Color Him Guilty

Joe L. Hensley, Author
Joe L. Hensley, Author Walker & Company $16.95 (180p) ISBN 978-0-8027-5670-1
Reviewed on: 05/01/1987
Release date: 05/01/1987
Alphonse Jones is awakened early one morning from a drunken stupor by the local cops, who tell him he raped and murdered Julia Cunnel. Jones denies it, but his prison record, the fact that the murder took place only a few hundred yards from his home andmost importantly to the police of this anonymous Southern townthe fact that Jones is black and Cunnel was white, appear to be incontrovertible evidence of his guilt. To defend him in this apparently open-and-shut case, the judge appoints Sam April, a young lawyer just moved to town from up North. Believing Jones is innocent, April decides he must unmask the real killer in order to get his client off. Color Him Guilty is a revision of Hensley's 1960 mystery The Color of Hate and focuses on attitudes the author feels still pervade the South. The novel is reminiscent of To Kill A Mockingbird and In The Heat Of The Night, and although it is by no means the equal of those two great worksthe writing is often stilted and the revelation of the murderer is contrived and unbelievableit succeeds on its own merits. Hensley, a circuit judge in Indiana, knows his way around a courtroom, and the writing in the trial scenes is the best in the book. Both he and the reader might be better served in the future if April played lawyer more, and detective less. (May 11)
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