From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Devil in the Grove, a true crime book exploring the aftermath of the 1957 rape of a white woman named Blanche Knowles, the wife of a wealthy citrus baron in Lake County, Fla., a locale notorious for trumped-up prosecutions of black men.
Florida has largely escaped the opprobrium heaped on the other states of the old Confederacy, but it’s to the Sunshine State that King returns with a story of mind-boggling racism and cruelty ... King tells this complex story with grace and sensitivity, and his narrative never flags. His mastery of the material is complete ... King’s occasional detours into such subjects as the history of the citrus industry and Dr. King’s protests in St. Augustine (where he faced some of the ugliest crowds of his career) are welcome and illuminating. The author presents his tale as one of justice triumphing, of the good guys (and gals) coming out on top, of the arc of the universe bending toward justice.
...this book reads like a first-rate crime thriller, built on shocking plot twists and vivid characters and evidence of the darkest corners of human nature. But it’s not fiction ... Beneath a Ruthless Sun reveals a story that is horrifying to read but must be remembered. Willis McCall is dead, but the racism he embodied isn’t. Jesse Daniels is still alive. This extraordinary book’s story might have begun more than half a century ago, but it isn’t history.
Beneath a Ruthless Sun plunges the reader deeply into the legal practices, civil rights battles, and stubborn sexual inequalities of the mid-20th century, but this fast-moving and impeccably sourced book is anything but a slog. Truth oftentimes beggars belief, and the 'true' in 'true crime' can be a promise that betrays as much as it entices. Not so with Gilbert King's scorching, compelling, and — unfortunately — still entirely relevant new work.