The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town

Version: Unabridged (Abridged version available here)
Author: John Grisham
Narrator: Craig Wasson
Genres: Non-Fiction, True Crime, Social Science, Public Policy
Publisher: Random House Audio Assets
Published In: October 2006
# of Units: 10 CDs
Length: 12 hours, 30 minutes
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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • John Grisham’s first work of nonfiction: a true crime story that will terrify anyone who believes in the presumption of innocence.
“Both an American tragedy and [Grisham’s] strongest legal thriller yet, all the more gripping because it happens to be true.”—Entertainment Weekly
In the town of Ada, Oklahoma, Ron Williamson was going to be the next Mickey Mantle. But on his way to the Big Leagues, Ron stumbled, his dreams broken by drinking, drugs, and women. Then, on a winter night in 1982, not far from Ron’s home, a young cocktail waitress named Debra Sue Carter was savagely murdered. The investigation led nowhere. Until, on the flimsiest evidence, it led to Ron Williamson. The washed-up small-town hero was charged, tried, and sentenced to death—in a trial littered with lying witnesses and tainted evidence that would shatter a man’s already broken life, and let a true killer go free.
Impeccably researched, grippingly told, filled with eleventh-hour drama, this audio edition of The Innocent Man reads like an edge-of-your-seat legal thriller. It is a book no American can afford to miss.
Praise for The Innocent Man
“Grisham has crafted a legal thriller every bit as suspenseful and fast-paced as his bestselling fiction.”—The Boston Globe
“A gritty, harrowing true-crime story.”—Time
“A triumph.”—The Seattle Times

Reviews (26)

Written by Marty B. on February 18th, 2019

  • Book Rating: 5/5

I loved this book! I had already watched the Netflix series so I was familiar with the story. But the book of course went into further details of the men convicted and the women who were killed. I will recommend this book to everyone! Also, I love Craig Wasson! He is an excellent narrator! I finished this book in 2 days and was sad when it ended. Loved it!

Written by Kelly Brooks on June 18th, 2016

  • Book Rating: 4/5

I am a big John Grisham fan and this book didn't disappoint. I was also interested to read it because it was a true story. My only complaint is that it was repetitive in parts and was not always sequential when the book would focus on the various people involved. As for the story itself, it truly was unbelievable that the system could fail in so many ways. I listened to this book with my husband who is a retired prosecutor and he was appalled also and couldn't believe some parts were true since federal statutes were not being upheld frequently. Such a sad story.


Written by Jacl on December 4th, 2014

  • Book Rating: 5/5

This book was awesome. I drive all day long and this book had me on edge hanging on to every word. Grisham's best work

Written by Katherine Herrick on August 28th, 2014

  • Book Rating: 5/5

A sad story because it's true, and just another example of how a justice system fails us if it's littered with dishonest, power-greedy officials like the ones Grisham writes about. The only criticism I have with this book is it seemed to go on a little longer than it needed to. I was sort of played out for the last few hours. John Grisham is a very good writer but he's not a great writer in my opinion. The great writers of true crime like Truman Capote ("In Cold Blood") and the latest one I've found Robert Kolker ("Lost Girls"--excellent, I highly recommend it!) are few and far between, but it takes a while after reading them to work my way down to enjoying just a very good author again. They spoil me and make authors like Ann Rule or Danielle Steele virtually impossible to read. The narrator for John Grisham's first non fiction is good in that he doesn't overact or interject inappropriate passion nor is his voice a monotone that can also diminish the enjoyment of an audio book. You won't be disappointed.


Written by Abbey on April 26th, 2010

  • Book Rating: 2/5

I love most of his books, but since this one was a true story it went on and on with just FACTS. No excitement.

The Innocent Man:

Written by betty from Ethel, AR on February 6th, 2010

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Like others I didn't realize this was based on a true story, but I could believe the injustice. I also come from a small town that has issue with blind justice. To the reader that couldn't finish the book just because of the content, wake up to a reality check.

The Innocent Man

Written by cheryld503 on October 7th, 2009

  • Book Rating: 5/5

i can't possibly say enough about this book. i recommend it to everyone i talk with. it made me so aware of the wrongs in our criminal justice system, and my heart goes out to these people, and their families. what an incredibly horrible experience for everyone concerned. i was so into this book, i almost didn't want it to end. my hat is off to john grisham. thank you for an amazing story.

Excellent listening

Written by Jim on February 28th, 2009

  • Book Rating: 5/5

I enjoyed the book, I am always amazed at the injustice so prevelant in our sytem. This is well written, couldn't wait to hear the next chapter, almost like fiction.

Worth the Time

Written by Anonymous on January 19th, 2009

  • Book Rating: 4/5

This book is very different from the usual John Grisham novel but then real life is hardly comparable to fiction. I did enjoy listening to it as it does show the many problems in exist in our legal systems especially in small towns.

Guilty of Boredom

Written by Mickey Way on November 9th, 2008

  • Book Rating: 1/5

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Audiobook jury, this one did not live up to MY expectations of an interesting story. But that doesn't mean YOU won't enjoy this story. At your request, Simply Audiobooks will provide you with 5 discs of concrete evidence to review for yourself. I have reviewed these discs, and I find "The Innocent Man"? is guilty of forcing complete strangers to fall asleep against their will. It is now time for you, the listener, to deliberate and decide for yourself if this one is a keeper, or should this novel be condemned to collect dust on the shelf for life.

Author Details

Author Details

Grisham, John

Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, he was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Mississippi law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby—writing his first novel.

Born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn't have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears and majored in accounting at Mississippi State University. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade in Southaven, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. In 1983, he was elected to the state House of Representatives and served until 1990.

One day at the DeSoto County courthouse, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl's father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987. Initially rejected by many publishers, it was eventually bought by Wynwood Press, who gave it a modest 5,000 copy printing and published it in June 1988.

That might have put an end to Grisham's hobby. However, he had already begun his next book, and it would quickly turn that hobby into a new full-time career—and spark one of publishing's greatest success stories. The day after Grisham completed A Time to Kill, he began work on another novel, the story of a hotshot young attorney lured to an apparently perfect law firm that was not what it appeared. When he sold the film rights to The Firm to Paramount Pictures for $600,000, Grisham suddenly became a hot property among publishers, and book rights were bought by Doubleday. Spending 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, The Firm became the bestselling novel of 1991.

The successes of The Pelican Brief, which hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Client, which debuted at number one, confirmed Grisham's reputation as the master of the legal thriller. Grisham's success even renewed interest in A Time to Kill, which was republished in hardcover by Doubleday and then in paperback by Dell. This time around, it was a bestseller.

Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, Grisham has written one novel a year (his other books are The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, and The Broker) and all of them have become international bestsellers. There are currently over 225 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 29 languages. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man. The Innocent Man (October 2006) marks his first foray into non-fiction.

Grisham lives with his wife Renee and their two children Ty and Shea. The family splits their time between their Victorian home on a farm in Mississippi and a plantation near Charlottesville, VA.

Grisham took time off from writing for several months in 1996 to return, after a five-year hiatus, to the courtroom. He was honoring a commitment made before he had retired from the law to become a full-time writer: representing the family of a railroad brakeman killed when he was pinned between two cars. Preparing his case with the same passion and dedication as his books' protagonists, Grisham successfully argued his clients' case, earning them a jury award of $683,500—the biggest verdict of his career.

When he's not writing, Grisham devotes time to charitable causes, including most recently his Rebuild The Coast Fund, which raised 8.8 million dollars for Gulf Coast relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He also keeps up with his greatest passion: baseball. The man who dreamed of being a professional baseball player now serves as the local Little League commissioner. The six ballfields he built on his property have played host to over 350 kids on 26 Little League teams.