Though Jane Maguire is given as the author (Brown himself is illiterate), the real storyteller is Ed Brown, a black man who worked as a tenant farmer in Wilcox County, Georgia, for most of his life. The plot is less interesting than the background--the daily realities of the black South in the 1930's and 1940's which whites have never known, and which most urban blacks have tried to forget. Brown's wife's madness and his daughter's trial for the murder of her husband are grim but incidental in this image of the South, no sense than inevitable moments interrupting the cotton-picking decline and decay. The real sence of Brown's life comes when he speaks of root-workers (black magicians and fortune tellers), of mullet suppers (gambling parties which generally ended in mayhem), and of the daily thrust and parry between white owner and black hand. Where Nate Shaw, whose autobiography won a National Book Award last year, took a stand against racial oppression and defended himself with his shotgun, Ed Brown fought as did the majority of blacks simply by staying alive. The chain gang was forever slaving in the background, and, as Brown says, ""In them days if you hit a white man you had to take to 'Mr. Bush' to stand your bond. I mean you had to move on.