The journalistic ordeal of a reformed felon and the legacy of the South.
Award-winning veteran journalist Kelley first encountered the saga of “Money Rock,” a young, convicted North Carolina cocaine dealer named Belton Platt, in 1986 when she covered his trial as a Charlotte Observer courthouse reporter. She visited him in prison to discover how a turf war between African-American drug dealers ended up in a bloody shootout. In this in-depth report, Kelley retraces the original 1985 episode from its roots, beginning in Charlotte’s Piedmont Courts public housing projects, where then-22-year-old Platt ruled supreme as a “skilled marketer” of cocaine, distributing free samples while maintaining a personal anti-drug stance. Aiming to wipe out the threat of his main competitor, Big Lou, Platt engaged in a shootout. Kelley expands her coverage even further by drawing from Platt’s familial history, including that of his mother, Carrie Graves, survivor of an abusive marriage and a political activist eager to “break the lock that white businessmen had on the city’s power structure.” The author also profiles the work of the prosecuting attorney in the Platt case. Kelley’s diligent exposé updates readers on both the Old and the New South versions of Charlotte’s history and explores issues of busing, racial segregation, and America’s cocaine culture at the time and how it ruled the streets of Charlotte. But the core of the narrative is Platt’s struggle to change his destiny after the second chance of a drastically shortened prison term, a relapse back into the drug trade, another crushing prison sentence, and, eventually, aided by belief and hope, a transformative epiphany: “Belton often cited his own transformation as proof that God could help anyone change.” The author’s debut encompasses many aspects of Platt’s plight and creates a unique, engrossing reading experience.
A fascinating and hard-hitting story about drugs, crime, faith, and retribution.