A TIME TO DIE by Tom Wicker


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When the Attica inmates summoned New York Times columnist Tom Wicker to D-yard, Wicker was uncertain what his role in the uprising was to be: negotiator, arbitrator, go-between, observer. . . . For four days, Wicker, along with Herman Badillo, State Senator Arthur Eve, William Kunstler, and a score of others tried to impress upon Russell Oswald, and the rest of the prison authorities right on up to then Governor Rockefeller, the desperate determination of the prisoners not to give up. Wicker, like the good liberal he is, kept hoping against hope that some kind of ""formula"" for amnesty, some legal nicety might yet be worked out. Four days later state troopers and guards launched an attack that for sheer savagery could only be compared to My Lai. Forty-three men were left dead. Wicker was left with an overwhelming sense of fatigue, impotence, failure. Those who remember Wicker's brilliant on-the-spot reportage will find this book less charged, more introspective. Between the revolutionary orations in D-yard he fills in on his own upbringing in a small North Carolina town, his lifelong sense of being ""different,"" apart from his peers, his frustrated ambitions to be a novelist, the recurring feeling that at middle age he was ""affluent beyond a sense of decency,"" a man who had somehow fallen short of the family heritage which drew him toward the victimized and oppressed. Probably this is the most eloquent testimony we have had on Attica to date, rekindling all the anger and shame of those awesome days.

Pub Date: March 14th, 1975
Publisher: Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co.