“We are only young once. That is all society can stand.” –Bob Bowen
Full disclosure: I am not the author of The Firm, The Client, or the Theodore Boone series, though like my literary namesake I am an attorney by profession, having practiced locally for many years. (While the rewards can be quite satisfying, the encounters with armed thugs and hair-breadth escapes from death are fortunately less common in real life.)
Few experiences are as humbling as sitting down to write a first novel. Like other aspiring authors, I’d heard the old saying that you write a million words of dreck before starting to turn out publishable material. By my estimate, I’ve paid my dues twice over just trying to get the story right. Along the way, I often identified with James Joyce’s famous lament that, “I got seven words today…but I don’t know what order they go in!”
In University, I take the reader on a four-year jaunt through a fictional New England institution of higher learning. The novel is set in the 1980’s—everyone’s favorite pop-culture decade, with background details ranging from the ubiquitous (Pac-Man) to the obscure (remember Pepsi Free?). Inspired by my own undergraduate days at BU*, it is the story of that brief, mostly bygone period in everyone’s life when breaking the rules and questioning authority were the norm, with liability concerns of secondary importance. You will relive the experience of pulling all-nighters (sometimes studying, more often not), and waking up 12 minutes before your first freshman exam. Together, we will cheer on a video game-playing dormmate’s attempt at a world record, and watch with a mix of sympathy and Schadenfreude the clumsy, on-and-off-again efforts of an earlier generation’s Leonard Hofstadter to win the girl of his dreams. While behind the scenes, the school’s ambitious president consolidates his power on campus, achieving absolute control of his domain before a desperate craving for higher office leads him to become separated from reality.
In the end, it’s the characters that carry a novel, and here I had no shortage of inspiration. A shout-out to the boys of Towers 6 West and the girls of 7, who made this a labor of love, and a story I hope you will find entertaining.
*Boston University, not Baylor. With apologies to our friends from Texas.
John William Grisham is a practicing attorney in Providence, and a member of the Association of Rhode Island Authors. A 35-year resident of Middletown, he is a former Secretary and past Chair of the local Library Board, and has previously served on the Town Charter Review Commission. Find his book University here.