The Past Is Never Dead
The Trial of James Ford Seale and Mississippi's Struggle for Redemption
By Harry N. MacLean
(Basic Civitas Books, Hardcover, 9780465005048, 304pp.)
Publication Date: September 2009
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A dramatic courtroom thriller that tests the bounds of redemption for the racial sins of the American South, by the best-selling author of In Broad Daylight
Harry N. MacLean is a lawyer and writer. He has worked as a juvenile court magistrate, first assistant attorney general, associate professor of law, general counsel of the Peace Corps, and labor arbitrator. His first book, In Broad Daylight, won an Edgar Award for Best True Crime and was a New York Times bestseller. His second book, Once Upon a Time, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He lives in Denver, Colorado.
Forty-five years ago, the bodies of two young black men turned up, brutally mangled, in a tributary of the Mississippi River. In a new book, author Harry MacLean explores the trial of reputed Klansman James Ford Seale for the murders decades later — and Mississippi's continued struggle with its racial history. More at NPR.org
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“The Past Is Never Dead works both as a true crime potboiler and as a broader allegory of the South’s search for redemption.”
“From jury selection through the actual trial, MacLean offers a portrait of a state grappling with its past and anxious to remove its stigma.”
“With this book, Harry proves just how good he is as a lawyer and author…You will be riveted. Enough said.”
Jackson Free Press
“MacLean’s writing is unambiguous and clear, entertaining and fast-paced…The book is riveting.”
“[E]xtraordinary…What makes this book so profound are MacLean’s insights into how the trial reflects Mississippi’s social mores and internal conflict.”
“[I]nsightful for anyone who wants a better understanding of the history of race relations in the South.”
Stephen White, New York Times bestselling author of The Siege
“Harry MacLean proves it yet again: Take a simmering controversy, a tense courtroom, and a pressing need for social context, and America has no better literary guide than MacLean. In The Past is Never Dead, he focuses his considerable storytelling talent on Mississippi’s attempt to resurrect itself from the horrors of its segregationist past as James Ford Seale is brought to trial for his role in the deaths of Henry Dee and Charles Moore. MacLean brings the epic trial to life while he translates modern Mississippi’s struggles for transformation. A powerful, timely book about the misunderstood, modern South.”
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
“Even decades after the Civil Rights Movement wrought real change throughout the United States, Mississippi remains ground zero for what can be called the ongoing drama of racial inequality. This is the ground Harry Maclean walks in this fierce, moving, and tremendously engaging book.”
Laurence Shames, author of Boss of Bosses and Not Fade Away
“Fast-paced and tough-minded, The Past is Never Dead combines a taut and vivid courtroom drama with a passionate and cogent meditation on race, justice, and the awful burden of history.”