Philip Arrow, Jr., returns to his deep South town of Ashton after six years in New York to take over the editorship of his fathar's newspaper the Dispatch. Far from ""liberating"" him, New York has had an inverted influence on his feelings about his home town and its main concern -- segregation. He was forced to leave Ashton once before because of what was considered his extreme liberal position, but dismayed by what he calls New York's ""hothouse"" liberalism, he is now determined to align himself with the main body of sentiment in his town, going slow. But the death of a Negro who was about to test the voting registration laws causes Arrow to take a more discernable stand. Obviously, Shine Tatum was murdered but the trial of the two men responsible is a mockery of the law and human life. As a final blow to Arrow, his friend Senator Windham, who wants to run for governor, gladly undertakes the men's defense. The Dispatch and Philip's father are threatened by the loss of their advertisers, one of the witnesses against the defendants is driven out of town, and a flaming cross appears on the Arrow lawn. It is the incredibility of this last event which confirms Philip Arrow in his decision to stay in Ashton and maintain his newspaper; it's also a comfort for him to feel that he was right in the first place. The core of the story is believable enough -- its main events have been repeatedly confirmed in newspaper headlines. The caricatures of the novel merely detract from its truth.