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>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Eric Carle, <i>The Very Hungry Caterpillar,</i> hand-painted collage. Sold for a record $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Charles Addams, <i>Couple passing a giant bird house,</i> watercolor cartoon for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1948. Sold for $16,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Miriam Troop, <i>Rain on Laundry Day,</i> oil on canvas, cover for <i>The Saturday Evening Post,</i> 1940. Sold for $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Rockwell Kent, <i>To All Fascists,</i> ink broadside for The League of American Writers, circa 1937. Sold for $6,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Jo Mielziner, <i>Pet Shop Drop,</i> backdrop design for <i>Pal Joey</i> on Broadway, 1940. Sold for a record $55,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Lee Brown Coye, acrylic cover illustration for the 25th anniversary of <i>Weird Tales,</i> 1944. Sold for $18,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Virgil Finlay, <i>The Outsider & Others,</i> pen & ink dust jacket illustration for H.P. Lovecraft's book, 1939. Sold for $5,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Al Hirschfeld, <i>Paul Robeson as Othello,</i> illustration for <i>The New York Times,</i> 1942. Sold for $68,750
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Frederic Remington, pen & ink illustration for <i>A Scout with the Buffalo Soldiers</i> in <i>The Century</i> magazine, 1889. Sold for $17,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> EARLY AVIATION PHOTOGRAPHY ARCHIVE. Chronicling 20th century aviation from the earliest Wright Brothers images through commercial and military applications. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> FIRST TELEPHONE CALL TO THE MOON. Partial transcription signed by Apollo 11 astronauts and President Nixon. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> SPUTNIK-1 EMC/EMI LAB MODEL, 1957. Full scale vintage test model of the Sputnik-1 satellite, Moscow, [February, 1957]. $400,000 to $600,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> Apollo 11 Beta cloth crew emblem, SIGNED BY THE ENTIRE APOLLO 11 CREW. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> GEMINI 1/8 SCALE MODEL. Rarely seen large-scale contractor's model. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.

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