Author Talk Alex Tresniowski: The Rope: A True Story of Murder, Heroism, and the Dawn of the NAACPTuesday June 8, 2021
The Rope: A True Story of Murder, Heroism, and the Dawn of the NAACP by The New York Times bestselling author Alex Tresniowski
Live & Virtual - Join author Alex Tresniowski to discuss his true crime book, The Rope.
In the tranquil, segregated town of Asbury Park, New Jersey, in November, 1910, a ten-year-old schoolgirl Marie Smith is brutally murdered. A black handyman and ex-boxer named Tom Williams is arrested for the crime, and quickly presumed guilty by the white mob that gathers around the town jail, ready for a lynching. But did Tom Williams really do it?
Occurring halfway between the end of the Civil War in 1865 and the formal beginning of the Civil Rights Movement in 1954, the Tom Williams case became only the third legal case ever handled by a new civil rights organization christened just one year earlier—the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or the NAACP. The Marie Smith murder sits at the historic intersection of sweeping national forces—religious extremism, class struggle, the infancy of criminal forensics, and America’s Jim Crow racial violence.
The Rope also tells the story of Ida. B. Wells, the pioneering journalist, political activist and public speaker whose bravery and persistence led directly to the creation of the NAACP. The book traces of Wells' investigation of one lynching—and dramatic, last-second prevention of another—stirred the forces that ultimately produced the most powerful civil rights organization in the world.
History and true crime collide in a murder mystery that features characters as complex and colorful as those found in the best psychological thrillers—the unconventional truth-seeking detective Ray Schindler; the sinister pedophile Frank Heidemann; the ambitious Asbury Park Sheriff Clarence Hetrick; the mysterious “sting artist,” Carl Neumeister; and the victim, Marie Smith, who represented all the innocent, vulnerable children living in turn-of-the-century America.
Gripping and powerful, The Rope is an important piece of history that gives a voice to the voiceless and resurrects a long-forgotten true crime story that speaks to the very divisions tearing at the nation’s fabric today.
Alex Tresniowski was a writer for both Time and People magazines, handling mostly human-interest stories. He is the author or coauthor of more than twenty books, including the 2005 true-crime thriller The Vendetta, which was used as a basis for the 2009 Johnny Depp movie Public Enemies.
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