My rating: 5 of 5 stars
John Safran is the king of self-deprecation. It serves him well in this true-crime tale of US race relations and homophobia. 9 months after interviewing Richard Barrett, a white supremacist, for his ABC series, Race Relations, Barrett is found dead in his burning house, wearing nothing but his underwear. The man arrested for the crime, Vincent McGee, a black Mississippian, does not deny killing him. When Safran reads about this case in the newspaper, he feels inextricably drawn back to the city of Pearl, Miss. to investigate what happened and why.
The reception John receives is not a welcoming one. Race Relations did not paint Barrett, or the white supremacist movement in a good light and they are pissed. But, as he digs further into the muck that is the underbelly of Pearl, Safran discovers that Barrett was not necessarily anyone’s favourite guy either. As John Safran is drawn further and further into the web of lies, half-truths and shady dealings the reader is very aware the situations he finds himself in are dangerous, risky. For Safran, it seems the riskier the venture, the better he likes it. He is, after all, a documentary maker at heart.
Throughout the book John Safran’s humour and quirky take on humanity are evident, and he is not above taking the piss out of himself and his “Jewishness” too. More than once I found myself laughing out loud picturing this pasty blond Aussie in the middle of a race relations nightmare – because he wanted me to. I even found myself becoming scared for him when Vincent started making demands of Safran that he wouldn’t even ask a relative to do for him – like propose marriage (as a proxy) to Vincent’s girlfriend.
Whilst the story was all too real, Safran often makes it feel like we are watching a movie – waiting for the next twist in the tale. It certainly kept me going right to the end, and I am sure it will do for you too.
For ages 16 and up.