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An unlikely journalist, a murder case in Mississippi, and a fascinating literary true crime story in the style of Jon Ronson.
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.
About the Author
John Safran is an award-winning documentarian and radio storyteller on a wide range of subjects, including the media, religion, and race. He lives in Melbourne, Australia. This is his first book.
Praise for God'll Cut You Down
“John Safran’s captivating inquiry into a murder in darkest Mississippi is by turns informative, frightening and hilarious. It is enlivened by a swarm of creepy locals and a torrent of astonishing details--such as hedge clippers put to surgical use in the performance of an official autopsy.”
—John Berendt, bestselling author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
"A hilarious and bizarre story that leads where you least expect it. John Safran has for years been one of my favourite journalists - forever pushing the boundaries, funny, startling, a hurricane." —Jon Ronson, bestselling author of The Psychopath Test and Them
"Imagine In Cold Blood written not by Capote by an Australian, higher-brow Johnny Knoxville." -- Boris Kachka, New York Magazine
"If you enjoyed In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, and have been drawn to other true-crime books, then you will probably devour this book.... [Safran's] approach, mixed with a sharp sense of humor, wise pacing, and plain, powerful writing, makes this book into a deeper experience than you suspect... That deeper experience comes from Safran's refusal to quickly analyze according to traditional crime-solving plotlines.... As a more complex picture of the two men's relationships to other people and each other emerges, we follow breathlessly into a kind of mesmerizing psychosocial-cultural drama.... [O]n each reading, it gained a kind of substance--it somehow grew--until I felt it resembled a house of rooms. It gained a personality. In the end, I felt that I knew, personally, Vincent McGee and Richard Barrett... I do not remember a nonfiction book that seemed to bring me so close to its subjects." -- Garden & Gun magazine
“Safran’s book will make readers chuckle, fidget, and turn page after page wondering what will happen next as the author looks to find the truth about the murder of a white supremacist by a black man in the deep South…. This true crime book will stick with readers. Safran does a great job of looking at the murder from multiple perspectives and brings in his own experience learning about the culture, which is in itself a character. For fans of true crime, Southern tales, and books similar to Capote’s [In Cold Blood] and John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” —Library Journal, STARRED review
“It's not often that the retelling of a brutal murder is full of laughs but documentarian and debut author Safran is an entertaining writer… Weaving a tale that is simultaneously about race, failed systems, money, sex, family and simple rage, Safran truly did lose a year in Mississippi, and getting lost with him is a joy.” —Kirkus, STARRED review
“[T]his 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] bizarrely unsettling, yet often witty book that paints a disturbing picture of the deep South today.” —Publishers Weekly
"Funny and gripping and wonderfully weird." —Louis Theroux, BBC journalist