One of the biggest financial scandals of the year has found new life in John Grisham’s latest novel.
The book in question, “The Rooster Bar,” follows three students who discover in their last semester of law school that their institution is essentially a scam. That main plot line was inspired by a 2014 article in the Atlantic, but Grisham says he pulled from the headlines for other plot points too, including a bank that finds itself facing scrutiny for opening accounts on behalf of customers without their permission.
“There’s one bank that’s been on the front page for a year now. I’m not going to name it,” Grisham said in a recent interview with MarketWatch. “I was literally just reading the newspaper each day to see what this bank had done bad or had been caught doing the week before, the month before.”
Grisham said he took what he read, fictionalized it and put it in the book. Though Grisham declined to name the institution that inspired the bank, called “Swift” in the novel, even a casual reader of the financial headlines likely knows what bank he’s talking about.
Earlier this year, Wells Fargo
admitted to opening up to 3.5 million accounts on behalf of customers without their permission. The bank has said that staffers used unauthorized information to open extra accounts on behalf of customers in an aim to meet aggressive sales goals. In the wake of the scandal, the bank has faced lawsuits, probes from federal agencies, Congressional hearings and its CEO retired suddenly last year.
Grisham, who is known for ripping story ideas from newspaper headlines, courtroom dramas or other true events, even features another timely plot line — a family of immigrants facing deportation — in The Rooster Bar. “There are always issues on the front page that need to be explored,” Grisham said.
Another issue fascinating Grisham lately that could provide fodder for a future book: The opioid crisis, and in particular, the role of doctors, drug companies and others in shaping it. “There’s got to be some liability somewhere,” he said. “I may explore that.”
“Almost every issue that you see is going to end up in some courtroom somewhere and that fascinates me,” he added.