Nothing More Dangerous finds a place in today’s USA
By Derryll White
“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Allen Eskens is a new author to me. He lives in Minnesota, a former criminal defence lawyer. This story is set in the 1970s in a small town in Missouri – rural, southern, and racist.
Eskens is an easy author to read. He starts the story slowly, introducing the central character, Boady Sanders, and explaining his status as an outsider in a close social group. This novel does not read as a mystery until 140 pages in when a corpse is discovered.
Jessup, Missouri, is a one-industry town where the plant manager reigns supreme and the old ways have come down to some of the population – ‘nigger-knocking’ and unbridled Klan-style prejudice. Eskens effectively contrasts the prejudice with the caring and inclusive attitudes of others, including Boady’s mom.
Eskers started this novel in 1991 and never felt it was ready, until now. It is a prequel to his other five novels. “Nothing More Dangerous” certainly finds a place in the U.S.A. of today.
Excerpts from the novel:
RACE – “You mark my words,” Milo said. “What we need is a little nigger-knockin’, that’s what we need. Go back to the old ways of keepin’ things squared up.”
PREJUDICE – “Not always. People change.”
“People can change if they want to, but the sad truth is that humans are hardwired to be prejudiced. It’s passed down from ancestors who were just trying to figure out what to fear and what to hunt. We learned to separate things into good and bad, and that particular human frailty is alive and well in every one of us. It’s not a matter of understanding those instincts and fighting against them.”
MEMORY – If a guy could freeze time and hold a moment inside him forever unchanged, that would have been the kind of memory to hold on to. But memories aren’t like photographs; they can’t halt the passing of time. Instead, they lay like footsteps along a path, each determined by the step that came before and colored by the one to follow.
– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them. When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.