The Innocent Man

21 ratings. review & rate it

published: 28th October 2010

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the innocent man

Ron Williamson was a star college sportsman in the small town of Ada, Oklahoma. When he left to pursue his dreams he seemed destined for glory. But years of injury, drinking, drugs and women took their toll, and he returned to Ada a lonely drifter.

Soon after his homecoming, a local cocktail waitress was raped and murdered. With no immediate leads, the police worked the case for five years before arresting Williamson and charging him with her murder. Despite no physical evidence, and based largely on the testimony of jailhouse snitches, he was found guilty at trial and sent to death row.

Left to await his fate, Williamson was the only person to know the terrible truth: that an innocent man had been sent on a journey to hell. A journey from which he might never return.
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Critic's Reviews

'Exactly what you'd expect to find in the plot of a John Grisham novel'
 Private Eye

'At times it is harrowing, but above all, it is a testament to self-belief and the enduring love of his family'
 Daily Express

'Grisham hasn't lost his touch'
 Daily Mirror

'John Grisham's novels are meticulously plotted and beautifully interwoven with his legal experience, evident in his detailed explanations of the judicial system which have always given his fictional work an air of reality and possibility. And this non-fiction account of the trial of Ron Wiliamson is similarly carefully crafted. In fact, you could read this book as a novel if you wanted and it would be equally valid'
 Irish Sunday Independent

'John Grisham has built his stunning writing career on producing brilliant, fast moving, utterly believable legal thrillers. His 19th book is so harrowing and gruesome. It's true - all of it. Grisham does a spectacular job of portraying the inherent fallibility of the American legal system and the appalling existence of the death penalty'
 The Mirror

'A nail biting story'
 The Sun

'A killer combination of sheer story-telling nous and no-nonsense prose'
 The Independent

'A sincere, readable, lively book that raises important questions'
 The Times

'A work of art...this is a terrible and beautiful book. The terror is in the casual ease with which men, for the meanest of motives, can carelessly condemn another human being to rot from the inside out. The beauty not only lies with Ron Williamson...but also the burning care and respect for his fellow man shown by Grisham, which permeates and warms every page'
 Sunday Express

'A true story told by a skilful and indignant writer. Surely nobody could read John Grisham's polemic and still be in favour of the death penalty'
 Literary Review


'Like Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, The Innocent Man brings a novelist's eye to re-creating a complex chain of events and human reaction surrounding a crime and its aftermath. There are plenty of twists and turns in this tale, but the dominant note is one of compassion for the innocent man'
 Sunday Times

'The trademark Grisham style gives it the feel of a legal thriller, all the more chilling because it is true. A disturbing read'
 The Times

'Truth really is much more complex and interesting than fiction'
 The Mail on Sunday

'A gripping read'
 The Oldie

'A blistering attack on corrupt politicians, the death penalty and the failures of the judicial system'
 The Daily Telegraph

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20 Reviews
Ndyebo Reginald Mazawule
I am not a fan of nonfiction at all. Grisham just potrayed every person in this book so perfectly that I could not stop readind from the first chapter. Indeed u could have written the 5000 pages u said u could heve in your note at the back page. Sad story with a greta ending
Edward Fuakye
Highly excitting
J J Mackinder
Dear John

Page 41 - 'winningest'. Not a proper word - I expect better of you! The book is great but I cannot forgive the use of such a hideous term.
Fbi csi always known to be good people.but those sub crime labs making it a real mess.pls make a film based on this just like conviction.
Gerry Milsted
At the age of 83 this is probably the most enthralling book that I have ever read and was most difficult to put down.

Havin read all of John's books his was the best yet.

This is a complete expose'

of the poor justice system in the USA and shows much of the cruelty that

takes place in many of the correction institutions.

Well done John.
Rowena Magee
This is yet another of your books I could not put down. Sadly, the realization that this incredible story was not a storty at all but fact made the hairs on the nack of my nape stand up...How any human could have come out of that situation sane let alone a decent human being is completely astounding. How many times has this happened within the judical system is the 6 million dollar question!

One can only hope that this case will be used as an example for future cases where the element of Beyond All Reasonable Doubt is taken into account. I am a New Zealander living in Australia and NZ has had its own " questionable" convictions over the years, 2 of considerable International interest. May the powers that be come to their senses and elimiate all possibilities of an innocent person being sent to goal....that would be a perfect world.
Peter Rudland
This is a truly amazing story. It is difficult to believe that in a country like America the incompetence, dishonesty and downright stubbornness

of both the police and the judiciary, is actually true.Apart from the glaring errors committed by the authorities to ruin the entire lives of these men, all of which is excellently illustrated in the book, there seems to me to be one obvious aspect of the case which was ignored completely. that is the writing, in catsup, on the table in the room where the murder was committed. It read "Don't look fore us or ealse". Did the police ask the suspects to write a sentence including the words for and else to see if they made the same spelling mistakes again? Also, even without the spelling mistakes any handwriting expert could have thrown light on the matter.

Anyway, it was a great readand highly informative.
Colin Stone
I have just finished this book for the second time; I rarely read books twice. It went a long way to confirming my long held fear that the Depts of Justice & Corrections in the USA have much more to do with Revenge and these depts should be renamed as such.
Victor Basinyi
Truly the best book to educate every one from so called investigators to us all who happen to suffer in their hands since they never accept their mistakes
A truly great book - though I must disagree with a previous comment from a reader saying the photographs should have been at the back of the book - I felt compelled to look at them from the beginning and throughout the book as I could picture the people John was writing about.  This  enhanced the book in my opinion especially as it was a true story. Thank goodness that there are dedicated people in this world that believe in the innocent.
Subhashree das
One of the best reads ever...the book takes one live through the journey of a man wrongly convicted and make one dwell over and over again on the efficacy of the judiciary that we all depend on for justice.The book left an indelible impression on my mind,so much so that I do not need to read it a second time,because it has changed the fundamental beliefs and outlook on life,it has become a part of life.....
This non-fiction book is one of the best books that I have ever read. It deserves 5/5 and the only reason that I have rated it 4/5 is because of the pictures in the middle of the book. Having these pictures in the middle of the book is like watching a good movie and someone tells you what will happen next and how the movie will end!

Had I not resist the temptation of looking at these pictures I would not have the appetite to read the whole book. Please put these pictures at the end of the book under a sealed cover and inform the readers to look them only after they read the whole book.
John Gibbons
This is a harrowing, nevertheless, wonderfully written book in which John Grisham depicts a legal system that is arbitrary and, dare I say it, foul to those who are least able to defend themselves, i.e. the poor and the deranged.

Whilst the case of Ron Williamson is but a microcosm of the American legal system, I cannot help but feel that it is a prevalent attitude amongst a large number of the American police establishment and Public Prosecutors that they are not merely upholders of the law, but are in themselves the literal embodiment of the law with carte blanc to get "their man".

The 207 exonerations achieved by the Innocence Project certainly lend credence to such a view. Let us only hope that the legal reforms being promoted by this group gain public and political support to prevent a repeat of these savage travesties of justice in a system that heaps insult upon injury by making recourse to compensation in the case of an exoneration a nigh Herculean task.

The USA is an enthralling country, steeped in the tradition of upholding democratic values and civil liberties, that I admire greatly. The fact that John Grisham, as one of America's leading literary lights and a former lawyer, had the moral courage to write such a book certainly lets the beleaguered of the American justice system hope that a change in attitude and law can be achieved.

A powerful, thought provoking book and a powerful subject.
Gary Jackson
Having read all of Mr Grisham's previous books I thought I was about to read another fictional piece of work, as I read chapter to chapter I suddenly realised that I was reading a story that was truly sad and heart-rendering, sometimes  in life we do not appreciate the leaps and bounds made by science in society today, thankfully these steps forward saved two men from different forms of death either a life spent behind bars or injection.  Sadly Mr Williamson life ended all too quickly but at least he died a free and innocent man. One can only wonder how many other times an innocent person has been put to death in the name of justice, and how many times the enforcers of the laws have manufactured evidence to get a conviction. Thankfully in the UK we have abolished the death penalty and whilst I can neither agree or disagree with this penalty, it is by reading books like this that do suggest that unless a case is 100% correctly investigated then it is easy to kill an innocent man. I look forward to Mr Grisham's next piece of work but would like to commend him for this piece of nonfiction especially if it turns out to be the only nonfiction he chose to write. thank you.
Brilliant, Like the rest of your books, only started with it last night.  Read all but 3 your books.
Noela Melloy
After a relatively slow start giving the accused's background (I skipped a few pages)and thinking I was about to be disappointed, I was so involved with the story I could not put it down.  The final paragraphs brought me to tears.

Another excellent, excellent writing of John Grisham.  I look forward to your next legal script, whether it be fiction or non-fiction.

Before sighting a John Grisham book I was not interested in reading.  But once I began, I became hooked.  I have read most of your books now.  The only one that was not in my area of interest was 'The Painted House'.

The worst part about reading John Grisham books is reaching the end.  I always feel like continuing.  Any chance of writing a series of ongoing legal mysteries?
I have read this book and it's like you have lived here all your life. You shook the truth of Ada,OK.  The jurors , snithes and DA's will have this injustice on their head FOREVER

This book is the true nature of this towns  legal system, GREAT BOOK!!!
Paul Philips
I haven't read any of your legal thrillers but I have got your latest book called The Innocent Man and I haven't read it but I think the front cover looks amazing.
Sue Sollis
Very worrying that the justice system of the US should be so unjust.  very worrying that an intelligent author should use the word "winningest"
James Burton
A worthy read

This book kept a steady pace and an eye to details to maintain its grip on me as the pages flowed by.

Any fans of Grisham's works should consider this a worthy read.

Additionally any crime-buffs that have so far failed to investigate the world of John Grisham should consider this a great introduction. Overall a well recommended book.