It’s 1951. The Thebes State Penal Farm in Mississippi is up a dark river, surrounded by swamps and impenetrable piney woods. It’s the Old South at its most brutal—a place of violence, racial terror, and even more horrific rumors. Of the few who make the journey, black or white, even fewer return.
But in that year, two men will come to Thebes. The first is Sam Vincent, the former prosecuting attorney of Polk County, Arkansas who, with great misgivings, accepts a job to investigate a disappearance. Before he leaves on this dangerous trip, he confesses his fears to his former investigator Earl Swagger, now a sergeant of the Arkansas State Police. Earl pledges that if Sam is not back by a certain time, he will come looking for him.
What they encounter there is something beyond their wildest imagining of evil. The dying black town is ruled by white deputies on horseback who are more like an occupying army and the only escape is over the wild currents of the dark river that drowns as many people as it liberates. But nothing in town compares to the prison. Run by an aging madman with insane theories of racial purity, it is administered by a brutal sergeant known as Bigboy. The convicts call him The Whip Man—he can take a man’s soul with his nine feet of braided catgut.
Both Sam and Earl will be challenged to the limits of their strength by this place and will struggle not only for their own survival, but with the question: What does a man do when confronted with evil?
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"This is a very violent book. Part of the violence is to right an injustice where, in the Mississippi of 1951, there is a horrible prison for black men called Thebes State Penal Farm, located in the swamps, almost impossible to reach, except by water. A lawyer friend of Earl Swagger goes there to get some information for a client, and Earl bails him out of trouble, but then can't forget the awful conditions, and rounds up six more gunfighters to go back to Thebes, set the prisoners free, and tear it down. Two strong enemies are Section Boss, and Bigman, an albino of incredible strength."
Marti (5 out of 5 stars)