You wouldn't know that The Innocent Man is non-fiction without introduction. I guess the full title gives it away since novels don't usually carry an extended title, The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town. However true the account actually is, the book reads more like fiction than fact. Grisham mixes actual facts with some fill-in-the-gaps details that appear to be in keeping with the account he records after much detailed research. As the inside cover reads, the rape and murder of Debra Sue Carter in Ada, Oklahoma, brings about the arrest of two men, both apparently innocent. One of them, Ron Williamson, receives the death penalty.
The book is more about the holes in the legal system than about the actual death penalty, and one comes away somewhat wary of the justice system as practiced in small town America. If anything, the value of a good lawyer is magnified.
True Crime genre books are not in abundance on my shelves, but there is something very intriguing and fascinating about reading something that actually did take place. My preference in fiction writing has always been stories that are real to life with characters who are real people. Hence, I've always made fun of writers like David Baldacci who seems to fill his books (at least the older ones which I have read) with characters who are all virtual superheroes - everyone is beautiful, athletic, and smart.
So, I enjoyed reading The Innocent Man, but it probably ranks pretty low on the Grisham list for me.
Grisham has never been shy about being against the death penalty, something which may have influenced his desire to publish Ron Williamson's story. With The Broker being Grisham's most recent novel and also being a deviation from his classic legal thriller genre, it will be interesting to see if he returns to the type of books that made him famous. I have a feeling that he will continue to branch out and attempt some other new things, although he insinuates in the epilogue that another such non-fiction work is probably not in his immediate interest.