Grisham says real-life swindlers outdo his fiction

September 11, 2009

(Reporting by Ned Barnett in Chapel Hill, N.C.)

Author John Grisham, master of the legal thriller, says the real-life fraud scandals involving Bernard Madoff and Allen Stanford trump even the gripping fiction of his novels.

He says he is fascinated by the accusations of multibillion dollar Ponzi schemes, involving tangled webs of companies and offshore banks, which have put Wall Street financier Madoff in jail for 150 years and are also leveled against Texas billionaire and sports entrepreneur Stanford.

Madoff pleaded guilty in March to a $65 billion fraud and was jailed in June, while Stanford has pleaded not guilty to charges that he bilked investors in a $7 billion swindle.

“The thing about Bernie (Madoff) and Allen Stanford, you know, if I wrote that stuff nobody would believe it,” Grisham told reporters at the opening of the North Carolina Literary Festival at the University of North Carolina.

Lawyer-turned-author Grisham, 54, known for his works like “The Firm,” “The Testament” and “The Runaway Jury,” which probe such human failings as greed and deceit, said his imagination is no match for the stories behind real super swindlers.

“I just can’t get enough of this stuff … I love their stories — not for the human drama and the pain and suffering of it, that’s terrible — just for the sheer brazenness of these crooks,” he said.

“Stuff like a $65 billion Ponzi scheme by this guy who was very highly regarded and had loyal, loyal clients for many years and just devoured them. I can’t make it up fast enough and I can’t keep up with reality,” he said, referring to Madoff’s case.

The accusations against Stanford, whose business empire stretched from the Caribbean to the United States, Latin America and Europe, include an allegation that he performed a “blood oath” brotherhood ceremony in 2003 with a top financial regulator in Antigua and Barbuda to try to protect his banking business on the island from U.S. investigators.

Grisham says he “reads the newspapers” to find ideas for his thrillers but doesn’t completely depend on them for inspiration.

“I have too many other ideas to work on,” he said.

2 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

“The thing about Allen Stanford, you know, if I wrote that stuff nobody would believe it,” Grisham told reporters. I worked for these Sir Allen and his crooney in St Croix. I got too close and could not believe what was happening, it truely was like a bad movie.


Grisham is great.


Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see