Sunday, March 11, 2007

True Crime At The Movies

One of the best true crime books I’ve read in the last year is Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town. Despite my affinity for true crime reading, it’s not a book I would normally have picked up—I typically go for the more sensational stuff.

Anyway, I happened to be in Austin for the weekend last fall with my husband, and we were checking out a local independent bookstore; I was out of vacation reading material already, and Tulia was a highlighted staffer’s pick in the true crime section. I scanned the blurb on the back, thought it looked interesting enough, and made the purchase.

Needless to say, I was captivated. I finished reading the 450-page book in less than two days. The book tells the story of a 1999 drug bust that resulted in the arrests of approximately 15 percent of Tulia’s black population. The charges were based on the undercover work of a shady cop, and numerous convictions resulted from his testimony—despite the fact that none of his 100-plus drug buys (mostly cocaine, which was suspicious in and of itself in such a small, impoverished town) were ever corroborated.

It’s an amazing story of small-town politics, corruption and eventual justice. So I was pleased to read in this week’s Entertainment Weekly that a movie based the Tulia scandal is in the works, with Halle Berry set to star as an NAACP lawyer who intervenes to aid the wrongfully convicted. The movie is set to start shooting in May—and assuming a Jerry Bruckheimer-esque producer doesn’t jump in and add a wacky courthouse explosion to the mix, it should be worthwhile viewing.

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