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For the The Office (U.S. version) episode, see The Client .


The Client (1994) is a legal thriller written by American author John Grisham, set mostly in Memphis, Tennesseemarker and New Orleans, Louisianamarker. It is a mix with various legal elements and suspense.

Plot

The Client begins with eleven-year old boy, Mark Sway and his younger brother Ricky, who is eight, going into the woods near the Tucker Wheel Estates, a mobile home park where they live with their mother, Dianne. Ricky had earlier caught Mark with some cigarettes and now to keep Ricky's silence, Mark is going to teach Ricky how to smoke. While they are in the woods, a big black 4-door Cadillac (a black 93 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham in the film) arrives, and soon W. Jerome "Romey" Clifford, a 44-year old lawyer from New Orleansmarker, Louisiana, gets out of the car. His only client at the moment is Barry "The Blade" Muldanno, and now here in the woods of northeast Memphis, Tennessee, he is attempting to commit suicide. Mark and Ricky Sway sit hidden from Clifford and watching him from behind the shiny black car. Clifford, noticeably drunk, puts one end of a garden hose in the exhaust pipe of the car and the other end into a rear passenger window, and rolls up the window, trying to kill himself with carbon monoxide poisoning. Mark, sneaks up, crawling on his stomach, and pulls the hose from the exhaust trying to stop him. After some time Clifford gets out of the car, cursing, and puts the hose back in. Mark repeats pulling the hose from the tailpipe. On the third attempt, Clifford sees the grass moving in the rear view mirror, leaps from the car grabs Mark and pushes him into the car. Jerome then tells Mark why he wants to kill himself, he is convinced that "The Blade" Muldanno is going to murder him anyway and wants to die on his own terms. Clifford is defending Muldanno for the murder of U.S. Senator Boyd Boyette. But, the prosecutors, led by the "Reverend" (for his preaching style in court) Roy Foltrigg, don't have a body. But Muldanno had previously told Clifford that the he buried the body in concrete in Clifford's detached garage, under a boat, while Clifford was on vacation, skiing in Colorado. In the car Clifford keeps drinking Jack Daniels, and taking dalmane and codeine. After a while, the effect of the booze and pills starts to make Clifford pass out and Mark manages to escape. After Clifford realizes this and attempts to go after Mark, he looks around but soon gives up and slides up on the trunk of the car, puts a .38 Special caliber pistol in his mouth, and shoots himself.

Upon witnessing the suicide, Ricky, Mark Sway's younger brother, goes into shock (in and out of a coma). Mark calls the police and is later found at the scene. Police and the FBI discover that Mark was in the car and may have spoken with Jerome Clifford. Clifford knew where the body was buried and the FBI needs this information. The FBImarker is now after Mark because they believe he knows where the body is. Mark hires a lawyer named Reggie Love (a woman, despite the name) to help him. Barry the Blade's people burn Mark's house. Mark is reluctant to tell the FBI what he knows because the Mafia has threatened him that if he tells anyone, they will kill him and his family.

Mark is placed in juvenile lock-up (partly to protect him, partly to make him talk) but escapes and runs away to New Orleans and decides to look for the body with Reggie Love. If the body is not where he knows it should be, he will no longer be in danger of being killed by the Mafia. He decides to travel to New Orleans to search for it. It's very early in the morning when they arrive and while approaching the area of the corpse, the boy and his lawyer observe some Mafia henchmen trying to relocate the body. The henchmen see Mark trying to escape from the boathouse where the body is buried. After a struggle, Mark is able to retrieve a gun that the men were carrying. One of the henchman is trying to convince Mark to shoot him, but Reggie Love is able to convince him that if he does shoot, he would be just like the henchmen. Mark gives Reggie the gun, which makes the henchman laugh saying, "You should've never taken the gun, you'll never have the guts to shoot." To which she replies, "Wanna bet?" and shoots the neighbors alarm. The neighbor then comes out with a shotgun and the henchmen run away. Mark and Reggie hide in the woods until they are sure the neighbor is back asleep. They then re-approach the corpse and run away when they see the decaying face of Senator Boyette. Reggie later tells the FBI where the body is, but only after Mark and his family are entered into the United States Federal Witness Protection Program. The Sway family retreats to a revered hospital in Phoenix to tend to Ricky's severe condition and Mark never sees Reggie Love again.

Characters

Mark Sway: A very intelligent and smart eleven-year old boy. He knows quite well how to handle the situation although he is justifiably scared. For his age he knows a lot about life, but he has also seen many films to which he refers in real life.

Ricky Sway: Mark's eight-year-old brother. He goes into shock after witnessing a suicide.

Dianne Sway: The boys' mother. Single, she is on her own and feels a deep need to educate her children, as her husband left them five years before the story. The boys are happy about that because their father was always very violent and drunk. Dianne lives with her family in a trailer park. She smokes and works at Arklong fixtures which is a lamp factory. The factory turns out to be a sweatshop.

Reggie Love: A female lawyer who has been practicing for five years. Her original name is Regina Cardoni who divorced with her husband. She was a former alcoholic and a former drug consumer. She is an older woman in the novel, but the movie incarnation played by Susan Sarandon is slightly younger.

Barry Muldanno: Mafia member who is accused of killing a senator. A cold-blooded man, he puts a hit on eleven-year old Mark.

Roy Foltrigg: US government lawyer whose job is to prove that Barry Muldanno killed the senator. He tries everything to make Mark talk and at the end he proposes to take Mark to court in New Orleans where he was sure that they could make him talk. He is the district attorney for the southern district of Louisiana.

Slick Moeller: A crime reporter who works on the Memphis Press. His real name is actually Alfred but nobody in the book knows this. He never names a person who trusted him with information and he knows everything about every crime committed, even before the cops.

Paul Gronke: A close associate of Barry Muldanno. He is a tough thug, but not a killer like Barry Muldanno.

Mac Bono: A close associate of the Salari family. He is a convicted murderer and participates in the search for Mark Sway.

Gary Perrenni: A close associate of the Salari family. He participates in the search for Mark Sway.

Jack Nance and Calvin "Cal" Cissin: So-called "security specialists", they are actually thugs who do dirty work for the people who pay them. They are hired by Paul Grunke to help them for the search of Mark Sway.

Thomas Fink: An assistant district attorney of the southern district of Louisiana. He argued a case before the Tennessee juvenile court to have Mark placed on the juvenile detention center.

George Ord: District attorney for the western district of Tennessee. He helped Thomas Fink argue the case to have Mark placed on the juvenile detention center.

Dr. Greenway: The doctor that helps cure Ricky of his coma.

Clint Van Hooser: Secretary to Reggie Love, he was a former drug consumer.

Harry Roosevelt: The judge of the Tennessee youth court. He tries to protect children since he was a neglected child himself when he was a boy.

Johnny Salari: Boss of the Salari family. An aging gangster, yet rules with an iron fist. Uncle of Barry Muldanno

Adaptions

A 1994 film based on the novel was directed by Joel Schumacher and starred Susan Sarandon, Tommy Lee Jones, Mary-Louise Parker and Brad Renfro. The film was released on July 20, 1994.

For her work in the film, Susan Sarandon was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress and won a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role .

The film was so successful that it spawned a TV series of the same name, starring JoBeth Williams and John Heard. It ran for one season (1995-1996).

References


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