AN AMERICAN INSURRECTION: The Battle of Oxford, Mississippi, 1962

William Doyle, Author . Doubleday $26 (400p) ISBN 978-0-385-49969-9

When James Meredith was about 12 years old, he had a "young boy's dream of attending the football powerhouse school," the University of Mississippi. But when he became the first black student to register at "Ole Miss" in 1962, a "Byzantine legal struggle" ensued, which Doyle chronicles along with the military maneuvers by U.S. Deputy Marshals and others sent to contain the revolt by radical segregationists and hundreds of student and civilian "volunteers." The episode—which Time magazine called the "greatest Constitutional crisis since the Civil War"—collapsed into complete mayhem and violence. Doyle (Inside the Oval Office), cowriter and coproducer of the A&E documentary The Secret White House Tapes, makes extensive use of the Kennedy tapes as well as interviews with over 500 eyewitnesses and participants. Unfortunately, his indiscriminate accumulation of detail (the governor's wife wore pearl-frame glasses; the average height of the 503rd Military Police Battalion is 5'10") mars the book. The sketches of Civil War battles (provided by way of analogy to the Mississippi crisis) and of assorted local, state and federal troop movements fail to cohere. Some of Doyle's facts—that World War II paratroopers served in "Normandy, Holland, Belgium, Sicily, Italy and North Africa"; references to JFK's "overlapping extramarital affairs and fleeting sexual experiences"; the price tag on Meredith's graduation suit ($85)—bring neither depth nor diversion to this unimaginative text. Agent, Mel Berger/William Morris. (Sept. 18)

Forecast:Military buffs may relish the logistical detail, but the dust jacket comparison to Black Hawk Down is unwarranted, since this account is unlikely to break out of its niche.

Reviewed on: 07/30/2001
Release date: 09/01/2001
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-385-49970-5
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