Set in St. Louis, Grisham story among hot reads for summer | Books

Set in St. Louis, Grisham story among hot reads for summer | Books

John Grisham hasn’t been to St. Louis in awhile to see his favorite baseball team. Nevertheless he evokes the city for the title novella of  “Sparring Partners.” 

“For the fun of it, I thought I’d set it in St. Louis, but I could have set it anywhere,” says the bestselling author, whose legal thrillers have sold more than 300 million copies.

“All of the lawyers are fictional, as are most of the sites mentioned.” Even the duo nicknamed Bonnie & Clyde, who might make many of us wonder whether the gun-waving McCloskeys of Portland Place were an inspiration?

Well, “Bonnie & Clyde” are fictional, too, says Grisham. As are the competitive, “sparring” brothers whose legal offices are at 10th and Pine streets.

But he namechecks the Cardinals and Blues. “I grew up as a die-hard Cardinal fan. Been to many ballgames there.” Born in Arkansas before his family moved near Memphis, Tennessee, Grisham says one of his favorite childhood memories is when his father took him and his brothers to St. Louis to watch the Cards play the Giants (with Willie Mays in the lineup).

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Grisham is now friends with Tony La Russa, the former Cards manager. Grisham went to a lot of games when La Russa was manager, and they’d walk afterward to the Tony’s restaurant downtown. A table was waiting for the Cardinal, and the manager and popular novelist talked baseball. 

So Tony’s is also one real-life mention in “Sparring Partners,” which goes on sale May 31. And a pivotal event takes place in the Ozarks, where a sleazy lawyer has a cabin — and there’s a (literal) snake.

Reference to the snake makes Grisham laugh as he talked by phone this month: “You got to love fiction,” he says. “Of course it has to be somewhat plausible.” And, sure, the Ozark Mountain Snake Roundup sounds plausible enough. The Ozarks are also where Grisham has spent many visits fishing, canoeing and camping.

His upcoming book is his first composed of shorter fiction: three novellas, all featuring the legal profession, of course. Besides some conniving legal minds, a common thread seems to be the desire for escape. Grisham agrees: “We all think about getting away — bad job, career, marriage.”

His book is one of the many timed for summer reading, an invitation to kick back while sunbathing, fishing or traveling and escape to a different world — or discover something new in a familiar one. Several titles, in fact, have strong local ties this summer:

• “The Watermen” a look at the first U.S. Olympic swimming champion, told by Michael Loynd, chairman of the St. Louis Olympic Committee. 

• “Invisible Storm” by Jason Kander, a memoir of “politics and PTSD” by Missouri’s former secretary of state.

• “Travelers, Tracks and Tycoons,” a railroad history by Nicholas Fry and John Hoover of the Mercantile Library.

• “Little Brother” by Ben Westhoff, a journalist in St. Louis who was a Big Brother to a teen killed in Ferguson.

• “Brace for Impact” by Gabe Montesanti, a roller derby player for Arch Rival.

All of those are nonfiction, but a quintessential summer book is the easy page-turner, a “beach read” with love, mystery or both. 

Here are a few of those and many others on their way. Books are listed by scheduled on-sale date, with information culled from publishers and early reviews.

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