Killing the Messenger: A Story of Radical Faith, Racism’s Backlash, and the Assassination of a Journalist

Thomas Peele. Crown, $26 (464p) ISBN 978-0-307-71755-9
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In a 1959 television interview, the Black Muslim leader Elijah Muhammad looked to the future and declared, “There will be plenty of bloodshed—plenty of it.” In the context of journalist Peele’s eye-opening narrative about radical religion and its consequences, these words turn out to be a gross understatement. Peele spent more than four years investigating the 2007 assassination of Oakland Post reporter Chauncey Bailey at the hands of a cult family called the Beys. He explores the murder as well as the Black Muslim faith, a fundamentalist offshoot of the Nation of Islam. Starting in the late 19th century, Peele traces the origins of the “Black Muslim movement” and provides portraits of leaders including con man W.D. Fard; his emissary Elijah Poole; and Yusuf Ali Bey, the patriarch of the Oakland sect. Peele follows with a multigenerational account of the Beys’s heinous crimes, money-making schemes, and oppressive rule, and their eventual intersection with Bailey. The chain of violence that accompanies the movement’s century-long evolution is staggering, and justice, when it comes, is overdue. Peele renders characters and scenes with rich detail and his chronicle of events surrounding Bailey’s death unfolds with the seamlessness of a fictional thriller, would that were the case. Agent: Elizabeth Evans, Kimberley Cameron. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/12/2011
Release date: 02/07/2012
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