New York Times. February 24, 2013. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  12. ^ "USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list: Week of November 1, 2012". USA Today. November 1, 2012. Retrieved February 17, 2013. 
  13. ^ "USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list: Week of November 8, 2012". USA Today. November 8, 2012. Retrieved February 17, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Book buzz: John Grisham thrills at No. 1 on book list". USA Today. November 2, 2012. Retrieved February 17, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Best-Selling Books, Week Ended Oct. 28". The Wall Street Journal. November 3, 2012. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  16. ^ a b "Best-Selling Books, Week Ended Nov. 11". The Wall Street Journal. November 16, 2012. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Best-Selling Books, Week Ended Nov. 4". The Wall Street Journal. November 9, 2012. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Best-Selling Books, Week Ended Dec. 2". The Wall Street Journal. December 7, 2012. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Best-Selling Books, Week Ended Dec. 9". The Wall Street Journal. December 14, 2012. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Best-Selling Books, Week Ended Dec. 30". The Wall Street Journal. January 4, 2013. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Best-Selling Books, Week Ended Jan. 27". The Wall Street Journal. February 1, 2013. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  22. ^ 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. 
  23. ^ 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. 

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