Cape Fear Rising

Philip Gerard, Author John F. Blair Publisher $18.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-89587-108-4
No, this is not another sequel to the 1962 movie; it is a complex and convincing (if slightly overwritten) story of a little known incident that took place amidst the chaos of the post-Reconstruction South. The villain is not a twisted individual but rather a twisted society, the upper crust of Wilmington, N.C., in 1898. Alarmed by a burgeoning black middle class and a Fusionist-Republican regime favorable to the black majority, a powerful group drawn from the white establishment plots to take back ``their'' city. Secret, shifting alliances create confusion and discontent among out-of-work whites, and post-election day violence results in the deaths of numerous black citizens and the expulsion of thousands of others. The kaleidoscopic action is seen through the eyes of a fictional reporter newly arrived from Chicago with his wife, Gray Ellen. Her bafflement reflects Southern white society perfectly ``. . . it was like hearing every second word of a question and being expected to come up with a good answer.'' As the white plotters invent horror stories of dangerous blacks, amass troops and plunge towards violence, blacks walk a thin line between preserving pride and keeping a low profile. Some of the dialogue and asides could have profitably been trimmed, but Gerard's ( Hatteras Light ) well-researched story smartly limns the tangled combination of economic, social and visceral elements that led Wilmington to violence and two years later would lead North Carolina to adopt constitutional amendments that virtually disenfranchised blacks. Caveat lector : epilogues of various characters at the end of the book fail to note which are fictional and which are historical. Author tour. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/1994
Release date: 02/01/1994
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 426 pages - 978-0-89587-165-7
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