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Blind Vengeance The Roy Moody MaU Bomb Murders By RayJenkins University of Georgia Press, 1997 327 pp. Cloth, $29.95 Lay Down with Dogs The Story ofHugh Otis Bynum and the Scottsboro First Monday Bombing By Byron Woodfin University of Alabama Press, 1997 231 pp. Cloth, $29.95 Reviewed by Larry J. Griffin, professor of sociology and director of the American and Southern Studies Program at Vanderbilt University. He has published widely in the field of racial violence in the South and is coeditor (with Don H. Doyle) of The South as an American Problem. Violence of one sort or another—from eyegouging and slave-whipping before the CivU War to beating, lynching, and bombing after it—may fairly be caUed a bloodsport in the South, greatly distinguishing it from the remainder ofthe nation until at least the end of the CivU Rights era. Extensive and horrific white-on-black violence, of course, was perhaps the signal measure ofjust how far the (white) South had deviated from national norms ofjustice and universalism . But the region's addiction to interpersonal mayhem cannot easüy be folded into, or entirely explained by, die bloody micropoHtics of slavery and white supremacy . Southerners of both races historicaUy have been more Hkely than nonsoutherners ofeither race to IdU their same-race others and much less Hkely to IdU themselves. Violence may be as American as apple pie, as the saying of the late 1960s had it, but apparendy it is, or was, even more particularly southern. Why have southerners had such an appetite, at times seemingly insatiable, for violence? Some theories emphasize its origins in the rawness of a frontier slave society: the need for whites to control large and restive populations of the exploited of other races, cultural imperatives for white men to convey and defend raciaüzed understandings oftheir "honor," and die absence or ineffectiveness of legal institutions and thus the need for a rough form of"folk" justice. Other theReviews 95 ories stress more recent happenings, cultural constructions, or structural arrangements : a "siege mentality" amongwhites born ofthe union ofsectional grievance and paranoia after the Civü War and reproduced almost daüy for another century, and the externalization of the rage and frustration experienced by members of both races who were either disfranchised, impoverished and scapegoated (blacks), or condescended to, culturaUy degraded, and demagogically manipulated (poor whites). Probably each ofthese explanations has currency, at least at various moments in southern history, and together they no doubt account for much ofthe region's pecuHar propensity to use violence to express selfhood, poHtical discontent, economic insecurity, and cultural fears. So it is that two white sons ofthe newest "New South," Hugh Otis Bynum and Roy Moody, the subjects ofthe two books under review, seem almost naturaUy to foUow in the footsteps oftheir regional forefathers: each was convicted ofkilling or maiming others in acts of heinous violence. Byron Woodfin, a writer from Scottsboro, Alabama, narrates the case of Bynum, a wealthy eccentric from Scottsboro with a history of violence who was convicted of paying for the car bombing that permanentiy crippled attorney Loy CampbeU in 1972. RayJenkins, a former PuHtzer Prize-winning columnist and editoriaüst for The Baltimore EveningSun , focuses on Moody, awomanizing, embittered ex-convict, also witii a history ofviolence and obsessed with a desire to practice law. Moody was convicted ofthe much more widely known 1989 maU bomb kiUings ofRobert Robinson, an African American civil-rights attorney from Savannah, Georgia, and Robert Vance, a white federal appeUate judge in Birmingham, Alabama. Each of these books attempts to explain the "whys" and "hows" behind the crimes, and both clearly are the products of a great deal of laborious research. Each author interviewed dozens of protagonists and weU-placed observers/informants , and each used law enforcement and medical records (Jenkins is especiaUy effective in his deployment ofpsychiatric evaluations of Roy Moody), trial transcripts, and local and regional newspapers to reconstruct not only cultural settings and the backgrounds and mentaUties of the main players but verbatim conversations as weU. Both books are informative in ways that sküled journaHsm often is—detaüed, fact-fiUed, richly descriptive—and, in reading a bit Hke poHce procédurals...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 95-98
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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