Ghosts of Mississippi

Ghosts of Mississippi

Book Alert When two writers become friends there’s always an interesting moment when you exchange books. It’s fraught, especially if the new friend is someone you really like, because there’s always that chance that the book will, well, not be quite what you had hoped (we all have writer friends who we like better than we like their books). I spent the weekend totally engrossed in my friend Maryanne Vollers book Ghosts of Mississippi: The Murder of Medgar Evers, the Trials of Byron De La Beckwith, and the Haunting of the New South (try Alibris since this fine book is shamefully out of print). This is a great book, a book that relentlessly documents the insitutional nature of Southern apartheid, and how this insidious and ubiquitous policy both inspired and impeded revolutionary figures like Evers. Maryanne then methodically and relentlessly traces the evidence against De La Beckwith, the two failed trials, and the dogged prosecutors who finally convicted him. More important though, she documents how the history of apartheid in the South still haunts that country, and the nation. Aside from being a shining example of fine investigative journalism, this book is a wonderful read — Maryanne captures the character of the place and these people with the kind of vivid characterization one expects from a great novel (and since I know her to be wild about her dogs, and mine, I was quite amused to note her narrative concern for Heidi, Evers German Shepherd). In the wake of the Trent Lott episode, and the current efforts by the Republican Party to portray themselves as a party who have moved beyond racism, this should be a must read for everyone. If you can’t buy a copy, go get one from your local library.

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