The Clinton County Reads 2022 book chosen by community ballots is “Race Against Time,” which takes readers on the twisting, suspenseful road that led to the reopening of the cases, decades later, of four infamous killings from the days of the civil rights movement.
Author Jerry Mitchell is a veteran investigative reporter for the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, who founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting in 2018.
The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship (the so-called Genius Grant), Mitchell has won more than 20 awards for his work, including the George Polk Award and the Sidney Hillman Prize. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
“The strength of ‘Race Against Time’ is Mitchell’s ability to weave a compelling narrative, much like a police procedural, outlining how reluctant prosecutors are convinced to fight for justice,” says the Washington Independent Review of Books.
The New York Times calls the book a “vivid, quick-paced, accessible account of horrific crimes,” and says, “‘Race Against Time’ admirably assumes the heavy burden that Jerry Mitchell takes on; it warrants praise, gratitude, and a wide audience.”
Mitchell was a court reporter for the Clarion-Ledger in 1989 when he watched a screening of the film “Mississippi Burning,” a fictionalized account of the FBI’s investigation into the slayings of three civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964. Mitchell was shocked to learn that, although the identities of the murderers were well-known, no one had ever been charged with a crime.
Mitchell’s reporting led him on a long career path in which he was often a crucial link among the victim’s families, the prosecutors, and the politicians. He uncovered critical evidence that kept justice moving forward, albeit slowly.
Although he left the Clarion-Ledger to work for the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting, he said he did so because newsrooms are vanishing in the state and, with that, the investigative reporting that the state desperately needs.
“We want to expose corruption, malfeasance, and injustices,” Mitchell has said. “And we want to raise up the next generation of investigative reporters. This work is simply too important to let it fade away.”
Mitchell received his undergraduate degree in communications from Harding University and his master’s in journalism from The Ohio State University in 1997, where he attended the Kiplinger Reporting Program.
This year, Clinton County Reads programming will be held from mid-March to mid-April. Details of discussions and programs — as well as their format this year — will be announced in early March.
The Clinton County Reads steering committee selects titles for the annual ballot based on literary merit and themes that lend themselves to programming and conversation throughout Clinton County. Other titles on this year’s ballot were: “Hidden Valley Road,” by Robert Kolker; “Missionaries,” by Phil Klay; “The Premonition,” by Michael Lewis; and “Transcendent Kingdom,” by Yaa Gyasi.
The committee times the announcement to allow ample opportunity to read the selection prior to the Clinton County Reads events in the spring.
Clinton County Reads is sponsored by the Blanchester Public Library, the Sabina Public Library and its New Vienna branch, the Wilmington Public Library and its Clinton-Massie branch, and BooksNMore.org.
Physical copies of “Race Against Time” are available at each library location, and ebooks and audiobooks are available via library apps such as Hoopla, Libby, or Overdrive. The book can also be purchased through Clinton County-based BooksNMore.org
Serving on the Clinton County Reads 2022 steering committee are chairman Chris Owens, Eileen Brady, Joy Brubaker, Peggy Dunn, Joe Knueven, Bonnie Starcher, Marla Stewart, Amy Volz, and Mary Thomas Watts.