His journalistic coups revealed an uncanny ability to wheedle incriminating remarks from defensive suspects and damning observations from unfriendly witnesses ... A vivid, quick-paced, accessible account of horrific crimes ... Mitchell portrays these killers’ racism unflinchingly ... At the same time, Mitchell illuminates the racism in the broader culture that made egregious acts of Negrophobic violence imaginable and, in the minds of many onlookers, tolerable if not defensible ... Brave, bracing and instructive, Race Against Time is, on occasion, insufficiently probing ... An excellent work ... No single book about such an expansive topic could possibly serve as a comprehensive account, and Race Against Time admirably assumes the heavy burden that Jerry Mitchell takes on; it warrants praise, gratitude and a wide audience.
Mitchell is skilled at interviewing suspects and their accomplices, and the book includes chilling profiles of unrepentant Ku Klux Klan members. In looking back at each case, Michell demonstrates the ways that politicians and judges influenced the outcome of the original trials, and reminds us that the pursuit of justice has always been a political act ... While there are many other books that discuss these cases, Mitchell’s active participation in the investigations provides a unique perspective. Recommended for readers interested in civil rights-era American history and legal nonfiction.
... covers largely familiar ground ... Mitchell’s valuable memoir again and again illuminates both the seedy worlds of hate-filled Klansmen and the wide-ranging tactics that lawmen used in pursuing them ... indefatigable reporting ... Only at the very end of Race Against Time does Mitchell confess that the successful prosecutions his memoir highlights represent only a minority of the civil-rights-era killings he investigated, and that far more 'cold cases ended with no convictions' or indictments ... But Mitchell is too harsh a judge of his own record, for no other journalist has made a greater contribution to cold-case investigations than has he.
Race Against Time provides the pleasures of both a detective novel and a courtroom drama. As Mitchell recounts how he sifted through court records, reread FBI files, and got suspects to talk, we get the thrill of watching an old-fashioned investigative reporter at the top of his game. And at trial after trial, we see prosecutors relentlessly establish the guilt of men who had gone unpunished. We also come to see a personal element in Mitchell’s work ... the raw material for Race Against Time is storyteller’s gold: a compelling pursuit of justice combined with a real-life Southern Gothic atmosphere ... Despite the many virtues of Race Against Time, Mitchell (the winner of more than 20 national awards, including a MacArthur fellowship) is a better investigator than he is a writer. As a narrative, the book is uneven and many of the officials could have been fleshed out better as characters. At times, Mitchell has a folksy tone that belies the seriousness of his topic ... Nevertheless, Race Against Time is an important and often compelling book.
Mitchell’s work deserves applause for his tenacity in bringing justice where the system failed miserably. His work also highlights the value of high-ideals journalism in a democracy. Were he reporting in Washington or New York, Mitchell would be a nationally renowned journalist, mentioned in the same sentence as Woodward, Bernstein and Hersh.
... taut and riveting ... provides a sobering view of white-supremacist politics ... Mr. Mitchell’s accounts of the trials, and of the investigative reporting that led up to them, are fascinating. Yet one wishes at times that he had put more of himself into the story. We catch only glimpses, for example, of the toll that his single-minded devotion to this dangerous work took on his marriage and family ... More personal reflection might have also helped answer the most fascinating question at the center of Mr. Mitchell’s remarkable career: How did he, time after time, get these former Klansmen to open up to him?
Despite the many barriers he faced, Mitchell, who writes with the verve and immediacy befitting his newsman’s craft, was determined and remarkably patient. He toiled away over years and left no tiny clue unexamined in his zeal to accomplish his goal: the trials and convictions of four evildoers, and the relief and gratitude of families and friends who had given up hope of ever seeing these men get the punishment they deserved. He is diligent in reminding us that all of these despicable acts were motivated by the wish of a small, embattled group of white men to rid their world of people of color.
The strength of Race Against Time is Mitchell’s ability to weave a compelling narrative, much like a police procedural, outlining how reluctant prosecutors are convinced to fight for justice. If the book has a weakness, it is its overwhelming detail. With so many crimes being explored, it’s easy to become confused as to who’s who ... Mostly, readers will come away from this book feeling angry and frustrated. Angry that it takes so long to exact justice on behalf of these victims’ families. Frustrated that the Klan and its affiliates are still allowed to operate with seeming impunity.
Mitchell’s straightforward style suits the stories perfectly: neither the families’ continued heartache nor the hate of those on trial need be embellished to be affecting. While the cases themselves are drawn out over many years, the reading, especially the extensive courtroom scenes, is riveting ... this is both an important Civil Rights document and a timely read in the wake of the recent rise of hate crimes.
Fast-paced account of the slow path to justice in a series of racially motivated murder cases ... A fine work of investigative journalism and an essential addition to the history of the civil rights movement.
... superb ... As Mitchell points out in the epilogue, the fight for the truth continues with the recent rise of hate crimes in this country. This thrilling true crime account deserves a wide audience.