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Killing the Messenger: A Story of Radical Faith, Racism's Backlash, and the Assassination of a Journalist by [Peele, Thomas]
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4.8 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

An "urgent new book" ....  That "will be a revelation to many readers, detailing 100 years of American history that simply isn't part of the mainstream lexicon. Peele masterfully draws a line from the "radical faith" that the scars of slavery ... to the bullets that (killed) Chauncey Bailey" - San Francisco Chronicle.

Peele "leaves no stone unturned." He "illuminates each new character -- even if it means going back a generation or two  ...he shows how racism and oppression spawned a radical faith rooted in revenge." Youngstown Vindicator

Killing the Messenger is "an astonishing account" that is comparable to David Simon and The Wire, saying, "More than a gripping true-crime story, "Killing the Messenger" is an indictment of a corrupt and cowardly civic culture that isn't unique to Oakland." - Cleveland Plain Dealer.

"Killing the Messenger is very well written and researched. Like James Michener, Peele begins at the roots." It "may be the best, most thoroughly researched and ... most objective book ... on (the Black Muslims) and is, no doubt, destine to become required reading in many colleges and universities." - Columbia Journalism Review

“Gripping and insightful…A page-turner, in the tradition of great true-crime novels such as Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.” -- San Francisco Bay Guardian

“A story told with the authority and nuance that comes with exhaustive research…Without a doubt Killing the Messenger will stand as the definitive work on Bailey's murder and Oakland's Your Black Muslim Bakery.” – The Associated Press

“[A] chilling narrative…Peele’s undying integrity not only uncovers enough hard-hitting facts to thoroughly close both the investigation and the murder, but also restores our trust that justice can be served.”  -- Uptown Magazine

“A very well written and thoroughly researched book…Peele bring vital historical context to the contemporary aspects of his tale…Killing the Messenger may well be the best, most thoroughly researched, and – with exceptions noted – most objective book thus far written on the subject, and is no doubt destined to become required reading in many colleges and universities.  Hopefully it will also be read in prisons, to educate young black men that Tricknology comes in all colors.  If the devil is indeed in the details, Peele has given us many demons to exorcise.” – Columbia Journalism Review

“An astonishing account…Reading it, I kept flashing back to "The Wire," David Simon's devastating HBO series on the disintegration of the American city. There are details in this book that even Simon couldn't have dreamed up…Peele's writing is straightforward and free of sensationalism…More than a gripping true-crime story, Killing the Messenger is an indictment of a corrupt and cowardly civic culture that isn't unique to Oakland.” – Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Killing the Messenger will be a revelation to many readers, detailing 100 years of American history that simply isn't part of the mainstream lexicon. Peele masterfully draws a line from the "radical faith" that the scars of slavery and Jim Crow helped popularize to the bullets that turned Chauncey Bailey into "a First Amendment martyr."” – San Francisco Chronicle

“[Thomas Peele] is the kind of writer who can convert the passion of newswriting into an art form, even if it's a subject -- the assassination of a journalist, and the events that led up to it -- that's never pretty nor polished.  Indeed, he managed to take a complex subject -- the rise of a family in Oakland, Calif. that worshiped the Nation of Islam, and then conspired to assassinate a journalist to protect themselves -- and make it simple, dramatic and unique.” – Tom Davis, The Huffington Post

“The murder of Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey and a family's violent rise to prominence is given gripping life…Compelling reading…And it is a chilling reminder of the murder and acts of intimidation that confront journalists around the world regularly. Seeking to bring light to the truth can be a dangerous pursuit, even here in the land of the free.” – LA Times

With a sense of immediacy and purpose, Peele reconstructs the story in gripping fashion. He is especially adept at describing personalities…Killing the Messenger leaves no stone unturned in its historical account. The author illuminates each new character — even if it means going back a generation or two — and then puts him into the context of the story. In doing so, he shows how racism and oppression spawned a radical faith rooted in revenge.” – Youngstown Vindicator

“A complex, carefully constructed story of the development of the Black Muslim Movement and one of its most notorious leaders.” – Kirkus

"[An] eye-opening narrative about radical religion and its consequences...Peele renders characters and scenes with rich detail and his chronicle of events surrounding Bailey’s death unfolds with the seamlessness of a fictional thriller, would that were the case.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“[A] riveting account.” - Booklist

“A riveting account of the events that led up to Bailey's murder…It is an exhaustively researched narrative that details the rise and fall of Your Black Muslim Bakery…[with] Sometimes stomach-churning detail.”  - Oakland Tribune

“This is totally chilling, incredibly strange material, and the book is sweeping, site-specific, and compulsively readable.” – The Observer’s Very Short List


Killing the Messenger is a crackling work of nonfiction, impossible to put down. Like Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven, Thomas Peele unpacks a tale of extremism and evil spawned by another peculiar American religion, The Nation of Islam. The malicious leader Yusuf Bey and his murderous followers and sons in the Your Black Muslim Bakery cult wreaked bloody havoc on the Bay Area for decades, until finally brought down by their brazen killing of a community journalist, Chauncey Bailey.” - Nina Burleigh, New York Times bestselling author of The Fatal Gift of Beauty

“Tough, taut, and true! Killing the Messenger is a non-fiction noir trip through the dark side of religion, journalism, racial politics, and law enforcement. A REAL thriller." – Robert Lipsyte, author of An Accidental Sportswriter

“Peele exposes the sordid and homicidal history of the Nation of Islam and its offshoots. Yusuf Bey, like David Koresh and Jim Jones before him, was the leader of a cult of personality. While most members of any cult are essentially good but misguided people, Peele shows how anyone, no matter how well-intentioned, will do almost anything – including kill – if he believes his leader is divine. Chauncey Bailey was, sadly, a victim of Bey’s megalomania.” --Karl Evanzz, author of The Judas Factor and The Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad

“Thomas Peele is one of the great investigative reporters working today.  His remarkable and obsessively researched book charts the trajectory of an Oakland crime family responsible for a string of murders. More important, perhaps, it exposes the willful myopia of the city officials and community leaders who allowed this outfit to operate over a span of decades.”  -A.C. Thompson, Investigative reporter, ProPublica and PBS Frontline

About the Author

THOMAS PEELE is a digital investigative reporter for the Bay Area News Group and the Chauncey Bailey Project. He is also a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism.  His many honors include the Investigative Reporters and Editors Tom Renner Award for his reporting on organized crime, and the McGill Medal for Journalistic Courage. He lives in Northern California.


Product Details

  • File Size: 4634 KB
  • Print Length: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (February 7, 2012)
  • Publication Date: February 7, 2012
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00540PB7S
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #994,378 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Petralia VINE VOICE on March 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A black journalist, Chauncey Bailey is brutally murdered on the streets of Oakland. The man who ordered the hit is Yusuf Ali Bey IV (Fourth), head of a spin-off Black Muslim church and bakery. Why should we care? The answer comes at us in the form of an American history lesson called "Killing the Messenger: A Tale of Radical Faith, Racism's Backlash and the Killing of a Journalist."

Fourth was the twenty-year old illegitimate son of church-bakery's founder, Yusuf Bey. The elder Bey raped Fourth's mother. Over the years, he had also raped Fourth, Fourth's sisters, brothers and aunts; he was said to have somewhere between forty and fifty children, all collecting some form of welfare support. Senior Bey owned expensive cars, lived in opulence, and wielded considerable power and influence in local and state politics. Fourth became head of the sect only when elder Bey was jailed for serial rapes of Fourth's thirteen year-old-sister. Given Fourth's life story, it's not difficult to understand that Fourth might become a sociopath who exhibited many of his father's traits plus murdering at least three people including Bailey. So, what about Bey senior? What's his story? Thomas Peele's answer is complex. It includes slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, KKK, red-lining, prejudice, racism, politics, and apathy. By digging for the rest of the story, Peele creates something akin to black history primer, part requiem for the lost, and part love song to Chauncey Bailey and all journalists everywhere. Read it, and weep.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Journalist Chauncey Bailey's murder stayed on the front page of the San Francisco Bay Area newspapers from the time of his assassination until the final verdict. It was only because of the Chauncey Bailey Project, an ad hoc group of relentless dedicated reporters, and their supporters, that justice was served in this case. We are fortunate to have one of the members of the Chauncey Bailey Project, Thomas Peele, write this excellent book that will probably be the final chapter in this story. KILLING THE MESSENGER will no doubt become a Bay Area best seller. It should. It is our history. There are lessons here for all communities to learn from. What happened in Oakland could happen anywhere.

I haven't finished the book yet but I can attest to it being a page-turner. There is one point, however, on which I take issue with the author, Thomas Peele. On page 35 he characterizes the City of Richmond "as one of the most hopeless and violent cities in America." I'm baffled as to how Mr. Peele, being a member of the Bay Area News Group, could make such a distorted and derogatory statement. Richmond residents began turning our City around several years ago. We certainly don't deserve this mean spirited, backhanded portrayal of our city. In fact, I would encourage Mr. Peele to write another book about how Richmond residents, with little or no funding but with popular dedication to a new vision for our city, have stood up to corrupt politicians and the Chevron Corporation, defeated a proposed multimillion dollar Indian casino, reduced the murder rate, transforming our community to the point where it has been chosen to be the home of a huge Federal research lab.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
By GUY D'ASTOLFO

In "Killing the Messenger: A Tale of Radical Faith, Racism's Backlash and the Killing of a Journalist," author Thomas Peele starts with a murder and digs around it until he has uncovered the history of the Black Muslim movement in America.
With a sense of immediacy and a descriptive eye, Peele unearths a story of America that only cracked the surface when a journalist was gunned down on an Oakland, Calif., street in 2007.
As an investigative reporter for a newspaper in the East Bay area that surrounds Oakland, the slaying of Chauncey Bailey by members of the Black Muslim cult was right in Peele's wheelhouse. The author hit it out of the park.
"Killing the Messenger" puts the reader into the inner sanctum of Your Black Muslim Bakery, a North Oakland institution run by Yusuf Ali Bey, and after his death, his son Yusuf Ali Bey IV. The author recreates conversations that would have shocked those outside its walls.
Both Beys lived as gods in their compounds, preaching hatred for whites and black self-sufficiency. They surrounded themselves with "soldiers," culled from the ghetto streets and mostly ex-cons, who would kill or die for him. Women were kept as sex slaves, sworn to submissiveness.
The sadistic elder Bey raped women and children at will in his compound while his fearful minions looked the other way. Murder, government fraud and a host of other illicit activities were also overseen by Bey and later, his son.
"Killing the Messenger" starts with the cold-blooded murder of Chauncey Bailey, a reporter for a black newspaper in Oakland who was writing an expose on the Bey cult. After laying the historical groundwork, the book then barrels back toward its starting point.
As the title suggests, Peele takes pains to illustrate how racial oppression gave rise to the radical pseudo-religion. Later in the book, he uncovers the shoddy inner workings of Oakland City Hall and its undermanned police force.
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