This article originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

January 30, 2008

Novel linked to state election

Author details idea on 'Today'

By Paul J. Nyden
Staff writer

Best-selling author John Grisham's latest novel "The Appeal," released Tuesday, has a West Virginia twist.

The book weaves a tale of money and politics - specifically of buying a seat on the Mississippi Supreme Court after a local jury finds a chemical company guilty of dumping toxic waste in the water supply of a small town.

But before the $41 million case reaches the high court, the chemical company owner spends several million dollars to elect a judge of his own to the court.

During a Tuesday morning interview on the "Today" show, Grisham tied "The Appeal" to West Virginia.

Host Matt Lauer asked, "Was there a specific story that caught your eye in the headlines that made you want to write this?"

"There have been several," Grisham said. "In judicial elections ... huge sums of money get involved on both sides to purchase a seat on the Supreme Court."

When Lauer asked Grisham if the plot was "far-fetched," Grisham replied, "It's already happened. It happened a few years ago in West Virginia.

"A guy owned a coal company. He got tired of being sued. He elected his guy to the Supreme Court. It switched ... back his way. Now he doesn't worry about getting sued."

During the November 2004 election, Brent Benjamin, a little-known Charleston lawyer, was elected to the state Supreme Court with the help of a group called "And For the Sake of the Kids," which was largely funded by campaign money from Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy.

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