An essential historical record surrounding heinous events that have yet to be answered with racial justice.

THE GROUND BREAKING

AN AMERICAN CITY AND ITS SEARCH FOR JUSTICE

A vital history of a racially motivated mass murder a century ago.

It has been nearly 20 years since James Hirsch’s Riot and Remembrance offered a modern record of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. “In an interview with a journalist some twenty years ago, I…likened it to an American Kristallnacht,” writes Ellsworth, a professor of Afro-American and African studies. “That wasn’t a stretch.” The author delivers a brilliant update that recounts the events with the swiftness of an especially grim crime thriller. The massacre was touched off by an alleged assault committed by a Black teenager against a White girl. The young man was threatened with lynching as a mob of angry Whites assembled at the city jail. When Black veterans of World War I arrived to protect him, shooting began, with police officers “doling out rifles, pistols, shotguns, and boxes of ammunition to members of the lynch mob.” They went on to firebomb the thriving Black neighborhood of Greenwood (“Black Wall Street”), displacing thousands of residents. Ultimately, an unknown number of Black Tulsans were murdered—unknown because Tulsa took pains to cover up the massive crime, burying the victims in unrecorded mass graves—and their businesses were ruined. Evidence existed, including a trove of police photographs. “Whole sections of the city look like Berlin or Frankfurt at the end of World War II,” writes Ellsworth. “In one snapshot, the lifeless bodies of an entire African American family—father, mother, son, and daughter—have all been draped over a fence, their arms hanging down toward the ground.” Ellsworth not only recounts the horrific crimes; he also traces the chain of journalists and researchers who preceded him in revealing the details. The author doubts that the exact number of casualties will ever be known, but through his diligent research, the locations of many graves have been discovered and forensic work conducted, assisted by locals who spoke out with information passed down over generations.

An essential historical record surrounding heinous events that have yet to be answered with racial justice.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18298-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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IN COLD BLOOD

"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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A thimbleful of fresh content lies buried in tales familiar and often told.

THE LAST DAYS OF JOHN LENNON

Beatlemania meets autopsy in the latest product from the Patterson factory.

The authors take more than half the book to reach John Lennon’s final days, which passed 40 years ago—an anniversary that, one presumes, provides the occasion for it. The narrative opens with killer Mark David Chapman talking to himself: “It’s like I’m invisible.” And how do we know that Chapman thought such a thing? Well, the authors aver, they’re reconstructing the voices in his head and other conversations “based on available third-party sources and interviews.” It’s a dubious exercise, and it doesn’t get better with noir-ish formulas (“His mind is a dangerous neighborhood”) and clunky novelistic stretches (“John Lennon wakes up, reaches for his eyeglasses. At first the day seems like any other until he realizes it’s a special one….He picks up the kitchen phone to greet his old songwriting partner, who’s called to wish him all the best for the record launch”). In the first half of the book, Patterson and company reheat the Beatles’ origin story and its many well-worn tropes, all of which fans already know in detail. Allowing for the internal monologue, things improve somewhat once the narrative approaches Chapman’s deranged act—300-odd pages in, leaving about 50 pages for a swift-moving account of the murder and its aftermath, which ends with Chapman in a maximum-security cell where “he will be protected from the ugliness of the outside world….The cell door slides shut and locks. Mark David Chapman smiles. I’m home.” To their credit, the authors at least don’t blame Lennon’s “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” for egging on the violence that killed him, but this book pales in comparison to Kenneth Womack’s John Lennon 1980 and Philip Norman’s John Lennon: The Life, among many other tomes on the Fab Four.

A thimbleful of fresh content lies buried in tales familiar and often told.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-42906-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2021

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