Wednesday, 16 October 2013

"Murder in Mississippi" by John Safran, true crime, 2013

I have followed John Safran's ballsy and brave documentaries since the mid 90's. His wry humour, as well as the ability to get himself into (and out of) explosive situations, make his films compulsive viewing.
In his series "Race Relations", Safran spends time with Richard Barrett, a white supremacist in the Deep South. In 2010 Barrett is brutally murdered by troubled black youth, Vincent McGee. Safran turns from filmmaker to investigator/author.
True crime books are not my bag, however I could not put this one down. Carefully constructed, witty and insightful. The characters Safran tracks down, the twists and turns, the secrets, the politics and culture of Mississippi, the honesty of the interviews are astounding. It's amazing how people just open up and tell Safran so much. It highlights the huge differences between Australians and Americans. John Safran (raised in a comfortable part of Melbourne, Australia) has an amazing knack of fitting into any situation, letting people tell their stories while he stands back, without making judgements.
There is a lovely little bit about one third of the way through where the author reflects about the impact parents can have, referencing his own experiences in his late teens.
Part history lesson, part crime story, part personal journey.

When you finish the book .... go on Vincent McGee's (use lowercase "g") Facebook page ...chilling.

"Murder in Mississippi : The true story of how I met a white supremacist, befriended his black killer and wrote this book" John Safran, author.
Highly recommended. Published by Penguin Books, 2013, 368 pages
U.S. edition title "God's Gonna Cut You Down"

PS A nice companion piece is HBO's moody and dark "True Detective" - Southern Gothic set in Louisiana.


  1. Just reaing it now.. a little anti climatic when the case didnt go to trial.. must have been a let down for john.. l am still, however keen to read the rest..

    1. You won't be disappointed. John Safran's ABC/SBS TV docos are worth checking out too, probably on YouTube.

  2. I live in the community that the prison he is, or should i say, was housed in is located. Holly Springs Mississippi, home of Marshall County Correctional Facility.

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  4. Ok, let rephrase... he's brain dead, at Memphis Regional Medical Center, awaiting the family to give the ok to turn the machine keeping him alive off.

  5. It's very sad. So much senseless violence in the world today.

  6. You are correct. Thanks for the scoop.

  7. Update
    Vincent McGee was transferred from hospital back to prison (as of May, 2014).


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