Without Mercy: The Stunning True Story of Race, Crime, and Corruption in the Deep South

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Overview

“Without Mercy reads like a John Grisham thriller.”

—-David R. Dow, author of The Autobiography of an Execution

On December 9, 1938, the state of Georgia executed six black men in eighty-one  minutes in  Tattnall Prison’s electric chair. The executions were a record for the state that still stands today. The new prison, built with funds from FDR’s New Deal, as well as the fact that the men were tried and executed rather than lynched were thought to be a sign ...

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Without Mercy: The Stunning True Story of Race, Crime, and Corruption in the Deep South

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Overview

“Without Mercy reads like a John Grisham thriller.”

—-David R. Dow, author of The Autobiography of an Execution

On December 9, 1938, the state of Georgia executed six black men in eighty-one  minutes in  Tattnall Prison’s electric chair. The executions were a record for the state that still stands today. The new prison, built with funds from FDR’s New Deal, as well as the fact that the men were tried and executed rather than lynched were thought to be a sign of progress. They were anything but. While those men were arrested, convicted, sentenced, and executed in as little as six weeks—-E. D. Rivers, the governor of the state, oversaw a pardon racket for white killers and criminals, allowed the Ku Klux Klan to infiltrate his administration, and bankrupted the state. Race and wealth were all that determined whether or not a man lived or died. There was no progress. There was no justice.

David Beasley’s Without Mercy is the harrowing true story of the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the violent death throes of the Klan, but most of all it is the story of the stunning injustice of these executions and how they have seared distrust of the legal system into the consciousness of the Deep South, and it is a story that will forever be a testament to the death penalty’s appalling inequality that continues to plague our nation

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
11/25/2013
On Dec. 9, 1938, six black men were executed within 81 minutes in Georgia’s new Tattnall Prison. A seventh man, white, was pardoned by Gov. E.D. Rivers. Race seemingly played a major role in who lived and who died. Beasley focuses on the corruption and deceit of the Klansman governor and the Klan imperial wizard, Hiram Wesley Evans. Rivers used the New Deal to institute major reforms in education and public health, as well as prisons, although, as Beasley observes, “It was sad that of all things, a single new prison would be a major symbol of progress.” Rivers facilitated crime and corruption, setting up fellow Klansman Evans as “the state’s asphalt king,” and selling pardons. Beasley, coauthor of Inside Coca-Cola and former editor for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, effectively juxtaposes the lives of the black men who were executed with white men who were not, following their passage through the judicial system. Beasley’s well-documented and vivid account ultimately puts capital punishment itself on trial. 8-page b&w photo insert. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Without Mercy:

"Must-read."

New York Post

"Georgia’s history is a goldmine of corruption, and David Beasley... has reached in and grabbed a few glittering chunks for examination… Without Mercy is well researched and Beasley moves along his various plots with a mannered precision that emphasizes the giddy perversities of Georgia life in the ‘30s."

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Beasley’s catalogue of inequities accrues to a kind of tragic narrative, a tale in which progress is too slow to save those whom tradition would rather let die."

The Boston Globe

"[Beasley] effectively juxtaposes the lives of the black men who were executed with white men who were not, following their passage through the judicial system. Beasley’s well-documented and vivid account ultimately puts capital punishment itself on trial."

Publishers Weekly

The book Without Mercy, is a stunning true story of race, crime and corruption in the deep South as it pertains to the pattern of convicting and in some cases executing people of color without fair a trial."

—Baltimore Sun

"This is a gripping read for anyone… This is a must read."

Charleston Chronicle

"David Beasley's fastidiously researched Without Mercy tells the story of a justice system that was anything but just… Much like a nightmare or a heart-pounding action movie, this is a story one doesn't easily forget. Without Mercy is history, but its shadows and echoes are still very much alive today in the unsettling and eye-opening reality of capital punishment… A terrifying study of how lopsided the justice system can be while still technically maintaining the letter of the law."

Shelf Awareness

"Beasley builds his thesis case by case. [and] retains his reporter’s objectivity as he records the facts."

Book Reporter

Without Mercy reads like a John Grisham thriller, but unfortunately, it isn’t. It is, sadly and regrettably, entirely true. In a meticulous and measured book that lifts the curtain on a handful of murders that took place in Georgia in the New Deal era, David Beasley has illuminated the role that race, wealth, social status, and privilege play in determining who lives and who dies in our nation’s execution chambers. This is not only history and crime-writing at its very finest, it is a haunting and searing moral indictment of a legal system that remains to this day characterized by the very same inequalities.”

—-David R. Dow, author of The Autobiography of an Execution

Without Mercy builds outward from one dramatic event, the mass execution of six black men in Georgia in 1938, to tell a compelling story that rings the bell of justice to our own time.”

—-James H. Madison, author of A Lynching in the Heartland: Race and Memory in America

“David Beasley’s superb Without Mercy is that rare true-crime book that deepens your understanding of a time and place even as it shakes you to the bone. If Raymond Chandler and James Agee had gotten together, this is what they might have written.”

—-Steve Oney, author of And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank

“The modern death penalty in Georgia was preceded not too many years before by a system that was plagued by racism, injustice, and political corruption. In his fascinating book, Without Mercy, David Beasley tells the stories of many who vainly sought justice in this earlier system. Hopefully, all such prejudice and official misconduct has been weeded out, but it would be naive to think that human nature has changed so radically that executions can now be carried out without deep concerns.”

—-Richard C. Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center

“David Beasley’s prodigious research has excavated the bones of a sordid time in Georgia’s history, when the unholy alliance of corruption and white supremacy, operating behind the mask of civility and the hood of the Ku Klux Klan, perverted justice all the way to the death chamber. Beasley shows men of privilege and of penury, white and black, all of them convicted criminals, as they move closer to the electric chair and beg for exemption from one of the nation’s largest mass executions in a single day.”

—-Hank Klibanoff, Pulitzer Prize—winning coauthor of The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation 

"Not often does a single book deal with governmental corruption, poverty, inequality, history and crime. David Beasley's book does all that - and does it masterfully…The grinding poverty that drenched the state is described in a way that tears at the soul...Anyone interested in the sufferings of the Great Depression and in criminal justice will benefit from perusing this work. It is a keeper, one of the best I've seen in a long time." —The Oklahoman

 

Library Journal
11/01/2013
In December 1938, a Klansman sat in the Georgia governor's chair and, in under 81 minutes, ordered the executions of six black men—some just weeks after their arrest—by electrocution. Atlanta journalist Beasley exposes this gross miscarriage of justice and connects it to the racially biased use of the death penalty today.
Kirkus Reviews
2013-11-18
A story of racism, injustice, corruption and greed run rampant in 1930s Georgia. Former Atlanta Journal Constitution editor Beasley (co-author: Inside Coca-Cola: A CEO's Life Story of Building the World's Most Popular Brand, 2011) digs into some shameful events in Georgia's history, focusing mostly on a judicial system that swiftly arrested, tried, convicted and sent six black men to the electric chair while two white "thrill killers" escaped that fate. The author provides details of the known facts behind their crimes and of the mass execution on the night of Dec. 9, 1938. To add insult to injury, five of the six bodies were not even given burial but were turned over to medical schools as cadavers. The racist bent of all-white Southern juries is a familiar story, but the close ties between the Ku Klux Klan and the state government will perhaps be news. According to Beasley, the Klan infiltrated the state government. E.D. Rivers, governor from 1937 to 1941, had been named a Grand Titan for the state of Georgia by Hiram Wesley Evans, the Klan's Imperial Wizard. After his inauguration, Rivers gave Evans a monopoly on the state's asphalt business, a venture that later expanded into other lucrative businesses. Beasley writes that besides handing Evans a "license to print money" at the government's expense, the corrupt Rivers had his own racket of selling pardons to convicted gangsters, murderers and other criminals. Unfortunately, the author's account is diffuse and repetitive, losing focus by overly detailing minor characters and wandering off into side issues such as the eugenics movement. Missing here is the firm hand of an editor that might have shaped a verbose and rather shapeless narrative into a compelling story, for the facts of the matter deserve a better telling.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250014665
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2014
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 165,777
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

DAVID BEASLEY is a former editor for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the co-author of Inside Coca-Cola. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction: Waiting to Die

Chapter 1: Thrill Killers

Chapter 2: The Great Titan

Chapter 3: Laid to Rest

Chapter 4: A Baby With No Name

Chapter 5: A Deadly Bug

Chapter 6: A Friend from the Klan

Chapter 7: ‘Lord, I am Dying’

Chapter 8: A Strange and Violent Fall

Chapter 9: Eighty-one Minutes

Chapter 10: Millionaires in Prison

Chapter 11: A Bankrupt State

Chapter 12: The Price of Freedom

Chapter 13: The Long Way Up

Epilogue

Bibliography

Notes

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2014

    This book does read like a John Grisham novel. The subject matte

    This book does read like a John Grisham novel. The subject matter, though controversial was very well researched and very well put together.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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