An unlikely journalist, a murder case in Mississippi, and a fascinating literary true crime story in the style of Jon Ronson, for fans of "Serial."
A notorious white supremacist named Richard Barrett was brutally murdered in Mississippi in 2010 by a young black man named Vincent McGee. At first the murder seemed a twist on old Deep South race crimes. But then new revelations and complications came to light. Maybe it was a dispute over money rather than race—or, maybe and intriguingly, over sex.
John Safran, a young white Jewish Australian documentarian, had been in Mississippi and interviewed Barrett for a film on race. When he learned of Barrett’s murder, he returned to find out what happened and became caught up in the twists and turns of the case. During his time in Mississippi, Safran got deeper and deeper into this gothic southern world, becoming entwined in the lives of those connected with the murder—white separatist frenemies, black lawyers, police investigators, oddball neighbors, the stunned families, even the killer himself. And the more he talked with them, the less simple the crime—and the people involved—seemed to be. In the end, he discovered how profoundly and indelibly complex the truth about someone’s life—and death—can be.
This is a brilliant, haunting, hilarious, unsettling story about race, money, sex, and power in the modern American South from an outsider’s point of view.
Originally published in Australia as Murder in Mississippi in 2013, this stranger-than-fiction true crime story finds Safran a white, Jewish documentary filmmaker from Australia relocating to Rankin County, Miss., to dig deep into the grisly stabbing murder of a 67-year-old white supremacist in April 2010. A 23-year-old African-American man named Vincent McGee pleaded guilty in the case, but this was no run-of-the-mill race crime. With allegations swirling of a money-for-sex relationship between the founder of a white nationalist organization and his black neighbor, the lure was too great for Safran (a self-proclaimed "Race Trekkie") to resist. Armed with his Dictaphone and a thirst for the truth, Safran tracks down and interviews nearly all individuals associated with the case, resulting in wildly opposing accounts of what happened that spring evening. Safran chronicles the twists and turns of the case through his own interactions with key players, coloring the narrative with text messages and Facebook posts that he received at the time. The result is a bizarrely unsettling, yet often witty book that paints a disturbing picture of the deep South today.