JUDGMENT DAY by Thomas Chastain


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This gentle story of race conflict and violence is perhaps more of a morality tale than reality, but its characters are very lifelike and their story is notable for its lack of anger and its refusal to take sides. The town could be any small town- the feel of it, and of the relationships between the people who appear, is simple, personal and generally friendly. But a Negro, Leroy Carpenter, has been found- apparently lynched. The Negro, Dr. Breedlove, and the Reverend Amos Rail are at first concerned with calming his distracted widow; later in quelling the tensions that ripple through the town. The true story comes out, that Leroy's wife had had an affair with a white TV repairman, Gammage, who had killed Leroy in self-defense and- with friends- strung up the body ""as a joke"". This story is stifled at the trial, and the Reverend Rail, to divert his troubled congregation, sets them to rebuilding the old church. Some of the whites help, some sell shoddy materials; a lunatic Negro ""Prophet Isaiah"" stirs up a near riot; and finally Gammage, free but driven out of town, returns to destroy the church. Whites and Negroes now band together and rebuild it in brick... The thesis here, that people want to live in peace with one another if given half a chance, is believable and should be acceptable to all- it is a quiet, and often touching handling of a situation which usually attracts reader resistance.

Publisher: Doubleday