Sunday, May 25, 2008
In The Appeal, Grisham tells the story of a chemical company that’s on the losing end of a civil lawsuit filed in a Mississippi court. Facing tens of millions of dollars in punitive damages and a plummeting stock price, the head of the company decides to “buy” a Mississippi Supreme Court justice in the state’s next election. The company would probably lose on appeal under the court’s current make-up. If only Mississippians would elect a fifth Supreme Court justice who does not believe in holding companies accountable for crimes of murder and environmental despoilment, then the company would not have to pay a dime to the residents of a Mississippi small town, where the company dumped tons of deadly chemicals that contaminated the town’s water supply.
Grisham details all of the shenanigans involved in the chemical company’s appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court. The company’s executive, who ordered the dumping of the chemicals in order to save money, conspires with a “government relations” firm to get a young, right-wing-nut attorney elected to the state’s highest court. In familiar Grisham-esque style, he also chronicles the trials and tribulations of a mom-and-pop law firm in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, that struggles to get the lower court’s verdict upheld at the high court level.
Baldacci’s The Whole Truth easily surpasses his Camel Club trilogy in terms of character development and tightness of writing. The main character is an agent for a multinational intelligence agency who is out for revenge when his fiancée is murdered. The culprit is the head of the world’s largest arms contractor, who is trying to foment a new cold war involving Russia, China and the rest of the world in order to increase sales at his company.
Adopting a similar approach to the chemical company executive in Grisham’s The Appeal, Baldacci’s arms dealer tycoon hires a shady company to create this new cold war by concocting a campaign against Russia. This secretive company, which specializes in “perception management,” employs various strategies at a grassroots YouTube level, as well as selectively leaking information to the corporate media, that seek to blame Russia for a host of terrible atrocities.
When the secret agent’s fiancée gets suspicious about the authenticity of the anti-Russia campaign, she must be eliminated or else the arms dealer’s grand plan could be ruined.
Baldacci takes the reader deep into the world of perception management. It’s a strategy employed by corporations since the dawn of capitalism, although not under such a catchy title as PM.
Perhaps Grisham and Baldacci should collaborate on their next novel in which the residents of the small Mississippi town hire the agent, who decides to leave the multinational intelligence agency to start up his own private firm, to target the chemical company tycoon, providing the residents with the knowledge that at least a semblance of justice has prevailed.Share