The Rooster Bar
© 2017 John Grisham
The third year of law school is supposed to be the easiest, but for Todd, Mark, and Zola…eh, not so much. Their best friend just committed suicide, leaving behind a tangled web of conspiracy on his apartment wall. Zola’s Senegalese parents were just picked up by customs for deportation, the guys’ families are likewise unstable, they’re all unemployed, and between them they owe over half a million dollars in student loans. Not that all that debt has given them anything in return: half of their school’s graduates fail the bar exam, a fact they’ve picked up on much too late. They’re all a semester away from graduation, and after that loom the licensing exam and impossible loan payments With the banks holding all the aces, what’s left to do but kick over the table?
Todd and Mark have an idea: stop going to law school, and start going to the courthouse to hustle cases, small fry that they can do cash jobs for, under assumed identities. With all of the lawyers crawling around DC, like rats in a landfill, who would know they didn’t have licenses? They’ll use their last student loans as startup money, hit the streets, and see if they can’t scrape up a living. They were headed for bankruptcy anyway, so why not go for broke? The Rooster Bar follows the two guys (and Zola, who is distracted by her family and dubious about the scheme to the point that she never nets any cases) as they embark on a life of deceit, fraud, and confidence games, though one of them has a bigger fish in mind. The same company that owns their diploma mill also owns the bank they borrowed the money from, through the usual legal shell game that protects them from antitrust suits. The guys would love to take vengeance on the racket, not just for ruining their lives but from driving their friend to suicide. Surely there’s a way.
Well, yes. It seems implausible, but as Grisham points out in his afterward, he played fast and loose with the facts for the story’s sake. (“Especially the legal stuff,”says he. That’s nice to know when it’s a novel about the legal profession.) Although this is a fresh story — and an interesting one, as readers see the characters having to learn the ropes — the way it develops is not too dissimilar from The Litigators, in that some characters’ ambitious idea goes…awry in a Wile E. Coyote fashion. Just like the Coyote, however, repeatedly falling off of cliffs, blowing up bombs next to their heads, and launching themselves into the stratosphere doesn’t stop Todd and Mark from rebounding.
The Rooster Bar is more memorable than The Whistler, but I’d still put it near the bottom of the second tier, as far as Grisham books go. Good title, though.