HARRISONBURG — “John Grisham writes books like most people write checks.”
That’s what John Meacham had to say about the prolific author and friend.
It’s widely known that Grisham doesn’t slouch when it comes to publishing legal thrillers that captivate audiences all over the world. And he has no plans to stop.
In fact, he has a book being printed right now, at a Random House printing press in Berryville.
“Around Labor Day I got bored and started writing something new,” Grisham said, adding that he can’t go more than a few days without writing something.
“I’ve never gotten bored. I’ve never said ‘I’ll stop when I get to 40 books,’” he said. “My critics might say that.”
Grisham and Meacham spoke to an auditorium full of students and community members Thursday night in Wilson Hall at James Madison University as part of the “Writer’s Hour” series.
Meacham is a writer, reviewer and presidential biographer. He’s a former executive editor and executive vice president at Random House. He is a contributing writer to The New York Times Book Review, a contributing editor to Time magazine and a former editor-in-chief of Newsweek.
And if you ask him, he says hat he was just there on Thursday to talk up his friend, Grisham, feeling bad for his lack of success.
“I’m just hoping to push some sales. He can’t get a movie made in Hollywood,” Meacham jests.
This was Meacham’s first time on the campus of JMU, which he said was good timing because he’s working on a book about the fourth president.
Meacham and Grisham agreed that Thursday night’s talk would not be a prepared speech, but a conversation between authors. Meacham said he was hoping students would take away something.
“I want to make a point to students that you need to read all the time if you want to write,” he said. In fact, there are novels from high school that Meacham has read and modeled the infrastructure of his nonfiction books on.
He credits the 15 years he spent editing for making him a better writer.
This is the third time Grisham has been a part of the “Writer’s Hour” at JMU.
Meacham told a story to kick off the evening about being at a speaking event and a woman coming up to him to say, “It’s you.” She asked if he would wait while she went and bought a book for him to sign. Flattered, Meacham said, “of course.”
The woman came back a few minutes later with a copy of “The Runaway Jury,” which of course is a Grisham book.
Meacham talked about his latest book “Songs of America,” which he collaborated on last year with singer Tim McGraw.
“He asked if I had thought about the role of music on history and I had,” Meacham said. The book concerns how music is a mirror of politics and the American experience in different eras.
Grisham ribbed Meacham for writing two books instead of finishing his book on Madison.
“The reason I broke off the first time was what happened in your hometown, Charlottesville,” he said, referring to the neo-Nazi rally that killed one in August 2017.