TIN STAR TYRANTS by Martin Yant

TIN STAR TYRANTS

America's Crooked Sheriffs

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Cautionary law-and-order tales by Yant (Desert Mirage, 1991), former commentary editor of the Columbus Dispatch. Corruption and brutality in law-enforcement are explored expertly here by Yant--who, he tells us, once got into a heap of trouble with lawmen while reporting for the Mansfield, Ohio, News Journal. Surveilled and threatened by local cops, his wife's car followed by sinister allies of the local sheriff, his daughter's school days poisoned by a teacher-friend of the sheriff, Yant has a lot to say about the relationship between media and lawmen. The harassment of newsmen--and the threats to their lives--that he details are particularly thought-provoking. Yant makes it clear how much can go wrong in law enforcement, suggesting that this is especially true for sheriffs, and that the problem has historic roots, even mythic ones (the Sheriff of Nottingham vs. Robin Hood.) He points out that today's sheriff is usually an elected official with few professional qualifications and great power, and that the incidence of these sheriffs being indicted (sometimes convicted) of serious crimes is very high. The better stories here are pungent with local authenticity and crackle with a sense of small-town America not much changed since Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest. Many are horrifying--a man left to freeze in a snow-buried truck; another castrated for an unproven and unlikely rape charge; a woman handcuffed and forced to walk naked among male inmates; a witness shot in his hospital bed. There's humor as well--the murderer moonlighting for the sheriff and driving to work in his car; the Florida deputy convicted of pimping for his wife; the sheriff who dreamed of God wearing cowboy boots. Yant strikes a nerve but his writing is uneven, with the latter third of the book feeling hurried and lacking the substance of earlier sections. (Photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Aug. 3rd, 1992
ISBN: 0-87975-715-9
Page count: 300pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1992




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