Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

It was difficult to pick up MURDER IN MISSISSIPPI with many standard preconceptions. Safran's not somebody who immediately comes to mind when you think True Crime writing (investigative or explorative). He certainly comes to mind when you think a bit of good old-fashioned shit stirring with a very big stick. Which combined with the Deep South, white supremacists, a possible hidden homosexual link, and six months research still wasn't exactly scanning naturally. Getting into the book however, it's hard not to hear Safran's speaking voice, even for somebody like me whose TV watching is sporadic at best, and has only occassionally taken in his work. 

All of which made the style of this book somewhat surprising. Hard to describe really. Push comes to shove it came across to this reader as the story of the research into the subject matter of the book. Along the way I'm not 100% sure I'm any clearer on the truth of the death of the victim, nor the confirmation of guilt or innocence of the perpetrator. What I am a lot clearer on is the difficulties of the situation. The level of discomfort that Safran ended up feeling, poking around in the lives of others, especially in a world that's very different from the somewhat protected, Melbourne suburban environment that he comes from.

It's definitely not like any other true crime book I've ever read, and the writing style whilst engaging and quite conversational, has a rawness to it that I don't remember encountering for quite a while. It's definitely the author's voice, loud and clear. It's self-deprecating in points as well, and brilliantly draws a picture of the sheer confusion of the difference between where he comes from and where Mississippi comes from. 

For this reader, it was fascinating. It's also distinctly possible that for other readers it will be the most irritating thing they (try to) read. Maybe it's going to come down to whether or not you're a Safran fan. Maybe it will be what preconceptions you come to the book with. But, in a most unexpected way it was a reading highlight for me.

My copy of MURDER IN MISSISSIPPI came from

Year of Publication

When filming his TV series Race Relations, John Safran spent an uneasy couple of days with one of Mississippi's most notorious white supremacists. A year later, he heard that the man had been murdered – and what was more, the killer was black.

At first the murder seemed a twist on the old Deep South race crimes. But then more news rolled in. Maybe it was a dispute over money, or most intriguingly, over sex. Could the infamous racist actually have been secretly gay, with a thing for black men? Did Safran have the last footage of him alive? Could this be the story of a lifetime? Seizing his Truman Capote moment, he jumped on a plane to cover the trial.

Over six months, Safran got deeper and deeper into the South, becoming entwined in the lives of those connected with the murder – white separatists, black campaigners, lawyers, investigators, neighbours, even the killer himself. And the more he talked with them, the less simple the crime, and the world, seemed.

Murder in Mississippi is a brilliantly innovative true-crime story. Taking us places only he can, Safran paints an engrossing, revealing portrait of a dead man, his murderer, the place they lived and the process of trying to find out the truth about anything.

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