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From the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller Devil in the Grove, the gripping true story of a small town with a big secret. In December 1957, the wife of a wealthy Florida citrus man is raped in her home while her husband is away. She claims a “husky Negro” did it, and the sheriff, the infamous racist Willis McCall, does not hesitate to round up a herd of suspects. Within days, however, McCall turns his sights on Jesse Daniels, a gentle, mentally impaired white nineteen-year-old. Jesse is promptly railroaded up to the insane asylum in Chattahoochee and locked away without trial.
But crusading journalist Mabel Norris Reese cannot stop fretting over the case and its baffling outcome. Who was protecting whom, or what? She pursues the story for years, chasing down leads, hitting dead ends, winning unlikely allies. Bit by bit, with Jesse’s freedom hanging in the balance, the unspeakable truths behind a conspiracy that shocked a community into silence begin to surface.
Beneath a Ruthless Sun tells a powerful, page-turning story rooted in the fears that rippled through the South as integration began to take hold, sparking a surge of virulent racism that savaged the vulnerable, debased the powerful, and roils our own times still.