STARRED REVIEW
May 2018

The corruption of Lake County

By Gilbert King

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gilbert King returns to Lake County, Florida, in Beneath a Ruthless Sun, a tense and stunning true-crime read. As in Devil in the Grove, his previous exposé of the corruption and racial injustice carried out by the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, King’s exhaustive reporting details the frightening chokehold white supremacists had over a Florida agricultural town in the very recent past.

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Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gilbert King returns to Lake County, Florida, in Beneath a Ruthless Sun, a tense and stunning true-crime read. As in Devil in the Grove, his previous exposé of the corruption and racial injustice carried out by the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, King’s exhaustive reporting details the frightening chokehold white supremacists had over a Florida agricultural town in the very recent past.

In Devil in the Grove, King detailed the perversion of justice in the case of four young black men falsely accused of raping a white woman in 1949. The “devil” in that book was Sheriff Willis McCall, who used violence, intimidation, false evidence and murder to frame the so-called “Groveland Four.” King’s painstaking research into that case opened his eyes to a different case in 1957, when a white woman stated that she was raped by a black man. This prompted more brutal racial profiling by McCall’s office. However, the rape was ultimately pinned on Jesse Daniels, a white, mentally disabled 19-year-old. Daniels, known as “the boy on the bike,” was taken from his mother’s house and sent to the state’s notorious mental institution for 14 long years while his case was appealed. Crusading journalist Mabel Norris Reese emerges as one of the heroes of this story, a woman who braved violent intimidation from Sheriff McCall and his cohort to report on the story.

In Beneath a Ruthless Sun, King picks up where Reese left off, brilliantly investigating the deep-seated corruption in Lake County. His book’s taut focus on a single case also shines a light onto larger issues of racial profiling, police corruption and the condition of Florida’s mental institutions.

 

This article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Beneath a Ruthless Sun

Beneath a Ruthless Sun

By Gilbert King
Riverhead
ISBN 9780399183386

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