cover image Praying for Sheetrock: A Work of Nonfiction

Praying for Sheetrock: A Work of Nonfiction

Melissa Fay Greene. Da Capo Press, $21.9 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-201-55048-1

As the first black commissioner of McIntosh County, Ga., retired boilermaker Thurnell Alston brought the civil rights struggle to a coastal backwater in the 1970s. He initiated voting rights lawsuits, fought drugs and introduced medical clinics, plumbing and running water to ``a forgotten county needy in every way.'' A threat to corrupt Sheriff Tom Popell, who ruled the county as his fiefdom, Alston challeged the ``good old boy'' patronage system. But the irascible commissioner became increasingly distanced from his constituency and, after his youngest son's tragic death in 1983, he neglected his wife and children in escapist pursuits. The target of a government sting operation, he was convicted of drug conspiracy charges in 1988 and sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison camp, where he remains. By turns inspiring and sad, his story is told with dramatic skill by Atlanta journalist Greene. 75,000 first printing; $75,000 ad/promo; author tour. (Oct.)