Battling ALS with John Grisham and Southern cooking

The Joe Martin ALS Foundation in Charlotte held a fundraising dinner with guest speaker John Grisham, author of "A Time to Kill", "The Firm", "The Pelican Brief". The gift to him creates a story, and link, between Grisham and my family.


CHARLOTTE, NC, August 6, 2017 – I have always believed that the greatest gift an artistic person can give to someone else is something they have created. The reason is that such presents are one of a kind. They are unique and, therefore, represent a part of the artist’s soul that no one else can possess.

Years ago while traveling in Switzerland doing research for a video project about Swiss art and culture, I met Hans Erni, the best known and most popular Swiss artist of his day. Erni was in his mid-80s at the time, but he came gave me a personal tour of his museum while explaining in detail his philosophy of art.

Hans Erni: A personal portrait of one of Switzerland’s most beloved artists

Even in his advanced years, Hans Erni was full of energy and it reflected in his work which was a combination of contemporary technology with an eye on history set within palettes of brilliant colors. Erni’s art was as positive as his personality, and it was easy to observe his passion for living.

Before I departed the museum, Hans Erni drew a pencil sketch on the inside of one of his brochures. It took less than two minutes to draw and, it happened so quickly I didn’t even notice he was doing it.

Erni handed me the brochure in which he had sketched a young woman with her hair being blown by the wind. He looked at me and said, “I hope you don’t mind naked women” before laughing at his “naughty” sketch.

Erni signed and dated the picture with my name and date on it. To this day, the framed sketch hangs on my wall as a treasured memento of a person who, during his lifetime, knew Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein.

Hans Erni died a couple of years ago at the age of 107 which today makes my rudimentary little pencil sketch even more special than ever before.

Swiss artist Hans Erni is still creating at 105

On Thursday of last week, the Joe Martin ALS Foundation in Charlotte, NC held a fundraising dinner at a local country club.

The guest speaker was John Grisham, the popular and prolific author of “A Time to Kill”, “The Firm” and “The Pelican Brief” among numerous other novels.

Family supporters in the war against ALS (Taylor)

My family was invited as guests of the foundation which allowed me to meet and to speak with Mr. Grisham before he began signing his latest literary contribution, “Camino Island.” Grisham autographed a copy for me and, like my Hans Erni sketch, it will become part of my most treasured possessions.

During our brief conversation, and in the course of his remarks to the foundation gathering, I learned that Grisham was an avid baseball fan. Having attended Mississippi State in the Southeastern Conference, Grisham’s alma mater struggles to compete each year with the league’s football and basketball powerhouses that are always ranked among the top ten.

Teams grab the bat to battle ALS with a fundraising softball game

Thus, Mississippi State has become known for its prowess on the diamond, fielding a strong team each year that is usually in the running for the College World Series in Omaha, Kansas.

As such, John Grisham became a baseball fan thanks, in large part, to his collegiate days at Mississippi State where there were always huge crowds for the games.

Knowing about Grisham’s interest in baseball made it easy for me to speak with him, though I honestly wish I had had more time to pick his brain about his craft and writing techniques.

Fellowship and fundraising at the Joe Martin ALS Foundation Dinner (Taylor)

Good writers fascinate me when I listen to them discuss what motivates them, where their ideas originate and the disciplines they use to make themselves put their butts in a chair and write. Most writers are procrastinators who will make any excuse possible to keep from doing what they do best.

Grisham was just the opposite while writing his first novel “A Time to Kill.” The book was based on a true story that haunted him for quite a while. Fortunately for the world, it was that nagging need to tell the story that led to his journey to becoming an author, and the world has benefited ever since.

John Grisham, one of America’s best known and prolific writers (

The motivation that drove John Grisham to write “A Time to Kill” is the second greatest driving force for authors or playwrights who feel they must tell the story through writing or go insane thinking about it without releasing it.

Following Grisham’s comments, the foundation incorporated modern technology with a live texting arrangement in which audience members could make contributions from their phones and then watch their names, the amount of their gifts and a running tally appear on a huge screen in the room.

With a goal of $40,000, the patrons raised more than $52,000 in the space of just 10 to 15 minutes, making the evening a huge success for everyone involved.

Cooperstown Hall of Fame ALS fundraiser, August 1-5

As a parting gift to John Grisham, the Joe Martin Foundation presented him with a color photograph of a now defunct Charlotte institution known as the Coffee Cup.

The Coffee Cup was a small local restaurant which featured traditional Southern cooking such as collard greens, black-eyed peas, chitlins and grits on its menu. Given John Grisham’s southern background and the southern-style menu at the dinner, the photo seemed to be an ideal gift for a man who could personally buy anything he wants.

The irony was that the picture was taken by my son Andrew, who has, out of a love of his hometown, created a series of pictures depicting many Charlotte landmarks that either no longer exist or are fast becoming obsolete.

In the end, it was a personal gift from one creative person to another. A gift no one else could have given to one of the best-known authors in the world today.

How uniquely special to think that I now personally possess a book signed by John Grisham and that John Grisham has a signed photo hanging in his house that was taken by my son.

About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

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