#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In the vein of Serial and Making a Murderer, John Grisham’s first work of nonfiction will terrify anyone who believes in the presumption of innocence. Impeccably researched, grippingly told, filled with eleventh-hour drama, it’s a book no American can afford to miss.
In the town of Ada, Oklahoma, Ron Williamson was going to be the next Mickey Mantle. But on his way to the Big Leagues, Ron stumbled, his dreams broken by drinking, drugs, and women. Then, on a winter night in 1982, not far from Ron’s home, a young cocktail waitress named Debra Sue Carter was savagely murdered. The investigation led nowhere. Until, on the flimsiest evidence, it led to Ron Williamson. The washed-up small-town hero was charged, tried, and sentenced to death—in a trial littered with lying witnesses and tainted evidence that would shatter a man’s already broken life, and let a true killer go free.
Praise for The Innocent Man
“Grisham has written both an American tragedy and his strongest legal thriller yet, all the more gripping because it happens to be true.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Grisham has crafted a legal thriller every bit as suspenseful and fast-paced as his bestselling fiction.”—The Boston Globe
“A gritty, harrowing true-crime story.”—Time
“A triumph.”—The Seattle Times
Grisham’s first work of nonfiction focuses on the tragedy of Ron Williamson, a baseball hero from a small town in Oklahoma who winds up a dissolute, mentally unstable Major League washout railroaded onto death row for a hometown rape and murder he did not commit. Judging by this author-approved abridgment, Grisham has chosen to present Williamson’s painful story (and that of his equally innocent “co-conspirator,” Dennis Fritz) as straightforward journalism, eschewing the more familiar “nonfiction novel” approach with its reconstructed dialogues and other adjustments for dramatic purpose. This has resulted in a book that, while it includes such intriguing elements as murder, rape, detection and judicial injustice, consists primarily of objective reportage, albeit shaded by the now-proven fact of Williamson’s innocence. The absence of dialogue or character point of view could make for a rather bland audio. Boutsikaris avoids that by reverting to what might be called old-fashioned round-the-campfire storytelling, treating the lengthy exposition to vocal interpretations, subtle and substantial. He narrates the events leading up to the 1982 rape and murder of a young cocktail waitress with a mixture of suspicion and curiosity, moving on to astonishment at the prosecution’s use of deceit and false testimony to convict Williamson and Fritz and, eventually, elation at the exoneration of the two innocent men. Throughout, he maintains an appealing conversational tone, an effect made all the more remarkable by the book’s nearly total absence of conversation.