I spent a big chunk of the day reading Killing the Messenger by Thomas Peele. It was very cold Saturday (at least by Mobile standards), so it was a great day to read inside by the gas logs. I made it from the start of the book to page 244 before I conked out Saturday night.
Killing is a terrific, scary story of the Black Muslims in Oakland, California. The Muslims, who were an offshoot of the Nation of Islam, shared many of the Nation’s worst beliefs – all white people are devils, whites should be murdered, a mile-long spaceship hovers over the earth, etc. Any attempt to confront or refute these beliefs is ascribed to the white man’s “Tricknology.”
The authorities were cowed by the Muslims and did little confront their many crimes (physical and sexual abuse of women and children, theft, and murder, among many others). California politicians, including Governor Jerry Brown, courted the Muslims while conveniently ignoring their abuses and racist beliefs.
The strength of the book is the story, an only-in-America account of the Black Muslims and their decision to murder journalist Chauncey Bailey. The weakness is Peele’s presentation. At his worst, Peele destroys the book’s momentum by a) lengthy diversions (such as a 50-page, four-chapter history of the Nation of Islam) and b) his constant editorial interruptions to make clear to the reader (once again) that he is a liberal white who is sympathetic to the plight of all minorities.
Still, even Peele can’t ruin a story this good. I’m enjoying Killing the Messenger.