The FBI raids the office of a billionaire trial lawyer who brought down Big Tobacco after flipping a cohort in a judicial bribery scheme. His own defense lawyer turns against him when a former district attorney reveals another scheme involving yet another judge. A judge and several attorneys go to prison. That billionaire had previously been a witness in another government investigation that resulted in the jailing of a trial lawyer known as "the judge maker" and two state court judges.

After reading that actual news in Mississippi over the past few years, it is a relief to enjoy the fiction of legal thriller novelist John Grisham. The international best seller and former Mississippi legislator recently released his first collection of short stories, "Ford County," where he takes us back to the imaginary county in northeast Mississippi that was the setting for "A Time to Kill" for seven tales of Mississippi antics. (In the movie, the setting was Madison County and Canton.)

In "Blood Drive," three country boys take a drive to Memphis to donate blood to a neighbor injured in a construction accident. A few six-packs into the trip, chaos ensues as they detour to a strip club.

Ride along with a wheelchair bound mother and her two sons as they make the ride to Parchman in a borrowed furniture van for their brother's scheduled execution. "Fetching Raymond" tells of the final hours of a ne're-do-well who in prison has transformed into an Ignatius Reilly optimist.

Mack Stafford throws his ethics book out the window, breaks some laws, ends up divorced with his law firm bankrupt, and lives happily ever after in "Fish Files."

Baptist preachers rejoice as an accountant turns professional gambler in "Casino." A small town man learns to count cards and uses it for revenge against his ex-wife and her flamboyant new boyfriend's dubiously created Indian gaming house.

"Michael's Room" brings a defense lawyer face to face with a defeated plaintiff through a backwoods courtroom where the ultimate punitive damages could come from the barrel of a gun.

A Mississippi nursing home is never the same after an enterprising man moves to town, takes up residence at a brothel, and takes a caregiver job to bring it down from the inside. Meanwhile, a scam to fund a nonexistent confederate preservation group puts some extra money in his pocket in "Quiet Haven."

And a small town faces AIDS when a prominent prodigal son, "Funny Boy," returns from California to die under the care of a religious black woman named Miss Emporia.

Grisham told the Associated Press he wanted to call them "long stories" rather than "short stories," but the publisher objected. They're still a much quicker read than his novels, but just as enticing.

Monday night, Grisham signed books at a fundraiser for his friend Bobby Moak, a Democratic Representative from Lincoln (not Ford...or Mercury) County. Grisham dedicated the book to Moak, writing, "When A Time to Kill was published twenty years ago, I soon learned the painful lesson that selling books was far more difficult than writing them. I bought a thousand copies and had trouble giving them away. I hauled them in the trunk of my car and peddled them at libraries, garden clubs, grocery stores, coffee shops, and a handful of bookstores. Often, I was assisted by my dear friend Bobby Moak. These are stories we will never tell."

The fundraiser at Jackson's Bravo! Restaurant was $1,000 per person or couple and included a signed copy of "Ford County." For $5,000 per person or couple, you could be a Ford County VIP and have a photo made with Grisham with a personalized autographed book. The contributions went to Moak's "Believe PAC" which Moak said was inspired by T-shirts distributed by Grisham on the Mississippi Coast following Hurricane Katrina with the word "Believe" printed across the back. Moak's web page says, "BelievePac is an effort to ensure men and women of character and political courage work together for a better tomorrow."

Some Jackson observers believe Moak will use these funds in a run for Speaker of the House, handing out campaign contributions to potential legislative supporters in 2011.

But you can purchase Grisham's book for much less at about $24 a copy and wait for the political intrigue of the state Legislature to come out in paperback.

Meanwhile, if you'd rather read about the fall of the billionaire trial lawyer and the judge maker, that true story comes out next month with the release of "Kings of Tort: The true story of Dickie Scruggs, Paul Minor, and two decades of political and legal manipulation in Mississippi" by Y'all Politics blogger Alan Lange and former assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Dawson.

The launch party sponsored by Jackson's Lemuria Books will be held at the Pinnacle Building in downtown Jackson on Dec. 2, with subsequent signings in Oxford, Hattiesburg, Gulfport, Meridian, Greenwood, and Pass Christian.

Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at