The Chamber (novel)
   HOME

TheInfoList



''The Chamber'' (1994) is a
legal thriller The legal thriller is a subgenre of Thriller (genre), thriller and crime fiction in which the major characters are lawyers and their employees. The system of justice itself is always a major part of these works, at times almost functioning as one o ...
written by American author
John Grisham John Ray Grisham Jr. (; born February 8, 1955) is an American novelist and lawyer known for his popular legal thrillers. According to the Academy of Achievement, American Academy of Achievement, Grisham has written 28 consecutive number-one best ...

John Grisham
. It is Grisham's fifth novel.


Plot

In 1967, in
Greenville, Mississippi Greenville is a city in, and the county seat of, Washington County, Mississippi, United States. The population was 34,400 at the 2010 census. It is located in the area of historic cotton plantations and culture known as the Mississippi Delta. H ...
, the office of Jewish lawyer Marvin Kramer is bombed, injuring Kramer and killing his two young sons. Sam Cayhall, a member of the
Ku Klux Klan The Ku Klux Klan (), commonly shortened to the KKK or the Klan, is an American white supremacist Right-wing terrorism, terrorist hate group whose primary targets are African Americans as well as Jews, Immigration to the United States, immigran ...
, is identified, arrested and tried for their murders, committed in retaliation for Kramer's involvement in the
Civil Rights Movement The 1954–1968 civil rights movement in the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It ...
. Sam's first two trials, engineered by his Klan-connected lawyer, each end in a
mistrial In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by it ...
. Twenty years later, the
FBI The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the domestic intelligence Intelligence has been defined in many ways: the capacity for abstraction Abstraction in its main sense is a conceptual process where general rules and concept Conce ...

FBI
pressures a suspected associate to testify against Sam at a third trial. Sam is convicted and
sentenced to death Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), '' ...

sentenced to death
by lethal gas. He is sent to the
Mississippi State Penitentiary Mississippi State Penitentiary (MSP), also known as Parchman Farm, is a maximum-security prison farm A prison farm is a large correctional facility where penal labor convicts are forced to work on a '' farm'' (in the wide sense of a produc ...
and placed on death row. Now without a lawyer, Sam becomes a ''
pro bono ''Pro bono publico'' ( en, "for the public good"; usually shortened to ''pro bono'') is a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoke ...
'' case for a team of anti-death penalty lawyers from the large - and Jewish -
Chicago (''City in a Garden''); I Will , image_map = , map_caption = Interactive map of Chicago , coordinates = , coordinates_footnotes = , subdivision_type = Country , subdivision_name ...

Chicago
law firm A law firm is a business entity formed by one or more lawyers A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney at lawAttorney at law or attorney-at-law, usually abbreviated in everyday speech to attorney, is the ...
of Kravitz and Bane. Representing Sam is his own grandson, Adam Hall, who travels to the firm's
Memphis Memphis is the name of: *Memphis, Egypt , alternate_name = , image = , alt = , caption = Ruins of the pillared hall of Ramesses IIat Mit Rahina , map_type = Egypt , map_alt = , map_size = , reli ...
office to aid Sam in the final month before his scheduled
execution Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), '' ...

execution
. Although lacking experience in death penalty cases, Adam is determined to argue a
stay Stay may refer to: Places * Stay, Kentucky, an unincorporated community in the US Law * Stay of execution, a ruling to temporarily suspend the enforcement of a court judgment * Stay of proceedings, a ruling halting further legal process in a tria ...
for his grandfather. Sam, despite his violent past, is one of the few living links to Adam's family history. Sam's
alcoholic Alcoholism is, broadly, any drinking of alcohol (drug), alcohol that results in significant Mental health, mental or physical health problems. Alcoholism is not a recognized diagnostic entity. Predominant diagnostic classifications are alcoho ...
daughter, Lee Cayhall Booth, slowly reveals the family's tragic past to her nephew, Adam. Initially uncooperative, Sam eventually opens up to Adam and reveals a remarkable depth of hard-won legal knowledge, regularly preparing his own
briefs Briefs are a type of short, form-fitting underwear and swimsuit, swimwear, as opposed to styles where material extends down the thighs. Briefs have various different styles, usually with a waistband attached to fabric that runs along the pelvis ...
and court motions. Adam interviews the FBI agent in charge of the original case and realizes that Sam almost certainly did not commit the actual crime for which he had been found guilty, although he was present. Nevertheless, Sam has a long and largely-secret history of Klan-related crimes, including several murders. Dogan, the associate who testified against Sam at his third trial, has apparently been murdered by the Klan. Sam himself will not reveal if another associate exists, thus not violating the Klan's
loyalty oath A loyalty oath is a pledge of allegiance to an organization An organization, or organisation ( Commonwealth English; see spelling differences), is an entity – such as a company, an institution, or an association – comprising one o ...
. Adam desperately files motion after motion and argues some of them before judges. He seeks to persuade Mississippi's
governor A governor is, in most cases, a public official with the power to govern the Executive (government), executive branch of a non-sovereign or sub-national level of government, ranking under the head of state. In federations, ''governor'' may be t ...
to grant a
reprieve
reprieve
, knowing full well that such a move is politically impossible; Sam forbids such a move, suspecting that the governor is using him for political gain. All appeals are finally exhausted. Sam is now repentant, but does not want Adam as a witness to the execution. He faces the last moment with courage and fortitude, publicly repudiating his past with the Klan, and dies proud of his grandson and happy to have forged a strong link with him during this last month. The sentence is carried out, Sam having ordered Adam to walk away and not watch him die. With Sam and Dogan dead, no one knows that Roland, the third man who prepared and set off the bomb, is still free and living nearby under a false identity and observing the progress of the case - having graduated from Klan member to a full-fledged "proud
fascist Fascism () is a form of far-right Far-right politics, also referred to as the extreme right or right-wing extremism, are politics further on the right of the left–right political spectrum than the standard political right, particularl ...

fascist
" and neo-Nazi. The reader knows - but Adam never does - that Roland
stalked Stalking is unwanted and/or repeated surveillance by an individual or group toward another person. Stalking behaviors are interrelated to harassment and intimidation and may include following the victim in person or monitoring them. The term '' ...

stalked
the young lawyer and considered killing him, but concluded it was not necessary and that Sam would take his secret to the grave. Meanwhile, Adam, sickened but fascinated by the experience - and disliking the idea of having a career as a corporate lawyer - quits Kravitz and Bane. Instead he accepts a poorly-paid position with a group of anti-death penalty lawyers.


Lawsuit and dismissal

Lawyer and author
Polly Nelson Polly Jean Nelson (born 1952) is an American attorney and author. She is best known as a member of serial killer Ted Bundy's last defense team from 1986 until his execution in 1989.Nelson 1994, p. 9Kramer, Victor H. (1995). Defending the Devil: My ...
sued Grisham in 1995, alleging ''The Chamber'' had striking similarities to ''
Defending the Devil ''Defending the Devil: My Story as Ted Bundy's Last Lawyer'' is a 1994 nonfiction Nonfiction (also spelled non-fiction) is any document A document is a writing, written, drawing, drawn, presented, or memorialized representation of thought, often ...
'', her nonfiction book about her experiences as lawyer for serial killer Ted Bundy.Torry, Saundra (June 19, 1995)
Fact, Fiction and Fairness: The Copyright Wars Surge.
''Washington Post''
Owens, John B. (2000). Grisham's Legal Tales: A Moral Compass for the Young Lawyer. 48 UCLA L. Rev. 1431 (2000-2001) After Grisham prevailed in a lower court ruling in 1996, the case was dismissed on appeal in 1997.Kelly, Keith J. (October 10, 1997)
Suit Doesn't Fit Grisham.
''New York Daily News''


Film adaptation

In 1996, ''The Chamber'' was The Chamber (1996 film), made into a feature film starring Gene Hackman and Chris O'Donnell.


References


External links


The Chamber Excerpt
" John Grisham Official Website
The Chamber
" Google Books {{DEFAULTSORT:Chamber, The 1994 American novels Novels by John Grisham Legal thriller novels American novels adapted into films Capital punishment in Mississippi Novels set in Mississippi Sunflower County, Mississippi