Books by Jack Nelson

Released: Jan. 20, 1993

The full story of the KKK's bombing of Jewish targets in the late 60's, and of the effective but illegal measures taken by the FBI to stop the violence. Pulitzer-winning Nelson (Washington Bureau Chief of the Los Angeles Times) vividly paints a Mississippi that's burning with dangerous white supremacists, indifferent Christian clergy, and an assimilationist Jewish community ambivalent about pressing the battle for civil rights. After the synagogue in Jackson is bombed, the more entrenched Jews of Meridian refuse to face their own isolation and vulnerability until the dynamite strikes their own backyard. (Nelson aptly compares the Jews of Meridian to German Jews of the 1930's.) The author, a native southerner who supplements his previous coverage of these events with much follow- up spadework, mixes comfortably with redneck ``Kluckers'' and northern agitators alike as he chronicles the story of how the now- galvanized Jews of Mississippi turn to the FBI, whose dirty tricks are a major concern of Nelson's (The FBI and the Berrigans, 1972). The thousands of dollars raised by local Jews are the Bureau's carrots to bribe informants; its sticks go well beyond wiretappings and such. Hoover's boys enlist KKK informants through illegal trespassing, pointing guns, and threatening long jail sentences based on trumped-up charges. Nelson may be too self-congratulatory in describing how he got this dirt on the feds and how they made him suffer for his high-principled reportage, and he errs in supposing that all his readers will recoil in horror when heavily armed bigots are entrapped, ambushed, and even ``murdered'' while attempting to kill more human-rights activists. Nonetheless, his report excels in its multidimensional investigation, its moments of raw drama, and its eye for irony. Imperative reading for all concerned with bias crimes and the temptation to fight arson with arson. (Eight pages of b&w photographs—not seen.) Read full book review >