Thursday, July 01, 2004

It's out

My second book, Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America, is now officially available on bookstands today.

You can, of course, order it through Amazon or some other online seller, or through your bookstore. If it's not on the shelves, ask for it at the desk and they should be able to order it easily.

[Here is the publisher's page for the book.]

A little background, for those interested ...

As you can see from clicking on any of the above links, the book on its surface is about an unusual homicide case that happened in Ocean Shores, Washington, four years ago. Three young Asian men were confronted late at night by a group of young white men shouting racist slogans and epithets, the ringleader of whom eventually assaulted them. But one of the young men fought back, and the young white instigator -- a kid named Chris Kinison -- wound up being stabbed to death.

I became involved in the story in the months that followed because of what the case revealed about the nature of hate crimes. As far as anyone could tell, neither Chris Kinison nor his friends had any organizational or other connection to skinhead or hate groups -- though in the process of assaulting not just the three Asians but a series of other minorities in town throughout the weekend, Kinison and his friends had affected the look, the rhetoric and even the symbology of white supremacists, in the form of a large Confederate flag.

This reflects one of the realities that butts up against the many myths about hate crimes, namely, that only a small percentage of such crimes are committed by real "skinheads" or white supremacists. The average hate criminal is a young white man with no previous criminal record and no organizational "hate group" ties or history. And yet in the vast majority of these crimes, "hate group" rhetoric and symbols are used.

It suggests, for one thing, how broad-reaching the influence of white-supremacist belief systems actually can be, well beyond the rather sparse numbers that "hate groups" enjoy. It also tells us a great deal about the reach of the terroristic impulse that underlies bias crimes.

So I contacted my editors at and asked if they wanted me to cover the trial of the young Asian man, Minh Duc Hong, charged with manslaughter in Kinison's death. They gave me the green light, and I spent two weeks in Aberdeen and Montesano covering it. I was a little shocked to discover, when I entered the courtroom, that I actually was acquainted with Hong already ... but you can read about that in the book.

In any event, the story I turned in to Salon was 10,000 words, a ridiculous length, so it never ran there. Worse yet, I knew there was more to the story, whose surface I'd only begun to scratch. So I decided to make a book out of it.

Here's hoping you all enjoy it. Even if you disagree with my conclusions, I think you'll find it an interesting, informative and worthwhile read.

[You'll note that the subtitle on the photo above doesn't match the book's actual subtitle. I'm working to correct that soon.]

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