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The Ghosts of Medgar Evers: A Tale of Race, Murder, Mississippi, and Hollywood Hardcover – January 27, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (January 27, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679459561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679459569
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,198,548 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Mississippi native Willie Morris, author of North Toward Home, New York Days, and other books, offers an eccentric mixture of history and autobiography as he recounts his involvement in the making of the film Ghosts of Mississippi. After covering the final trial of the white racist who had assassinated Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers 30 years earlier, Morris suggested to a friend in Hollywood that the subject of the trial would make a fine movie. In The Ghosts of Medgar Evers, Morris concentrates not only on how the trial of Evers's killer sought to resolve history, but also on how Hollywood tried--and failed--to convey serious history to the public.

From Publishers Weekly

Rob Reiner's 1997 film The Ghosts of Mississippi, about the murder of 1960s civil rights activist Medgar Evers and the eventual conviction of his killer 30 years later, was widely regarded as an earnest but uninspired film redeemed only by James Woods's performance as Evers's flamboyantly racist assassin. It was also a commercial flop. Even so, Mississippi author Morris's account of the making of the film might have been an interesting investigation into the politics of race and popular culture, and a chance to exploit the inherent comedy of movie people in the heartland. But instead, the book itself is well-meaning and uninspired, an overly detailed, credulous account of the minutiae of Hollywood filmmaking, written in the slow rhythm of a cocktail party raconteur dropping names, some familiar, some not. Film principals such as director Reiner and actor Alec Baldwin are quoted at length, speaking in the cliches of the celebrity profile, while Evers's widow Myrlie, who consulted on the film, remains a rather distant figure. The film's technical aspects are exhaustively described, but much of what Morris finds so fascinating will be common knowledge to many movie fans. Indeed, Morris retails some of the hoariest Hollywood stories?Howard Hawks introducing Faulkner to Clark Gable, for example?as if they were brand new. Most disappointingly, Morris, who knew or shared acquaintances with many of the real figures in the case, speaks of the thorny problem of race mostly in grandiloquent platitudes. Readers interested in race or in the murder itself will be bored by the pages of stargazing, while readers interested in film will have read much of this stuff before, about better movies. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
First and foremost, Morris is an excellent writer and is particularly adept in my favorite genre: Creative Nonfiction.
The book starts with a short Medgar Evers history lesson culminating with his assignation and two hung juries in the subsequent murder trials of Beckwith. The book picks up in present-day Mississippi and details the reopening of the case, investigation, and eventual prosecution and conviction of Beckwith. That probably comprises the first third of the book. The next two-thirds detail the conception and execution of the Movie: Ghosts of Mississippi. Morris is detailed in his descriptions of movie making, from nuts and bolts film making to Hollywood politics. Of particular interest, is how the locals in Mississippi reacted and how Hollywood got along in the Deep South during the filming. He was able to deftly weave in pearls (as well as substantial blemishes) from Mississippi's past, much as he did in "The Courting of Marcus Dupree". Morris takes us through the filming of the movie to its nation-wide release and eventually to what he calls "troubles". The "troubles" piece is essentially a description and commentary on the reception (and substantial criticism) that "Ghosts" received in Hollywood, Mississippi and around the country.
If you enjoy nonfiction and have interest in the South, Hollywood, and Civil Rights I think you'll enjoy it (regardless of your opinion of the movie it describes).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Caitlin Martin VINE VOICE on August 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I'm very fond of Willie Morris' writing. He has a knack for capturing the world through the lens of a Southern sensibility that is consistently pleasing to me. He speaks of the world of my Mother's generation, but of my own generation, too, never ceasing to ask the important questions: What does it mean to come from a land cursed by the sin of slavery? What does it mean to be Southern & away from home? How does the South shape who we are? How do we reconcile the beauty & the brutality, Faulkner & the KKK?

In some ways this is a disappointing book, mainly I suspect because I expect so much of its author. What I had hoped would be an examination of the impact of Medgar Evers' [...] & the subsequent re-investigation & conviction of his killer was instead a lukewarm story of the making of the Hollywood film - The Ghosts of Mississippi.

There are moments here when Morris approaches the underlying questions raised by Mississippi's civil rights history, by the continual Hollywood telling of this story through the eyes of white men, & by the difficulty of healing old wounds, but he seems to step gingerly through & around them without really confronting them. Still, the writing is lovely & there are some beautiful descriptions of the Delta. I wish he had dug deeper for this - I missed his voice here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
First and foremost, Morris is an excellent writer and is particularly adept in my favorite genre: Creative Nonfiction.
The book starts with a short Medgar Evers history lesson culminating with his assignation and two hung juries in the subsequent murder trials of Beckwith. The book picks up in present-day Mississippi and details the reopening of the case, investigation, and eventual prosecution and conviction of Beckwith. That probably comprises the first third of the book. The next two-thirds detail the conception and execution of the Movie: Ghosts of Mississippi. Morris is detailed in his descriptions of movie making, from nuts and bolts film making to Hollywood politics. Of particular interest, is how the locals in Mississippi reacted and how Hollywood got along in the Deep South during the filming. He was able to deftly weave in pearls (as well as substantial blemishes) from Mississippi's past, much as he did in "The Courting of Marcus Dupree". Morris takes us through the filming of the movie to its nation-wide release and eventually to what he calls "troubles". The "troubles" piece is essentially a description and commentary on the reception (and substantial criticism) that "Ghosts" received in Hollywood, Mississippi and around the country.
If you enjoy nonfiction and have interest in the South, Hollywood, and Civil Rights I think you'll enjoy it (regardless of your opinion of the movie it describes).
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 23, 1998
Format: Hardcover
A sixth-generation Mississippian, Willie Morris is particularly well known for his many books ("The Courting of Marcus Dupree," "New York Days," and the classic autobiography "North Toward Home"),and articles in which he compares his experiences and his long and complex Southern heritage to America's own history. Morris once again effectively juxtaposes and intertwines history with autobiography in "The Ghosts of Medgar Evers." He served as a historical consultant for the movie, "Ghosts of Mississippi," the true story of the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers and the 30-year pursuit of the assassin, Byron De La Beckwith. Morris not only provides an insider's view to Hollywood film making, discussing the making of the movie and why it failed at the box office, but lyrically blends the past and present as he examines his beloved Mississippi, the South, and racial healing. A compelling book by a first-rate writer and well-known commentator on the national scene. (And don't miss the wonderful reminiscences of his youth, "My Dog Skip.")
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