Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2005 Issue

A Death in Texas by Dina Temple-Raston: Not all Books are Equal

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A world of madness


A review by Bruce McKinney

Sitting on the shelves of bookstores across America and around the world is 316 pages of mercury by weight. It is called A Death in Texas and was written by Dina Temple-Raston, a Bloomberg Business News reporter. It tells the story of a murder committed in Jasper, Texas in 1998 by three young men. The victim, James Byrd, Jr. 49, was black and his killers white. This is a story that many people know something about. Most did not follow the story closely but "know" it anyway. Their "knowing" often reflects their perception of "race" and "southern race" issues generally rather than their specific knowledge of the case. People bring their opinions and find in the story, whether expressed on talk radio, in film, in a book or a lecture, confirmation of their views. Often of course the individual chooses their source of interpretation. You then hear what you believe and believe what you hear even if it isn't true. In America today we too often listen to our favorite interpreters confirm a version of facts that comports with our own. "Know" is today "no" guarantee of accurate interpretation. Regardless of which side you are on this too often is true.

The FBI defines a hate crime to be "a criminal offense committed against a person, property or society which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin." The killing of James Byrd, Jr. in 1998 was defined in those terms by the legal authorities. This is the story.

Mr. Byrd, a 49-year-old occasional day laborer and frequent night drinker, was an ineffective son in an otherwise effective family. When others might have been home Mr. Byrd was out nursing a beer. In the evening of June 6th, 1988 he was invited into a truck by three younger men he probably knew. The chance for another drink, some company or simply a ride home may have induced him to get in. These men, Bill King [23], Russell Brewer [32] and Shawn Berry [23], then drove a pick-up truck, with Byrd in the back out to Huff Creek Road, a tired underdeveloped area. The men then beat him, tied him by chain to their truck and dragged him for three miles. Along the way he died and was decapitated. Where they beat him they left tire tracks, beer bottles, CD cases, a socket wrench, a cigarette lighter with the initials KKK and their finger prints. The following morning, when the body was discovered law enforcement officers simply walked back up the road, following the trail of human debris, to its source. There was little effort to conceal the crime. It was insanity in broad daylight.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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