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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Now Read This:
Alex Cross's TRIAL

"I CAME UPON A VISION of horror, all too real. Two men, one young, one older, naked and bloody, dangling froom ropes. Already the smell of rotting flesh was rising in the morning heat. Flies were on the bodies.

On the ground beneath the stiff, hanging bodies, amid the cigar butts and discarded whiskey bottles, sat a woman and child. The woman was about thirty-five years old. The boy was no more than four. He was touching the woman's face, touching the tears on her cheeks.

The woman saw me and her face furowed over in rage. "You go on, now," she shouted. "They already dead. You cain't do no more to hurt 'em."

I walked closer and she drew the bow to her, as if to protect him from me.

"I'm not going to hurt anybody," I said. "I'm a friend."

I wanted to comfort her terrible sobbing, but I stayed back. "Are you Annie?"
She nodded.

Now that I was close to the dangling bodies, I saw the welts left by whips, the bloody wounds covering almost every part of their bodies. The older man's arm hung down from his sholder by a few bloody tendons. As the younger man slowly twisted, I saw that his testicles had been severed from his body.

My voice finally came out choked. "Oh, I am so sorry."

I noticed a pink, rubbery thing in her hand, something she kept stroking with her fingers as she wept.

She saw me looking. "You want to knwo what it is? It's my Nathan's tongue. They donce cut his tounge out of his head. Stop him from sassin' them."

"Oh, Jesus!"

"Ain't no Jesus," she said. "There ain't no Jesus for me."
I overheard a White guy on a plane talking to his neighbor about how much he enjoyed reading James Petterson's new book. I looked over my shoulder to inquire about the new title as my mother is an avid fan of the Alex Cross series. The gentleman told me that the name of the book was Alex Cross's TRIAL and, that though it was a departure from the normal Alex Cross storyline, he found himself thoroughly enjoying the novel. I made a mental note to stop by a book store and pick up a copy for my mom.

I got the book for my mom about a week ago. I finished the book this evening. I'll need to buy her a copy of her own.

To say I was unprepared for the story of Ben Corbett attorney at law is an understatement. When I picked up the novel I was unaware that it would draw me back in time to the small southern community of Eudora, Mississippi in the year 1906. In fact, you might say I was startled to find that this novel recommended to me by the friendly White guy on my plane, was actually an intimate look at the deep south and its inhumane practice of lynching.

Being born and raised in Brooklyn, New York in a post civil rights era, lynching is more of an abstract horror than anything truly tangible in my consciousness. Never have I personally seen a body hanging lifeless from a tree. Never have I personally witnessed a battered and bruised body robbed of its soul. Even in my wildest imagination, I've never fully grasped the complex and devastating nature of a hanging - on its victims, on the victims family, on the Black community, on the psyche of the moral White man, on the psyche of those who encouraged the brutality - until James Patterson and Richard Dilallo (co-author) painted it for me.

The 380 page story is narrated by Ben Corbett, a blond hair blue eyed Harvard educated lawyer of liberal mindedness, who is called to investigate an alleged epidemic of lynchings in his hometown. On his journey, Ben, a righteous though timid individual, is faced with harsh realities and even harder decisions as he is exposed to the true nature of his former home. Along the way Ben is escorted by Abraham Cross (great-uncle of Alex Cross), a well respected Black man who lives in the quarter and his revolutionary minded granddaughter Moody.

Throughout the book, readers are gifted with imagery and dialogue that broaden the understanding of racism in the deep south. Patterson and Dilallo manage to cover view points from all possible sides as they tell their tale and readers are given insights to the uniquely paralyzing effects of fear.

Perhaps the biggest downfall of this novel is its short chapters. I'm willing to give Patterson and Dilallo a pass on this only because a thriller based on lynching absolutely needs a quick pace to balance the heaviness of the subject matter. The Alex Cross reference in the title is also a bit disingenuous, especially to readers hoping to catch up with the beloved character. That said, I find the story itself to be compelling and I especially enjoyed uncovering the unique social challenges White "negro sympathizers" had to endure.

If you get the chance to check out the novel, I encourage you to do so. Not only because it's good, but also because supporting an author who can get White guys to recommend readings on lynchings seems somewhat deserved of our support.

Peace and blessings!!
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