Albert French lights up the monstrous face of American racism in this harrowing tale of ten-year-old Billy Lee Turner, who is convicted and executed for murdering a white girl in Banes County, Mississippi, in 1937. Constructed in a series of powerfully lean vignettes, Billy is a tour de force of dramatic compression, focusing on how this outrageous event affects an entire community. The high-spirited Billy, his mysterious and passionate mother, Cinder, and his friend Gumpy are realized with depth and authority. Told in classic, unrelieved terms yet with remarkable compassion and restraint, their story is an unsentimental and ultimately heart-rending vision of racial injustice.
“A work of art . . . Billy never lets up, not for a minute . . . The images rush straight to your brain. . . . Magnificient.”—Bill McKibben, New York Daily News
“Althought I only knew Billy Lee Turner for an all too brief 214 pages, I will mourn his death for the rest of my life. That’s how powerfully and dramatically written this book is.”—Claude Brown, author of Manchild in the Promised Land
“Billy’s strength is not strictly as a novel; it lives as theater. It is a folk opera that . . . moves with unfaltering pace to its shattering climax.”—New York Newsday