In 2004, "The Last Juror" was published on Bantam Dell, an imprint of Random House Publishing Group. "The Last Juror" marked Grisham's 17th book in the 17 years since the release of his first legal thriller. As of July 2011, John Grisham has published 23 books and has over 250 million books in print worldwide.
The story of "The Last Juror" takes place in the fictional town of Clanton, Mississippi. Clanton represents the best and worst of Grisham's home state, with racism and segregation standing out as a clear societal ill within a place that remains rooted in the comfort and rich history of small-town Mississippi. Clanton also is the setting of Grisham's first novel, "A Time to Kill," although the events that take place in "The Last Juror" happen in the 1970s, a decade earlier than the events that unfold in "A Time to Kill."
"The Last Juror" is told from the perspective of Willie Traynor, a young scholar who moves to Clanton, Mississippi for a venture in the publishing business. Willie begins as an intern at a local paper, The Ford County Times, but it isn't long before the paper falls on hard times and goes bankrupt. However, thanks to a windfall of cash from a relative, Willie is able to purchase The Ford County Times, going from intern to editor, publisher and reporter.
Like many of John Grisham's legal thrillers, "The Last Juror" portrays a vicious crime that becomes the focus of a courtroom drama. Danny Padgitt, a descendant of a powerful Ford County family, rapes and murders a young woman. Tensions rise as people in Clanton believe it's possible for Padgitt to get away with murder because of his family's influence. He blatantly threatens the jury before he is convicted by announcing, "You convict me, and I'll get every damned one of you."
The Last Juror
Willie Traynor begins a local interest story on Miss Callie Ruffin, a black woman whose family escaped the grim realities of segregation in the south to become college professors. Miss Callie makes history by becoming the first black person to serve on a jury in Ford County and is the last juror chosen to sit on the case. The jury convicts Danny Padgitt and he is released nine years later. As promised, Padgitt begins to kill members of the jury that convicted him, and Miss Callie and Willie fear that she is next. Padgitt never gets the chance, however. He is arrested and assassinated in the courtroom by a victim's loved one. The story closes with Miss Callie dying of natural causes, and Willie writing her obituary before transferring ownerships of The Ford County Times.