Beneath a Ruthless Sun: A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found
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NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST"Compelling, insightful and important, Beneath a Ruthless Sun exposes the corruption of racial bigotry and animus that shadows a community, a state and a nation. A fascinating examination of an injustice story all too familiar and still largely ignored, an engaging and essential read." —Bryan Stevenson, author of Just MercyFrom the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller Devil in the Grove, the gripping true story of a small town with a big secret.In December 1957, the wife of a Florida citrus baron is raped in her home while her husband is away. She claims a "husky Negro" did it, and the sheriff, the infamous racist Willis McCall, does not hesitate to round up a herd of suspects. But within days, McCall turns his sights on Jesse Daniels, a gentle, mentally impaired white nineteen-year-old. Soon Jesse is railroaded up to the state hospital for the insane, and locked away without trial. But crusading journalist Mabel Norris Reese cannot stop fretting over the case and its baffling outcome. Who was protecting whom, or what? She pursues the story for years, chasing down leads, hitting dead ends, winning unlikely allies. Bit by bit, the unspeakable truths behind a conspiracy that shocked a community into silence begin to surface. Beneath a Ruthless Sun tells a powerful, page-turning story rooted in the fears that rippled through the South as integration began to take hold, sparking a surge of virulent racism that savaged the vulnerable, debased the powerful, and roils our own times still.
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Street Date:
04/24/2018
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780399183430
ASIN:
B074DH4G9L
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NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST

"Compelling, insightful and important, Beneath a Ruthless Sun exposes the corruption of racial bigotry and animus that shadows a community, a state and a nation. A fascinating examination of an injustice story all too familiar and still largely ignored, an engaging and essential read." —Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy
From the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller Devil in the Grove, the gripping true story of a small town with a big secret.

In December 1957, the wife of a Florida citrus baron is raped in her home while her husband is away. She claims a "husky Negro" did it, and the sheriff, the infamous racist Willis McCall, does not hesitate to round up a herd of suspects. But within days, McCall turns his sights on Jesse Daniels, a gentle, mentally impaired white nineteen-year-old. Soon Jesse is railroaded up to the state hospital for the insane, and locked away without trial.
But crusading journalist Mabel Norris Reese cannot stop fretting over the case and its baffling outcome. Who was protecting whom, or what? She pursues the story for years, chasing down leads, hitting dead ends, winning unlikely allies. Bit by bit, the unspeakable truths behind a conspiracy that shocked a community into silence begin to surface.
Beneath a Ruthless Sun tells a powerful, page-turning story rooted in the fears that rippled through the South as integration began to take hold, sparking a surge of virulent racism that savaged the vulnerable, debased the powerful, and roils our own times still.
reviews
      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        November 1, 2017

        King follows up his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America with a narrative of sex, race, and corruption in 1957 Florida that must be read to be believed. The rape of a wealthy citrus grower's wife led to the arrest of several African Americans by the county's virulently racist sheriff, who quickly (and inexplicably) released them and turned his attention to Jesse Daniels, a sweet-natured white teenager with the mental capacity of a ten-year-old. That's when journalist Mabel Norris Reese enters the picture.

        Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from February 12, 2018
        The perversions of justice under Jim Crow chart a devious path in this labyrinthine true crime saga. Pulitzer-winning historian King (Devil in the Grove) explores the aftermath of the 1957 rape of a white woman named Blanche Knowles, the wife of a wealthy citrus baron in Lake County, Fla., a locale notorious for trumped-up prosecutions of black men. A dragnet led by Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall rounded up African-American suspects, but then Jesse Daniels, a mentally impaired white teenager, was accused of the crime. Despite evidence that his confession was coerced, he was committed without trial to a hospital for the criminally insane. King follows the Daniels family’s struggle to free Jesse for two decades as it played out against Florida’s intensifying civil rights movement, untangling along the way the extraordinary web of lies that racism wove around blacks and whites alike (for example, Blanche’s family dismisses a lead on a new suspect to spare her husband “the indignity of having a wife who had been violated by a black man”). At the story’s center is the decades-long reign of terror of Sheriff McCall, a Klan leader who killed prisoners, beat suspects, brutalized interracial couples, and railroaded innocent people, and was opposed only by crusading journalist Mabel Reese, who braved death threats and bombings to help Daniels. Packed with riveting characters and startling twists, King’s narrative unfolds like a Southern gothic noir probing the recesses of a poisoned society. Photos.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        February 15, 2018
        A spellbinding true story of racism, privilege, and official corruption.In 1957, in the tiny central Florida town of Okahumpka, a prominent white woman was raped; she described her attacker as a young "Negro with bushy hair." Lake County sheriff and reputed KKK leader Willis McCall indiscriminately rounded up nearly two dozen young black men for interrogation, ultimately holding two incommunicado for days as prime suspects. But then McCall astonished everyone by releasing them both and charging Jesse Daniels, a poor, mentally challenged 19-year-old white youth who could not possibly have committed the crime. He colluded with a prosecutor and judge to pack Daniels off to be warehoused at the state mental hospital with neither a trial nor a legal determination of insanity. It seemed the case was closed but for the persistence of McCall's nemesis, Mabel Norris Reese, editor of a local weekly. Pulitzer Prize winner King (Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America, 2012, etc.) thus launches an electrifying 20-year saga of murders, beatings, cross-burnings, bombings, fabricated evidence, and conveniently missing documents, all part of a racist reign of terror victimizing both blacks and whites and supported by an impenetrable elite of white citrus planters, cops, lawyers, politicians, and judges. The author draws on thousands of pages of unpublished documents, including court filings and testimony, hospital records, legislative materials, and personal files, to assemble this page-turner, suffused with a palpable atmosphere of dread. He clearly documents the lawless ferocity with which much of Florida resisted granting equal rights to blacks even as it marketed itself as a space-age vacation paradise. From the opening pages, King's narrative barrels forward, leaving readers wondering what it will take for justice to prevail.By turns sobering, frightening, and thrilling, this meticulous account of the power and tenacity of officially sanctioned racism recalls a dark era that America is still struggling to leave behind.

        COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST

"Compelling, insightful and important, Beneath a Ruthless Sun exposes the corruption of racial bigotry and animus that shadows a community, a state and a nation. A fascinating examination of an injustice story all too familiar and still largely ignored, an engaging and essential read." —Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy
From the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller Devil in the Grove, the gripping true story of a small town with a big secret.

In December 1957, the wife of a Florida citrus baron is raped in her home while her husband is away. She claims a "husky Negro" did it, and the sheriff, the infamous racist Willis McCall, does not hesitate to round up a herd of suspects. But within days, McCall turns his sights on Jesse Daniels, a gentle, mentally impaired white nineteen-year-old. Soon...
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awards
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subtitle
A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found
publisher
Penguin Publishing Group