Thursday, April 14, 2016

What's the matter with Florida? Gilbert King's Devil in the Grove

So I picked this one to meet the Read Harder challenge, an audiobook that won an Audie. In addition to this well deserved award, Devil in the Grove also won the Pulitzer for general non-fiction.

It was a worthy pick, providing a gripping narrative of the NAACP's defence of the Groveland Boys, four African American men accused of raping a white woman in post-WW2 Jim Crow Florida. King provides vivid and humanizing depictions of the litigators as they took on truly villainous characters, such as Sheriff Willis McCall and Judge Truman Fudge, and a legal system guaranteed to produce guilty verdicts against black defendants. As good non-fiction should, the story is well paced, with the reader eager to find out what will happen next (I intentionally avoided Wikipedia to see how things concluded). The telling is also honest, not masking some of the negative legacy of Thurgood Marshall and company, especially their willingness to participate in the Red baiting anti-communism of the early McCarthyist era, being motivated not only by their desire to curry favour with the Justice Department but also to score politically against the Communist Party-led competitors that also played positive roles in fighting judicial lynchings of African Americans in the New South. 

In terms of the Read Harder aspect of the challenge, the narration is really well done, the voices well done and the deep tenor of the voice actor keeps one always on edge.

Great book.

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