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Murder in Mississippi by John Safran

Murder in Mississippi

by John Safran

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Safran means to write a book akin to the podcast Serial but the source material just fizzles. It's not his fault. It's the risk of a non-fiction account. ( )
  kallai7 | Mar 23, 2017 |
This was a lot like watching a Safran TV show but in book form - entertaining, confronting, ethically dubious, challenging and often funny. Safran tells the story of the murder of Richard Barrett, a white supremacist who he'd played a prank on in an earlier TV series and who was stabbed to death by a young black man. Starting out with a fascinating story about race, Safran quickly realises he's got a fascinating story about race, sex, money and power and he follows every thread to try to make sense of it all. The often contradictory stories and perceptions leave Safran frustrated, but become the key revelation of the tale - nobody really knew Barrett and nobody really knows why he was killed (except the Vincent McGee, the killer, obviously, whose self-serving interviews are strikingly implausible). It's a nicely put together story - part the story of the murder and part the story of Safran getting entangled in everybody's lives. If you're a fan of his various tv series (particularly Race Relations) then you'll definitely enjoy this.

I'm still wrestling with the ethical ramifications of Safran's dealing with McGee - I'm not sure the payoff is worth the pretty exploitative relationship that Safran develops with him. He's well aware of this of course, with one whole chapter reading simply, "What would Janet Malcolm think?" ( )
  mjlivi | Feb 2, 2016 |
I love a good factual true crime book, and I'm also a giant nerd for books about the writing process - so this pleasantly surprised me on both counts! God'll Cut You Down is not only a book about a crime (the fatal stabbing of a white supremacist in his home by a young black neighbor) but a book about true crime as a genre...and a bit of a memoir of the author's entire experience of researching and putting together the book. It's a surprisingly quick read, given the page count, but it's broken up into little vignettes (interviews, encounters, and personal anecdotes, some less than a page in length) and winds up moving along at a fast clip.

I can see why this book has been most frequently compared to Midight in the Garden of Good and Evil, as the author himself is present as a "character" similarly in both books. Like Berendt, John Safran abandons pretense of neutrality and instead documents his biases directly, putting down in print the moments during interviews when he desperately wants a friend of the victim to say something salacious, and the times he finds himself looking for a way to spin the facts he's collected in a certain directly, and even the times he finds himself drawn to certain players. It works well in this context given that there are no clear answers to be found in this particular case, as the author can really only present (and investigate) the several conflicting versions of events the killer has presented. There's a most likely answer, of course, but even that is complicated when one looks closely at all of its pieces. ( )
  KLmesoftly | Jan 8, 2015 |
Well. I enjoyed Mr. Safran's writing but the book would have been better perhaps if he had more compelling people to write about. On the surface, the book is about the murder of a white supremacist by in Mississippi by a young black man. The book is not so much about whether he did it but why he did it. This is a "true crime" book in which the people have more baggage than a Delta Airlines terminal. It is voyeuristic in its appeal from a Jerry Springer Show outlook - as you say to yourself "Thank God I am not one of them". ( )
  muddyboy | Jan 5, 2015 |
John Safran interviewed Richard Barrett, a white supremacist, while filming a television documentary on "Race Relations". Due to the threat of legal action the segment was not shown.
Some time after his return to Australia, he learnt that Richard Barrett had been murdered and decided to return to Mississippi to follow the trial and write his first true crime novel.
The young black man charged with the murder, Vincent McGee is far from innocent but the truth is a long time coming.
John Saffron speaks to you clearly from the page, documenting the often bewildering events. Interesting, amusing and sad ( )
  TheWasp | Dec 15, 2014 |
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This is a dazzling adventure in crime, race and genre. Funny and frightening, challenging and bizarre, Safran has written exactly the sort of idiosyncratic book one would have hoped, and revealed himself as a talented prose writer in the process.

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