Bestselling author John Grisham has announced that he will serialize the complete text of an unreleased novel in the magazine he publishes, the Oxford American, based in Oxford, Miss.

A Painted House, a semi-autobiographical family drama with thriller overtones and a heaping of local color, is a bit of a departure for the Doubleday juggernaut, who in February will publish The Brethren, his 11th legal thriller with the house. "John had started writing this book that he thought of, from the beginning, as something very different from what he had done before," said Grisham's agent David Gernert. "So he thought: Why not write and publish it in a way he's never published before?"

Beginning in January, the Oxford American will devote 25-30 magazine pages to A Painted House. It will continue doing so over the next year (six issues). Though Grisham has yet to complete the book, OA editor-in-chief Marc Smirnoff described what he's seen thus far as "definitely a page-turner."

Although the publication of A Painted House could broaden Grisham's fan base, the more sizable effect could be felt by OA, which, despite solid literary credentials and a National Magazine Award last year, remains unknown to many outside the South. OA will bump its print run from 50,000 to 200,000 for each of the special issues; it will distribute 150,000 of these copies, via Eastern and Ingram, to booksellers.

The serial could eventually see life as a book, though not until after Oxford runs House in its entirety.