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The "perfect storm for corruption" that inspired John Grisham's new novel

John Grisham on "The Whistler"
John Grisham on "The Whistler," casinos and corruption 05:56

There are 493 Indian casinos in the United States, and in 2015 alone, they grossed $30 billion in gaming revenue. They make more than the regular commercial casinos in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, but these gaming operations are not on the same playing field.

That’s because as sovereign nations, Indian tribes are not subject to the same federal regulations, which means they don’t have to pay any taxes, and 90 percent of all the money comes in as cash.


“I’m not saying there’s corruption, but it’s the perfect storm for corruption,” bestselling author John Grisham told “CBS This Morning” Tuesday.

It’s also the perfect plot for Grisham’s latest thriller, “The Whistler.” The story revolves around Lacy Stoltz, a lawyer leading an investigation into a Florida judge who’s stealing millions of dollars of cash from a casino on Native American land. Grisham got inside an actual Indian casino to learn how it operates as part of his research for the novel.

“Every state has an agency that’s charged with that duty, and so she goes after crooked judges. And there aren’t many in this country. We have a very good record in this country.”

“But you’re intrigued by the idea of corruption?” asked “CBS This Morning” co-host Charlie Rose.

“Well it’s sales – come on, Charlie. This is a bestseller, it’s a thriller, it’s suspense. You’ve got to have corruption, you’ve got to have somebody taking money out of some dead bodies. Come on, this is why it’s popular fiction!” Grisham joked.

Perhaps no one knows what makes a bestseller better than Grisham, who’s sold nearly 300 million copies of his books worldwide. Since “The Pelican Brief” in 1992, Grisham has had 28 consecutive number one New York Times fiction bestsellers.

Grisham said he writes two types of books.

“The first type is when I take an issue where there’s wrongful conviction or the death penalty or whatever and I weave the novel around that,” Grisham explained. “And so the reader gets caught up in the story but also the issue, and maybe learns something. Those are the better books – I do that all the time.”

But his latest book may be a bit different, thanks to his writing confidante and wife of 35 years, Renee. As with every one of his other books, she was the first editor of “The Whistler.”  

“Yeah, sometimes more than she should but she reads the first draft with a red pen and there’s no shortage of opinions. We go through that process every year,” Grisham said.  “But she always says that I don’t know how to write a good female – strong female character. I can’t write – I can’t think like a woman… it’s not natural, but I’ve tried.”

“Well, Shakespeare could,” Rose joked.

“I’m not Shakespeare. He didn’t sell that much either,” Grisham shot back.

So this time, his wife advised him to try something else.

“Renee says, ‘Just stop preaching, get off your soap box and just write a legal thriller.’ Just a pure entertainment, and this is what ‘The Whistler’ is,” Grisham said. “There’s no serious, legal, social injustices involved.” 

“The Whistler” is available now, but has Grisham already hinted at a sequel? The author said that he created the character, Lacey Stoltz, with the intention of possibly bringing her back in future books. 

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