THE ROAD TO HELL by Paul Liberatore


The True Story of George Jackson, Stephen Bingham, and the San Quentin Massacre
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 A fast-paced account, bloody and suspenseful, of a defining event in the history of the New Left. On August 21, 1971, the radical writer (Soledad Brother) and Black Panther leader George Jackson tried to shoot his way out of San Quentin Prison, where he had been jailed on a murder charge. Jackson died; so did three guards and two other inmates. The breakout attempt had been carefully planned, writes Bay Area journalist Liberatore, but no one could foresee its reverberations. One man whose life was forever altered was Jackson's white attorney Stephen Bingham, ``blue-blooded, reared in wealth and privilege,'' who had come to embrace Jackson's goals of a unified political struggle. (``When the races start fighting,'' Jackson had written, ``all you have is one maniac group against the other. That's just what the pigs want.'') After Jackson's death Bingham went underground, a wanted man for his supposed role in smuggling a pistol for Jackson into the prison; he resurfaced a dozen years later and defended himself in a dramatic, emotional trial whose recounting occupies the last part of the book. Liberatore traces the evolution of Jackson and Bingham's political thought through the tumultuous years of Vietnam and the civil-rights struggle, and his portrait of the ever-changing New Left will fascinate those too young to remember times full of what a San Quentin official aptly called ``bullshit talk by dilettante revolutionaries.'' While clearly admiring Jackson and Bingham for the strength of their convictions, Liberatore is no hero-worshiper; neither does he entertain radical-chic nostalgia for an era whose wounds are still fresh. Published to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the attempted breakout, Liberatore's chronicle adds considerably to our understanding of that time of trouble.

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 1996
ISBN: 0-87113-647-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1996


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