The Rooster Bar

The Rooster Bar
© 2017 John Grisham
352 pages

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.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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5 Responses to The Rooster Bar

  1. Mudpuddle says:

    i've wondered about the realities of the legal profession; whether lawyers are really as dishonest as popularly assumed… what do you think after reading numerous Grisham tomes?

  2. Stephen says:

    All of the lawyers I know personally are the pillars of their community-types, who serve on Rotary Club boards, and work mostly in contracts and real estate. It's impossible to watch local TV without ad after ad being from ambulance-chasers. Mostly they're about social security claims and fighting the nasty trucking companies. Grisham's own characters range from the Rotary club types (think Jake Brigance) to the less noble, but not cretinous, ham-and-eggers who are just trying to make a living… the snakes who are running scams and concocting schemes. Given how quick people are to sue today, I am not particularly enthusiastic about lawyers personally — I think of them as mercenaries in suits — but the ones I know in person are all perfectly nice Ozzie Nelson types.

  3. Mudpuddle says:

    tx… i have indeed discovered in my own life that people everywhere are almost always honest and straightforward… the media is misleading in many ways, i think, and contributes in large measure to political unrest and panic… i still don't think much of the current president, tho, especially as a person…

  4. Sarah says:

    I am torn on reading this. I love so much of Grisham's earlier work, at least from the 90s – The Client, A Time to Kill, etc. Some of his newer stuff just feels different. Or maybe it's just me.

  5. Stephen says:

    I don't think it's just you. I started drawing up a list of top ten favorite Grisham books, then realized that almost all of them were his older works. The newest one was “The Last Juror”, I think. A lot of his newer work is more depressing than interesting, something that seemed to start with “The Appeal” back in '07 or '08…

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