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Literature / The King of Torts

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The King of Torts is a Courtroom Drama by John Grisham.

Jarrett Clay Carter II is a Washington, D.C. public defender. After taking on the case of a murderer, Clay discovers a connection between the murder and a drug trial gone horribly wrong. Clay encounters a shadowy figure named Max Pace who arranges for him to make settlements with pharmaceutical companies by informing him of faulty drugs. Clay finds himself moving up—but at what cost?


  • Amoral Attorney: Clay starts out as a scrupulous public defender before eventually starting his own law firm, where he engages in malpractice under Max's advice.
  • Con Man: Max is a shady figure who sells pharmaceutical stocks short in order to make a profit.
  • Crusading Lawyer: Clay was initially an upstanding public defender who stood up for the little guy before becoming a shyster.
  • Get-Rich-Quick Scheme: Max uses inside information on faulty medication to make a profit by selling pharmaceutical shares short. Max also has Clay make settlements with the pharmaceutical companies.
  • Karma Houdini: Max, who had manipulated Clay into committing fraud, absconds with his own profits unscathed and disappears.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Max manipulates Clay into settling out of court with various pharmaceutical companies, subsequently making money by shorting the stocks of the companies.
  • Middle Name Basis: Most people call Clay by his middle name.
  • Operation: Jealousy: Clay brings his current squeeze, Ridley, to the wedding of his ex, Rebecca, in an attempt to spite her for breaking up with him. As one would expect, the exchange ends with Clay leaving rather than be kicked out by security.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: Clay begins as a humanly decent public defender and throughout the story falls prey to the trappings of the jet set, becoming a more amoral and unscrupulous figure.
  • The Spook: Max has various aliases; his real name and origins are never revealed.