Cover image for God'll cut you down : the tangled tale of a white supremacist, a Black hustler, a murder, and how I lost a year in Mississippi
God'll cut you down : the tangled tale of a white supremacist, a Black hustler, a murder, and how I lost a year in Mississippi
Safran, John, author.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, New York : Riverhead Books, 2014.
Physical Description:
xii, 351 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
"An unlikely journalist, a murder case in Mississippi, and a fascinating literary true crime story about race, money, sex, and power in the modern American South"--
General Note:
Originally published under the name Murder in Misssissippi by Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Books Australia, 2013.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HV6533.M7 S34 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
HV6533.M7 S34 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
HV6533.M7 S34 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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An unlikely journalist, a murder case in Mississippi, and a fascinating literary true crime story in the style of Jon Ronson, for fans of "Serial."

A notorious white supremacist named Richard Barrett was brutally murdered in Mississippi in 2010 by a young black man named Vincent McGee. At first the murder seemed a twist on old Deep South race crimes. But then new revelations and complications came to light. Maybe it was a dispute over money rather than race--or, maybe and intriguingly, over sex.

John Safran, a young white Jewish Australian documentarian, had been in Mississippi and interviewed Barrett for a film on race. When he learned of Barrett's murder, he returned to find out what happened and became caught up in the twists and turns of the case. During his time in Mississippi, Safran got deeper and deeper into this gothic southern world, becoming entwined in the lives of those connected with the murder -- white separatist frenemies, black lawyers, police investigators, oddball neighbors, the stunned families, even the killer himself. And the more he talked with them, the less simple the crime -- and the people involved -- seemed to be. In the end, he discovered how profoundly and indelibly complex the truth about someone's life -- and death -- can be.

This is a brilliant, haunting, hilarious, unsettling story about race, money, sex, and power in the modern American South from an outsider's point of view.

Author Notes

John Safran is the author of Murder in Mississippi which made the finalist for the $30,000 Best Writing Award, presented for `a piece of published or produced work of outstanding clarity, originality and creativity by a Victorian writer¿.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Australian Jewish radio-host and documentary-maker Safran had made a name for himself as a self-confessed race trekkie, challenging the cultural imperatives of his community and openly fascinated by the racial and ethnic complexities of the U.S. Safran had spent time in Mississippi interviewing white-supremacist Robert Barrett for a documentary on race relations. One year later, Barrett was murdered by a young black man, Vincent McGee. Safran returned to Mississippi to get to the bottom of the murder and tie his fascination with the true-crime genre to his fascination with race. In the course of his investigation and interviews with white supremacists, black-power advocates, eccentric neighbors, and family members, many of his assumptions are tested. Safran discovers that the truth behind the crime is driven as much by sex, money, and power as it is by race. Safran's account is at turns hilarious and often bizarre as he riffs on his perspective as an outsider mixing into a complex environment and failing to understand all manner of nuances.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Originally published in Australia as Murder in Mississippi in 2013, this stranger-than-fiction true crime story finds Safran-a white, Jewish documentary filmmaker from Australia-relocating to Rankin County, Miss., to dig deep into the grisly stabbing murder of a 67-year-old white supremacist in April 2010. A 23-year-old African-American man named Vincent McGee pleaded guilty in the case, but this was no run-of-the-mill race crime. With allegations swirling of a money-for-sex relationship between the founder of a white nationalist organization and his black neighbor, the lure was too great for Safran (a self-proclaimed "Race Trekkie") to resist. Armed with his Dictaphone and a thirst for the truth, Safran tracks down and interviews nearly all individuals associated with the case, resulting in wildly opposing accounts of what happened that spring evening. Safran chronicles the twists and turns of the case through his own interactions with key players, coloring the narrative with text messages and Facebook posts that he received at the time. The result is a bizarrely unsettling, yet often witty book that paints a disturbing picture of the deep South today. (Dec.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Starred Review. Safran's book will make readers chuckle, fidget, and turn page after page wondering what will happen next as the author looks to find the truth about the murder of a white supremacist by a black man in the deep South. The dark humor in this real-life tale mostly comes from Safran, an Australian Jewish documentary filmmaker and comedian, who is a fish out of water as he navigates Jackson, MS. The writing is personal and blunt, as though the reader is peeking into the author's thoughts during his investigations. Safran often addresses other well-known true crime books such as Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. This work is similar in a way in that there is a culture clash between the author and the community where the murder happened, but Safran injects his perspective as a true outsider into a place that is friendly but soaked in history that contributes to the case. The author talks with the police, neighbors, white supremacists, and the killer as he digs into the truth, or many versions of it. VERDICT This true crime book will stick with readers. Safran does a great job of looking at the murder from multiple perspectives and brings in his own experience learning about the culture, which is in itself a character. For fans of true crime, Southern tales, and books similar to Capote's and John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. [See Prepub Alert, 6/2/14.]-Ryan Claringbole, Coll. Lib. at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof*** Copyright © 2014 John Safran 1. THE BEGINNING Melbourne This story begins when I'm ten years old. I'm at a bar mitzvah with my family. And my dad taps me on the shoulder and points to a guy by the buffet, scooping food onto his plate. "See that man?" my dad whispers. "Yes," I say. "See the tie he's wearing?" "Yes." "See that little symbol on his tie?" "Yes," I reply, squinting my eyes. "That's the Freemason symbol," he says. "They're a secret society. They don't like it when you ask them about it." "Wow." "Go up and ask him about it," he tells me. So I shuffle over to the guy and ask if he's a Freemason. "Yes, um," he splutters, his eyes darting about. "But, listen, we don't do anything unusual." He then backs away from the buffet and creeps out of the room. In that moment I learned there are secret worlds out there. We can glance over a landscape and think we're seeing everything, but there are realms operating just out of our lines of sight. I became hooked on secret worlds. And the clunky encounter with the Freemason taught me you can ask questions even when you're not supposed to. That's why I became what I became, a documentary filmmaker of sorts. I say "of sorts" because mine are not the straightest of documentaries. I often ask dangerous people indelicate questions and try not to get thumped. And I often ask them about race. I'm a bit of a Race Trekkie--like a sci-fi Trekkie, but with race, not space. So the murder at hand? That part of the story begins--although I didn't know it at the time--about ten years ago. I was filming a segment for a television series called John Safran vs God , in which I tried to join the secret world of the Ku Klux Klan even though I'm a Jew. My First Meeting with the Klan I'm boxed in at the Ku Klux Klan compound in Orange County, California. Swastika flags run along the wall. I sit across the desk from the Grand Dragon, a man called Chris. Jesus Christ eyeballs me from the painting hanging behind the Grand Dragon. Four Klansmen stand at attention along the edge of the room. "I'm a little confused about who can and can't join the Klan," I tell the Grand Dragon. "Are you allowed to join the Klan if you're not American?" "Yes, absolutely!" he assures me. "And what about if you're Catholic?" "You know, Catholics are every bit as Christian as anyone else," he says. "Sure." "And what happens," I ask, trying hard not to squirm in my seat, "if you were brought up Jewish but you don't do anything Jewish anymore? Because that's where I'm at." The Grand Dragon shoots his eyes to his fellow Klansmen. "Was your mother Jewish?" he asks. "Yes," I say. Excerpted from God'll Cut You Down: The Tangled Tale of a White Supremacist, a Black Hustler, a Murder, and How I Lost a Year in Mississippi by John Safran All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.