Praying for Sheetrock: A Work of Nonfiction

2027 Words Aug 24th, 2009 9 Pages
So emphatic is Melissa Fay Greene that Praying for Sheetrock is a work of nonfiction that she includes the phrase as a part of the title. Perhaps she feared that her use of novelistic techniques might lead the reader astray into believing that the stories she tells, the history she recounts, are imagined or distorted. Without resorting to journalese, she employs some of the reporter's tricks to make her work more immediate: background stories, anecdotes of local color, repetition, and just enough narrative tension to push her tale forward. Consciously or subconsciously, she absorbs and uses to great effect some of the techniques Truman Capote developed for In Cold Blood (1966). She re-creates conversations without unnecessary asides and, …show more content…
Its undisputed leader was Thurnell Alston, who along with Sammie Pinkney, a retired policeofficer, and Nathaniel Grovner, a preacher, brought the tactics of protest and confrontation to bear on a system of patronage controlled by Sheriff Poppell. He had actually employed black deputies and had "allowed" blacks to register to vote in the past. He depended on their voting in a bloc for his hand- picked candidates after 1966. Until that time, he manipulated the process so that no black man or woman could have been elected to the county commission, but he was a wily and astute politician who thought that he could control the shape of the inevitable changes he saw elsewhere when they came to "his" county. In that year, his black candidate, a 78-year-old man, was elected to the commission so that federal minority participation guidelines were satisfied. Poppell guaranteed federal funding of county projects, and although he was never indicted for any crime, some of those funds are said to have lined his and his relatives' pockets.

Sheriff Poppell already had, therefore, a respected black churchman, Deacon Thorpe, on the commission, and when Thurnell Alston ran against him the year after the shooting, the at-large voters returned the sheriff's yes-man to office. Once again, Poppell proved his clout. Among other things he controlled in the county was the selection of grand juries, and soon after the first election Alston lost, these white men
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