Our boy, Grisham, has finally come out of his shell (After 30 years!) and tried something new. Released in October 2022, The Boys from Biloxi is not even close to any of his previous works (Of course, it’s a compliment).
In fact, while reading the book, I rechecked the author’s name a couple of times (Am I really reading a John Grisham Books?). I would never believe that he had penned this novel without those courtroom scenes.
What’s so different about this book? As a starter, the plot revolves around a generation of gangsters and lawyers. Calling it a story of good guys vs. bad guys sounds perfect.
There are scenes of tight friendship and revenge for blood. Also, Grisham has ended the novel with such an emotional turn that you start questioning the thin line between right and wrong.
If all you want from a book is suspense and twists, The Boys From Biloxi by John Grisham is not for you. This is no thrill or chase story. Instead, the novel will leave you only with some afterthought.
Intrigued to know more about the plot? I have covered the summary of the story (with spoilers!) below. Go through this first and purchase the book only if it seems interesting.
The Boys from Biloxi Summary: A Story of Friendship, Rivalry, Right & Wrong
Imagine this scene. Your parents have brought you up as a good boy. You have seen them work hard to give people justice. Happenstantly, you have a friend who belongs to the mob.
Fights, nightlife, murders, and drugs are in his blood. What would you do if you were told to judge your friend for his morality and punish him accordingly?
Yes, this is the plot of The Boys From Biloxi. Allow me to fill you in with more details.
History of Biloxi & The Boys
The people of Biloxi have squeezed their fortune out of the Gulf. This city has been a shrine for the immigrants. They have working opportunities at the ships, resorts, clubs, and fishing industries.
Lance’s Father, Aaron Malco, was also an immigrant and started his Biloxi life in the oyster house. Later, he got into the bar business. Soon enough, Malco became a name for prosperity around town. Aaron was a man of morals. He refused to bring in illegal gambling in his bar even though he knew the profit would be enormous.
Well, Lance Malco is nothing like his father. He has a brain for business and finance. So, he knows how to make his hands dirty to earn extra profit. Lance sees no issue in gambling and prostitution. Lance would start selling it for money if there was a demand for human meat.
With such a rough mentality, Lance soon becomes the BOSS of the underworld. He gets what he wants. I mean, he has money, power, the sheriff in his pocket, and Nevin Noll (his right hand). People around the coast want to maintain peace with Lance (Come on! A fight with Malcos always ends with killings. Who wants to die over a bar or club anyway?).
The story of Jesse Rudy is utterly different from Lance Malco’s. Jesse also has the brain and aptitude for success. But he does not want the quick cash. Instead, he will work extra hours to pay for his bills.
No wonder Jesse leads a mediocre life. His earnings are never enough to maintain his large family. Jesse struggles as a teacher and finally lands as a lawyer, which he hopes will change his fate.
You heard the quote. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
The boys of Jesse Rudy and Lance Malco are the perfect example of it. Keith Rudy shows an extraordinary talent in studies and soon leaves his home for higher education. Hugh Malco, on the other hand, falls into deep shit. He is into alcohol and girls from an early age.
A Tale of Friendship
The history between Lance and Jesse goes back in time. They fought in the war and lived in the same neighborhood. These boys even shared the same church. Lance and Jesse have always been friendly to each other, and their families are also close.
Keeping aside the goal and differences, Keith and Hugh are also friends. In fact, in school time, they were literally inseparable. Even in their teenage years, Keith and Hugh used to spend most of their time together.
Honestly, Keith knows Lance’s dirty business. He is also sure that Hugh is getting involved in the game. But Hugh is his friend to him, and nothing should come in between.
A Trail of Murder & A Plea of Saving People
Lance Malco is always looking for more opportunities to expand his business. Whenever a club is on the sale, Lance is in the line. He will even kill people to get his hands on the estate. Dusty Cromwell is one of the victims of these clashes.
Nevin Noll, a man with God-like posture and reflex, is responsible for the securities of all the Lance businesses. Usually, he is the one who executes any order from Lance.
Lance’s business mind and Nevin’s strength have made the duo unstoppable. Lance has opened strip clubs, bars, and whatnot all around the coast. In each place, illegal gambling and prostitution are more than common.
Lance has bought the sheriffs, so running the business has never been so smooth. The crimes spike up in Biloxi due to such irregularities, but who cares?
While Lance is literally the king of the underworld, Jesse is trying hard to wipe away the injustice and crime from Biloxi. He wants to put an end to the gambling and prostitution. The only way to achieve the dream is to become a DA.
However, if Jesse wins the DA battle, it will ruin the nightlife and the illegal business. So, the bad guys (the current DA and sheriff) stick together and run a negative PR against him. Yes, he lost the battle, but the war is still on.
Thousands of people lost their homes and lives in Hurricane Camille in 1969. When they claim the insurance, the companies refuse to pay a dime. Being the light, Jesse files hundreds of cases against the insurance bulls and wins them for the clients. It gives him the limelight and fame to help him in his run for DA for the second time.
The Life of Hugh & Keith
Hugh is always looking for trouble. He will fall in love with prostitutes and fight people double his size. His stories of robbing jewelry do not sound cool but foolish.
Things get out of hand when Hugh’s companions drop dead during a robbery. He is now under the FBI’s radar. His best option is to go underground for months and even years, if possible.
Like always, Keith is out of trouble. He is killing his law degree. In his free time, he helps his father with cases and their law firm.
Here’s Where the Rivalry Began
Jesse wins by a large margin when he runs for the DA for the second time. Right after he takes charge, he goes against the club owners whose front business is a bar, but the real money comes from gambling and prostitution.
Jesse’s aim is clear. He wants to take down Lance Malco, the underworld boss.
But Lance is no duck. Getting him behind the bars is next to impossible. Well, well, well. Jesse has made this impossible happen. He puts Lance Malco in prison for almost a decade.
Even though Jesse wins this race, he is now on the hit list of the mob people. His preaching of shutting down prostitution and gambling is not the favorite words of the gangsters.
Soon enough, Jesse tries to solve the mysterious murders in the past years. He is sure the mob is behind all this. When he investigates the Dusty case, he smells Lance’s connection to the killing.
I think they say it right. “Too much bravery is never wise.” Jesse Rudy gets killed in a bombing by an intruder, Taylor. When Keith fills in his father’s shoes as DA, things get personal, and now he is after the killer.
The End Game
It takes Lewis, the FBI, a few weeks to get to the real killer. The FBI also reveals the names of those who might have pulled the trigger and hired Taylor to kill Jesse.
Sadly, the names are not unfamiliar to Keith. Nevin and his childhood best friend Hugh are responsible for his father’s death.
But there is no time to get emotional. Keith fights the case and puts Taylor, Nevin, and Hugh behind the bars. After Lance is out of prison, he gets Taylor killed. Nevin escapes the jail, and no one knows where he is.
Hugh gets the death row. But the AG has the power to mercy him. Look at the irony. Keith runs for the AG race and wins the seat.
When Keith visits Hugh for the last time, Hugh asks for forgiveness. He makes it clear that killing Jesse was not his intention. He just wanted to scare the DA off.
The novel ends as Keith goes down memory lane with his childhood best friend. Even though he knows Hugh is telling the truth, he cannot step back. Hugh must be punished for the crimes he has committed.
Characters from John Grisham The Boys From Biloxi
I was quite disappointed with A Time to Kill character, Grisham’s first novel. The Boys from Biloxi is the latest release, and I am impressed. Grisham has focused more on the main characters rather than poking the side heroes.
Let’s talk about the heroes and villains. Shall we?
Jesse Rudy: The Man of Justice
Jesse Rudy was a man with a clear vision. He always knew what he wanted from life (no shortcut). We have seen Jesse hustling up to the top and keeping his promises. I must admit Jesse was the bravest in this novel.
He fought for a cause, and nothing seemed to scare him off.
Personally speaking, I admire Jesse, but I am not a fan. He had been kind to the mob and offered them great deals. Yet, he did all those things just to reach Lance.
Yes, Lance Malco was a supervillain. But Jesse’s obsession and grudges against him looked personal. However, in the end, his morality and never-care behavior became the reason for his death.
Keith Rudy: The Shadow of His Father
Jesse hated crimes to his bones. But Keith is not that strict.
Keith is an amazing person, just as hardworking as his father. He also believes in justice and fighting crimes. But he is not bothered about the illegal lifestyle of Biloxi people until he loses his dad.
After the death, Keith shows that he has the same blood as Jesse. He is so stubborn to avenge his dad that he does not think twice before punishing his best friend.
I am not walking in Keith’s shoes, and judging his decision will be foolish. But in my head, Keith does not care whether justice has been served. He only wants the killers of his fathers to get a fair share of punishment. Pardon me! This is nothing but shallow behavior from an AG.
Lance Malco: The Underworld Boss
I wish I could say Lance Malco was a good man. He was the worst kind. Lance had walked over dead bodies for the sake of revenge and money.
Well, there was a soft side of Lance. He craved a stable family, which he had never had (Not that he tried hard to bond with his children). Lance shared a beautiful bond only with Hugh. He had always treated Hugh as his equal (No wonder Hugh was a fan of his dad).
But Alas! Karma is a bitch! In the days after prison, Lance was alone, and his empire was long gone.
Hugh Malco: The Troublemaker
In the novel, Hugh is the most confusing character. He is influenced by his surroundings at a very early age. Come on! A teenager cannot decide whether he wants to be a mob or sleep with a prostitute.
Hugh is very emotional about his people. He loves his friends and stands by them no matter what. Regardless of what people say, Hugh admires his father and wants to be like him.
So, when Jesse messes with his father, he does what any son (!) would do, scaring away the cops. But his plans backfire, and he ends up in prison with a death row in the process.
I think Grisham hasn’t done justice to Hugh’s character. No! I am not talking about the death penalty. More background dramas focused on Hugh could easily make him a good kind of bad guy. Those characters always shine in the novels.
The Boys from Biloxi Review: What’s My Take on This Book?
I have talked to readers who have found The Biloxi from Boys flat. Ah! I understand where it is coming from. Even I had mixed feelings when I finished this novel. This book lacks the heartfelt emotion and the suspense. No one knows what to expect!
See, I have warned you. The Boys from Biloxi is no legal drama or suspense story. There are murders but no chasing. So, no. This book is no page-turner, nor you will not get any dopamine hits. It took me 4 days to finish this novel.
To be honest, I did not feel bored when reading the pages. Though nothing is compelling in the story, Grisham has maintained a nice flow throughout the novel. So, I will give a perfect 10 on the delivery style and writing tone. Oh! The book cover will also receive a 10. It is so gorgeous that everyone wants it on their shelf.
Grisham is not known for his book titles. He comes up with cliche titles that give you an idea of the story. Well, he has done the same with The Boys From Biloxi. An alternate title would be more suitable as the plot revolves around mobs and the justice system.
Now, let’s talk about the plot
All the descriptions of Biloxi and its nightlife have made the book lengthy. Some people are calling it a waste of 60 to 70 pages.
Umm… I believe the bogged-down and long-winded exposition was necessary. Now, the readers can imagine each scenario more clearly in their heads. So, I would not grill Grisham for that.
However, what I found unnecessary was the details of the boxing match and baseball game.
Who cares if Hugh was the star of baseball and Keith was not? These were irrelevant to the story. A better approach would be to portray the friendship between Hugh and Keith. Grisham has failed to make their bond look deep enough; on paper, it looks superficial.
The rivalry between Jesse and Lance was quite obvious. I must say they could play dirty games. But Lance did not mean to harm Jesse in any way. Jesse, on the other hand, was brutal. Apparently, the bad guys had more ethics when it came to relationships.
Yes, Jesse’s death was a sad event. I didn’t want him to be dead so soon. But I was not bothered. Does it mean Grisham has failed to portray his hero? Well, it could be.
Frankly, I had found no real connection with any of the characters. They sounded good, and that was all. There was no depth or any real attachment.
The Boys from Biloxi is more than 400 pages! Yet, Grisham didn’t bother bringing any significant female character. I guess the novel is set from 1948 to 1986, which is the reason.
The final chapter made me a bit emotional, and I pitied Hugh. It was clear that he had no intention of killing Jesse. I was expecting Keith to spare his life. Hugh was nothing but a product of the rigged society. I was heartbroken when Keith walked away from Hugh. Since when did morality outweigh friendship?
I want to spot the lights on another side of this story. The entire plot was all about banning prostitution and gambling. Right?
Then why has no major character come from this background? A hooker with a history or a gambler with a ruined career could have added a real cause to the story.
I was disappointed seeing how Grisham used the prostitute girls only for the plots and ignored their existence altogether.
Is The Boys From Biloxi A True Story?
The Boys from Biloxi is a complete fiction. But yes, it is partially inspired by real events. Grisham has left a note at the end of the book.
Apparently, the Dixie mafia was famous in the 1950s and 60’s. They were into all kinds of illegal stuff and killing. Biloxi was a crime hub back then, and as the authorities changed, the coastal city became crime-free.
Do I Recommend the Boys From Biloxi Book?
The Boys from Biloxi is a nice book. Grisham has outdone himself with the story buildup. The plot is decent, too. Our bad guys end up in jail, and the good guys win. Well, everything is on point.
Yet, I cannot say that I am a fan of this book. I seek suspense and thrillers (Like The Pelican Brief John Grisham and The Firm). Definitely, if it is a holiday read, I am down. But otherwise, this slow gangster vs lawyer stuff is not for me.
Hey! Do not blame the book. It is just not my type. If you are a Grisham fan, you must give it a read. This novel offers an entirely new flavor of Grisham’s writing.
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