Synopses & Reviews
On April 27, 1913, the bludgeoned body of thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan was discovered in the basement of Atlanta’s National Pencil Factory. The girl’s murder would be the catalyst for an epic saga that to this day holds a singular place in America’s collective imagination—a saga that would climax in 1915 with the lynching of Leo Frank, the Cornell-educated Jew who was convicted of the murder. The case has been the subject of novels, plays, movies and even musicals, but only now, with the publication of And the Dead Shall Rise
, do we have an account that does full justice to the mesmerizing and previously unknown details of one of the most shameful moments in the nation’s history.
In a narrative reminiscent of a nineteenth-century novel, Steve Oney recounts the emerging revelations of the initial criminal investigation, reconstructs from newspaper dispatches (the original trial transcript mysteriously disappeared long ago) the day-to-day intrigue of the courtroom and illuminates how and why an all-white jury convicted Frank largely on the testimony of a black man. Oney chronicles as well the innumerable avenues that the defense pursued in quest of an appeal, the remarkable and heretofore largely ignored campaign conducted by William Randolph Hearst and New York Times publisher Adolph Ochs to exonerate Frank, the last-minute commutation of Frank’s death sentence and, most indelibly, the flawlessly executed abduction and brutal lynching of Frank two months after his death sentence was commuted.
And the Dead Shall Rise brings to life a Dickensian cast of characters caught up in the Frank case—zealous police investigators intent on protecting their department’s reputation, even more zealous private detectives, cynical yet impressionable factory girls, intrepid reporters (including a young Harold Ross), lawyers blinded by their own interests and cowed by the populace’s furor. And we meet four astonishing individuals: Jim Conley, who was Frank’s confessed “accomplice” and the state’s star witness; William Smith, a determined and idealistic lawyer who brilliantly prepared Conley for the defense’s fierce cross-examination and then, a year later, underwent an extraordinary change of heart; Lucille Frank, the martyred wife of the convicted man; and the great populist leader Tom Watson, who manipulated the volatile and lethal outrage of Georgians against the forces of Northern privilege and capital that were seeking to free Frank.
And the Dead Shall Rise also casts long-awaited fresh light on Frank’s lynching. No participant was ever indicted, and many went on to prominent careers in state and national politics. Here, for the first time, is the full account of the event—including the identities of the influential Georgians who conceived, carried out and covered up the crime. And here as well is the story of the lynching’s aftermath, which saw both the revival of the Ku Klux Klan and the evolution of the Anti-Defamation League.
At once a work of masterful investigative journalism and insightful social history, And the Dead Shall Rise does complete justice to one of history’s most repellent and most fascinating moments.
"[A] work of sympathetic imagination that invites comparison to Norman Mailer's Executioner's Song. The book packs a wallop at many levels, from the mythic Southern characters to the violent infrastructure of our cultural memory." Theodore Rosengarten, The New York Times Book Review
"Steve Oney's brilliant narrative shows why, 90 years later, the tale of murder and revenge in Georgia still has the capacity to fascinate, provoking the classical responses to tragedy: pity, awe and sorrow without end." Shelby Coffey III, The Washington Post Book World
"A superb work of true crime and an altogether remarkable exercise in what might be called judicial archaeology." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"If [Oney] sometimes overplays the already considerable drama of the story, his careful demonstration that the lynching was no sudden spasm of mob violence but a well-planned operation by prominent Georgians...is startling." The New Yorker
"Oney has a reporter's eye for detail and a novelist's sense of storytelling....[V]ividly detailed and deeply compelling....This is a vital addition to the literature of race, Jewish studies and Southern history." Publishers Weekly
"[A]n exceptionally well-researched and -written first book....This riveting work is well worth the effort and is highly recommended." Library Journal
"[Oney] tells this fascinating and complex true-crime story in impressively thorough detail....Oney's definitive account is a major achievement." David J. Garrow, The Los Angeles Times
"Steve Oneys epic And the Dead Shall Rise is a book I've been waiting my whole life to read. I was born in Atlanta, and used to hear my mother and grandmother argue for the innocence of Leo Frank against all comers. This book is a tragedy and a triumph and a wonder, all at the same time." Pat Conroy, author of The Prince of Tides
"This is the book on the Leo Frank case I had been waiting for and one the reading public needs. I am struck by the narrative skill and ingenuity. For the first time I understand the full ironies, paradoxes, and horrors of this tragedy. I found the book difficult to put down." C. Vann Woodward, author of The Strange Career of Jim Crow
Includes bibliographical references (p. -712) and index.
About the Author
Steve Oney was educated at the University of Georgia and at Harvard, where he was a Nieman Fellow. He worked for many years as a staff writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Magazine. He has also contributed articles to many national publications, including Esquire, Playboy, Premiere, GQ and the New York Times Magazine. Oney lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Madeline Stuart. This is his first book.
Table of Contents
1. April 26, 1913 3
2. Look Out, White Folks 18
3. Extra, Extra 35
4. Onward, Christian Soldiers 46
5. A Good Name, A Bad Reputation 71
6. Skulduggery 91
7. A Clean Nigger 118
8. A Tramp Alumnus 145
9. Skirmishes 162
10. Prosecution 190
11. Defense 261
12. Verdict 306
13. Appeals in and out of Court 345
14. Brightness Visible 371
15. Darkness Falls 397
16. A Change of Heart 423
17. Cause Celebre 444
18. Commutation 469
19. Marietta 513
20. Milledgeville 529
21. The Lynching of Leo Frank 561
22. Burial 573
23. Recessional 596
24. The Revenant 630