KLANWATCH by Bill Stanton

KLANWATCH

Bringing the Ku Klux Klan to Justice

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A succinct and sometimes understated look at one of America's ``longest-running Klan prosecutions,'' told by an experienced hate- crimes investigator. Stanton (a fourth-generation southerner) details his activity in the ``Klanwatch Project''--a ``clearinghouse'' out to bust Klan conspiracies. Much of the book focuses on the efforts of Morris Dees, a young attorney who defended one of the assaulted protestors in the now-infamous Decatur, Alabama, incident in which Klansmen attacked those demonstrating on behalf of a retarded black man accused of raping a white woman. While trying to get the Klan, Stanton and Dees confronted the harsh ``racial realities of Alabama politics,'' or ``what was euphemistically known as the Southern way of life.'' Among the obstacles were indifferent, sometimes hostile, law enforcement officials, leniency in the courts, and the prevalence of ``all-white'' juries. Stanton's narrative unfolds against the backdrop of the Klan's resurgence during the late 70's and 80's. He also introduces some of the far right's more frightening celebrities, including lynching enthusiasts, Aryan paramilitary instructors, and idealogues who mix quasi-Nazi teachings with Christian scripture. Yet Stanton's most poignant figures stem from the morally ambivalent mainstream as they betray ``an undercurrent of vigilantism'' beneath their genteel surface. Stanton resorts to too much tedious verbatim trial dialogue but rebounds with a chilling description of the moment when a murder victim's mother and the Klansman who killed him confront each other. However, he forfeits a fine opportunity to probe the minds of the villains whose inner workings obviously fascinate him. An adequately documented advocate's perspective that is more a detailed synopsis than an in-depth study. (For a more involving and thorough parallel account, see Morris Dees's A Season for Justice, p. 450.)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-8021-1327-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1991