Hey – remember when I correctly pointed out that Dan Brown's Angels & Demons was wretched, insulting nonsense, and everyone yelled at me? The consensus seemed to be that I didn't know from good populist entertainment; that I expected everything to be brainy, couldn't appreciate a good action-packed mystery, and basically should just shut up. (My favorite was when people informed me that I was wrong because Dan Brown is richer than I am.)
I stand by what I said about Angels & Demons, but I should have mentioned a counterexample to Dan Brown: an author who writes simple, unabashedly goofy page-turners that sell like hotcakes but are actually readable, with characters who aren't obviously morons, sentences that don't make grown men cry, and messages that are coherent, if not nuanced. One such author is John Grisham, whose books are preachy, ludicrous, and simplistic – but also absorbing and breathlessly entertaining. You scoff, but all the while you're furiously flipping pages.
Grisham's newest, The Associate, has already been tapped for a feature-film adaptation, starring Shia LaBeouf as a Yale Law School grad bound for a low-paying but noble public interest law career but who is blackmailed into taking a prestigious, soul-sucking law firm job by nefarious types who want access to some ultra-secret documents for corporate espionage purposes. The novel covers some of the same ground as Grisham's classic The Firm, except this time grounded in what Grisham perceives as the reality of life for young, bright law school graduates seduced by the high-paying but miserable jobs as associates in corporate law firms. It's hugely silly and hugely entertaining in the best Grisham tradition; with the right director and screenwriter, it could take a place of honor in the less-than-illustrious history of Grisham film adaptations.