‘The Boys From Biloxi’ by John Grisham – Book Ending Explained

The Boys From Biloxi Plot Synopsis

The Boys from Biloxi is a sprawling epic, depicting the rise and fall of Biloxi and the inhabitants within the city who keep things ticking over – or attempt to tear it down. At the center of the bubbling conflict are two childhood friends with very different trajectories in life. Keith Rudy and Hugh Malco couldn’t be more different, despite their shared love for baseball.

Keith’s father, Jesse Rudy, believes in righteous justice and does whatever he can to try and rid the Strip of the gangsters that have made a lucrative profit for themselves through a heady cocktail of drugs, prostitution and illegal gambling. Hugh’s father, Lance Malco, oversees a good chunk of this criminal empire, well-known as part of the Dixie Mafia – and not to be messed with. Hugh soon finds himself enamored with the glory and intoxicated with the idea of making a quick buck, helped along by Lance’s right-hand man, Nevin Noll.

When Jesse Rudy promises to clean up the coast, and Keith works his way through law school to follow in his father’s footsteps, an inevitable showdown between the mafia and Rudy’s family ensues – one destined for the courtroom.

Who killed Jesse Rudy? And why?

One morning, a man named Lyle arrives at the courthouse and drops off a parcel at Jesse’s desk. Rushing away, the man sets off a detonator, exploding 5 pounds worth of Semtex. The office is blown to smithereens, Jesse is killed instantly while others sport bad injuries. Among those hurt is Lyle, whose real name is Henry Taylor. With a gnarly compound fracture, Henry limps outside but can’t get to his pick-up parked outside and collapses.

Henry is brought to hospital, where Special Investigator Jackson Lewis, a man from the FBI, immediately arouses suspicions that he could be the bomber. While Henry is patched up and given a heady cocktail of drugs to alleviate the pain – not to mention hasty surgery to get him back on his feet – Jackson and his team investigate Henry.

They dust for prints and bug his phones, eventually learning that Henry Taylor was paid $20k to kill Rudy. In order to catch him in the act, Lewius and his team hire Gross, a legit Private Investigator, to goad Taylor into a confession. Taylor falls for trhe trap, where he’s instructed to kill two fictitious targets at a condo resort with explosives. Taylor meets Nevin Noll and exchanges money for explosives. With evidence in the bag, both men are arrested. Hugh Malco is also arrested, along with Sergeant Eddie Morton, who had been stationed at Kessler for 9 years. An anonymous tip notified the FBI that he had been selling the explosives. He also has a gambling problem and agreed that, in exchange for getting rid of heavy debts to his name, he’d give Malco and his men military grade explosives.

What happens before the trials?

Judge Oliphant is declared unfit to be the presiding judge, as he has a series of mini strokes that force him into retirement. Abraham Roach comes out of retirement to help oversee proceedings. It doesn’t take long for Sgt Morton to be sentenced to 15 years in prison for selling explosives. However, he’s offered a plea deal by working with Keith.

What would have been 3 different trials is soon whittled down to 1 when Henry Taylor – the bomber – agrees to cooperate and work against Noll and Malco. Given Keith’s close nature to the case, he steps aside as lead prosecutor and in comes Chuck McClure, a revered prosecutor with a very good record for putting away men facing the death penalty. Upon hearing this, Noll also flips, unwilling to die in the gas chamber and gladly taking 30 years in prison in exchange for a testimony against Malco.

Is Hugh found guilty? What happens to Fats Bowman?

During the final trial, Hugh is found guilty and the verdict is the death penalty. Unlike the earlier trials, where the jury had been tampered with and the Mafia had quite literally got away with murder, this time there is no last minute twist.

With Hugh behind bars and facing death, Haley Stofer, the informant who worked with Jess Rudy years earlier, contacts Keith with big news regarding Fats Bowman. He has evidence linking him with drug trafficking and has a contact in New Orleans to confirm as much. Stofer’s words ring true when Jackson Lewis leads the charge, following Fats to one of his farms and arresting him after uncovering $30 million worth of cocaine.

Fats pleads guilty and is sent away forn20 years. Given a weekend pass to say goodbye to his family, Fats instead cowardly heads off to his hunting lodge and commits suicide, shooting himself in the head. Haley Stofer meanwhile, makes parole and runs, with a new identity and living in California with no hard feelings against Jesse Rudy or his family.

In the aftermath of all this, Keith runs for Attorney General and becomes the youngest AG in the state’s history and the youngest in the country. As news of this filters through, Lance prepares for his inevitable release. To show the Strip who’s boss, he has Henry Taylor killed in prison and eventually returns to… nothing. With Fats Bowman gone and his family gone, given his wife divorced him earlier on, Lance decides to scrounge together what money he can to help Hugh. With his empire gone and crumbled to ash, he puts $50k on Noll’s head, who enacts a prison escape of his own and runs, never to be seen again.

How does The Boys From Biloxi end?

With the State agreeing to the death penalty for Hugh Malco, following lengthy and drawn out debates about the morality and justification of this, Keith heads in to see his old buddy one more time. Hugh seems sincere and explains he never meant to kill Jesse. He just wanted to send him a message. Although Hugh seems sincere, we know he’s not from earlier chapters, where Grisham writes: “He harbors not single thought of being innocent,” while discussing his trial.

However, it’s certainly an intriguing point and one that throws big question marks against the judicial system and whether the death penalty is justified. In the end, Keith leaves and Hugh smiles knowingly, telling him he’ll see him on the other side.


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4 thoughts on “‘The Boys From Biloxi’ by John Grisham – Book Ending Explained”

  1. Absolutely agree! A chapter ends (dead) and the new chapter begins (alive). Very surprising to find this kind of an editorial error from the publisher/printer in the full priced novel – what you call out is there and so easy (for the reader) to catch. It happens – however.

    Here’s how I imagined Fats’ story ending: Fats would NOT be granted a ‘free-pass’. That story line is short and reads editor cut, to me. I’d say the story was he ran off to the eastern coast (property) to hide out and was subsequently caught and jailed – now rotting in prison. PS: There’s no context for Maine (to far of a stretch for a hunting cabin.)

  2. Just came across that myself. I was totally confused and surprised by the apparent error. So did he blow his brains out, freezing in Maine or behind bars?

  3. My copy of the first printing has unexplained errors.
    At page 412, Fats Bowman “went to the lake . . . pulled out a .357 Magnum, and blew his brains out.”
    But at page 413, “Fats Bowman [is] freezing in Maine.”
    At page 414, “With Fats Bowman now behind bars . . . no one knew what mischief Lance would create.”
    And at page 435, “His [Lance’s] rock, Fats Bowman, was dead.”
    Fats was the most interesting—now you see him, now you don’t—character in the entire book.

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