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The names have been changed, but this fictionalization of events leading up to the ghetto riots of 1966-67 in Cincinnati canonizes a certain community leader Reston knew ""when I was a young newspaperman from Chicago."" Barnie Tiller has fond memories of unionizing the mountains for John L. Lewis, more painful ones of being mn out of Kentucky for trying to reform the school system and sweet dreams of leading his people ""out of Egypt"" -- the slums of hillbilly Rhineland and black Blue Heaven. His opportunity to play God as peace-maker between the people and the power structure arrives after the kangaroo conviction of a popular black musician for a series of brutal rape-murders in the white community. But scapegoated or psychotically guilty, it won't matter -- not to the hypocritical black leaders (Reston shoots down Stokely, Fanon and King as well) or the power-hungry gun-happy mayor, D.A. and police chief or the greedy businessmen of both colors or the angry street kids.... Either way, the man from the Bible Center has to end up like cardboard Christs do...double-crossed and dead. Reston's characters are mouthpieces for the issues and they talk a stilted tough-guy dialogue; but forgetting the editorializing/moralizing, this is a telling in-depth feature on contemporary urban problems and the unstoppable riot machine of the '60's. It has the smell and feel of the city desk (and it will yellow), but who says journalists are failed novelists.

Pub Date: March 24th, 1975
Publisher: Norton