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God'll Cut You Down: The Tangled Tale of a White Supremacist, a Black Hustler, a Murder, and How I Lost a Year in Mississippi
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God'll Cut You Down: The Tangled Tale of a White Supremacist, a Black Hustler, a Murder, and How I Lost a Year in Mississippi

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  3,475 ratings  ·  423 reviews
An unlikely journalist, a murder case in Mississippi, and a fascinating literary true crime story in the style of Jon Ronson.

A notorious white supremacist named Richard Barrett was brutally murdered in Mississippi in 2010 by a young black man named Vincent McGee. At first the murder seemed a twist on old Deep South race crimes. But then new revelations and complications c
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published November 28th 2014 by Riverhead Books (first published September 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.62  · 
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 ·  3,475 ratings  ·  423 reviews

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Start your review of God'll Cut You Down: The Tangled Tale of a White Supremacist, a Black Hustler, a Murder, and How I Lost a Year in Mississippi
Aug 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
i don't really read a lot of nonfiction, so when i do, it needs to be either about a subject matter i have a deep personal interest in: food, sharks, byron, books/linguistics, etc, or it needs to be really fun.

and i thought this one was really fun.

it's also deeply sad, but safran doesn't really give you much of a chance to absorb the sad parts, because this book is kinda like this guy:

and it's all flash and flutter before he is off onto another tangent of the story, another anecdote, another br
Petra-X Off having adventures
I had really enjoyed John Safran's Depends What You Mean By Extremist (still thinking on a review). His style is very much like Jon Ronson and Paul Theroux, a more brash, Australian version of documentary film maker of very nice man confronts really dreadful people and goads them into giving themselves away. They all like to expose the weird, the evil and those who live on the fringes. So they all go in for getting at the KKK or similar.

Safran got in over his head when his pet White Supremacist
Dec 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic
Murder in Mississippi is an enthralling exploration of a murder, its participants, and its aftermath, written by John Safran - one of Australia’s best prodders of hornets’ nests.

During the filming of his last television series, Race Relations Safran travelled to Mississippi and publicly pranked white supremacist Richard Barrett, publicly announcing that Barrett had African ancestry (as we all do). A year later Barrett was brutally murdered, his repeatedly stabbed and partly burnt body recovered
Oct 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian, 2013
I really loved this book. I heard Safran talk about it at the Emerging Writers' Festival earlier this year, and was excited to hear him discuss his love of Capote and the true crime genre. I was initially worried that my high expectations might make this book fall short of impressing me, but it lived up to all my hopes.

As much an exploration of what happens when an author goes chasing a story as a an exploration of the story itself, Murder in Mississippi manages to explore a small-town crime, ra
Man, it’s been a really long time since I’ve had a book hangover, I forgot what it was like. I also forgot that you can usually tell when it’s about to happen. Towards the end of the book–which you have finished at all costs, ignoring sleep and food–you start to feel a little funny, like the boundaries between real life and book life have disappeared. And then afterwards, you’re just done. With books, with stories, with bathing. After I finished it, I ended up starting another rewatch of Legend ...more
Eustacia Tan
Dec 20, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
This book is a really difficult book to evaluate. I mean, it is a pretty unique true crime novel, but unique can be both a positive and negative term.

And to be honest, my first impression was not very good. When I read a true crime novel, I'd want to read more about the crime, not about the author and how he feels shut out of the crime (he does get to meet the murderer later, though he talks with him mostly through the phone). Of course, it doesn't help that at the start of the book, he plays a
When John Safran, investigative reporter from Melbourne, Australia, heard that white supremacist Richard Barrett had been murdered he was shocked to the core. He had been in Mississippi a year earlier, interviewing the man for his TV series Race Relations. The two days he had spent with Barrett were days which left him uneasy and hadn’t left his mind – now he was dead, murdered at the hands of a black man.

Deciding he needed to be in Mississippi to cover the trial, he took time off from work and
Oct 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
So first, here’s the disclaimer: I received this book free from Riverhead Books in Goodreads’ book giveaway. Oh, and my confession: the publisher requests that any quotes used in a review be taken from the final printed version of the book. Sorry, publisher. This is the book you gave me to review and this is the edition I’m pulling my quotations from. Unless Safran’s quotes are completely wrong, I can’t see that it will matter a whole lot. Now, on to my review.

Many of the books I add to my “to-r
15/11 - I've never watched any of John Safran's shows because I don't like to see journalists confronting and antagonising dangerous people, like KKK grand dragons (why on earth are they 'dragons'?). It's not like they're going to change their minds, and sometimes it doesn't seem too far-fetched to worry about the offending journalist's (and possibly their camera man) body being found hanging from a tree a week later.

If I was watching this, rather than reading it, I would be yelling at the tv de
Apr 04, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
How to describe this book?

It begins with a TV prank on a white supremacist. A few years later, when the white supremacist is murdered, Safran remembers his encounters with the man and can't help but take an interest in the story. Particularly when it emerges that the killer was a black man, and that the white supremacist may have made sexual advances towards him. Intrigued, Safran heads to Mississippi to try and untangle the case for himself.

There is some thought-provoking stuff in there. As the
Oct 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Sure, Safran’s methods were dubious, but I’d expect nothing less. I was thoroughly entertained by his adventures and interactions with the locals more than the murder case itself, which quickly turned out to be quite ordinary, really.

As a fellow Melbournian living in the American South, I chuckled and nodded my way through Safran’s adventures with catfish, rednecks, Walmart, dirt roads, twangy accents, trailers, the ‘unspoken race thing,’ and the heat, oh god, this heat...
Deborah Ideiosepius

John Safran is a television documentary maker I first encountered in 1997, when he competed in Race Around The World. His reporting style stood out, even then, since he chose controversial topics such as religion and race which he addressed in an aggressively confrontational manner. While he was frequently rude or dismissive of other opinions or cultures, he incorporated enough humour to make the episodes enjoyable, as long it was not you or one of your holy cows on the firing line. His style of
Jun 09, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Whilst this was an entertaining read what let it down was that it was very clumsily written and in need of some serious editing. There were errors that detracted from the flow of the story as well as serious errors with names of people involved within a chapter which was very confusing for the reader. I love True Crime books but sadly this one did not deliver on its promise. There was no real outcome or closure and it left me with lots of unanswered questions. Safran would begin on a train of th ...more
John Safran is Australia's Michael Moore with the addition of a tendency to go to the occasional very overboard and tacky stunt. I was surprised in this book that he did not deviate too far from the norm as he investigates the death of a white supremacist and the black man who was the murderer.
Safran shows a real human side as he first tries to to prove the murderer innocent, then to find a solid motive for the murder. His investigation all revolves around the strange background of the victim, t
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m really surprised this book is not higher rated, I loved it! Safran has a great writing style, throwing himself into the story in a really funny, personal way. It’s kinda the style I’d hoped Louis Theroux’s books would be, but aren’t. I really enjoyed following this story and all the twists, turns and brick walls!
Sam Still Reading
Dec 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those wanting to try true crime
Recommended to Sam Still Reading by: copy from the publisher, thank you!
Most Australians have probably heard of John Safran. His television shows tend to attract controversy and letters to the editor – me, I find them insightful and willing to tackle the big issues, such as race and religion. So how does John Safran on the page compare to him on the screen?

Very, very well. In fact, I’d go so far to say that I enjoyed his writing more than the television programmes (except for the lack of Father Bob). Safran picks a big topic for his first book – true crime. To make
Dec 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
GOD'LL CUT YOU DOWN is not the gritty true crime tale you might expect from the title. John Safran is an Australian documentarian who specializes in fairly juvenile pranks. He takes a fairly light approach to murder. I enjoyed seeing an outsider's approach to Mississippi and US racial tensions, and appreciated that Safran was pretty open about his various biases. But I often found him pretty annoying, the sort of guy who isn't half as funny as he thinks he is. I kept reading, however, because he ...more
Travis Starnes
The premise of the book caught my eye and I had to check it out. In the book the author compares his work to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and it is an accurate comparison. Or rather I can see that the author struck out to get the same kind of story when he stumbled upon a murder with a similarly interesting set of characters. The problem comes from people he has contact with. While they are almost always interesting these people feel like they were edited to fit a mold. The way they a ...more
Heather Fineisen
This is not your typical true crime book and John Safran lets you know this right up front. He's somewhat of an Australian comedian known for pranks who has a comedy show. He first meets "white supremacist" Richard Barrett when he travels to the state of Mississippi in the US to interview the unknowing subject for one of these pranks. As a non-practicing Jew, can he join the we hate almost everyone who isn't white, male and Christian organization, (no, not THAT political party) the KKK. The stor ...more
Christie Thompson
Murder in Mississippi takes the reader on John Safran’s intrepid travels through America’s deep south (mostly Mississippi) poking his nose into a case involving the murder of a white supremacist by a black man.

The narrative is peppered with Safran-isms and pop culture references; it made me wonder if you would get as much out of the book if you didn’t have some understanding of John’s television character. I’ve watched most of his documentaries keenly, am something of a fan, and found the descri
Nov 22, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Safran is such a little shit. I mean, that's kind of his thing, right? It's not like he's exactly trying to make himself look good. But isn't that annoying in itself? Like the so-called "brutally honest" frenemy who, not satisfied with saying something rude and getting away with it, also demands moral accolades for their commitment to unvarnished truth or whatever. But I can't deny I really wanted to know what happened. ...more
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
True crime books focus primarily on the crime and secondarily on the background of the area. John Safran did just the opposite in his book. Successfully. He interviewed anybody and everybody in Mississippi who knew the accused or the victim. Consequently he paints an interesting picture of Mississippi. Especially with interviews like this:

I ask Curtis if people around here know he’s gay.
“They just don’t know”, he says. “It never comes up, and I see no reason to tell them. I didn’t tell my fam
When John Safran was filming Race Relations he was going to include a segment where he announced at The Spirit of America Awards that Mississippi’s most notorious white supremacists Richard Barrett has an African heritage. This was no stretch as all bloodlines will eventually lead back to an African ancestor but the threat of legal action meant it was never aired. A year later this white supremacist was murdered and the killer African American. Safran heads back to Mississippi to find out just w ...more
Dec 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
"I feel like I've been tied to a piece of elastic my whole life that's finally pulled me to Mississippi." (p62)

Controversial issues and John Safran go together like the American South and a mint julep. Since streaking through Jerusalem and breaking into Disneyland during the first series of Race Around the World, he has gone on to ask documentary subjects uncomfortable questions, primarily about religion and race. When filming his TV series Race Relations, he spent some time with Richard Barrett
Oct 31, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommended to Deborah by:
John Safran, the author of God'll Cut You Down, is described by his publisher as "a young white Jewish Australian documentarian," and there is no question that his style is better suited to the medium of video, with its rapid cuts (transitions) and its segment titles which manage to be simultaneously hokey and belittling (e.g., "The Ballad of the Creepy Old Man"). As a native of the Deep South (albeit Georgia, not Mississippi), I was interested in seeing my neck of the woods from an Aussie's per ...more
Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum
John Safran is a household name in Australia, known for stirring the pot, tackling awkward and controversial subjects, causing strife and making us laugh.

My favourite John Safran creation would have to be the Not The Sunscreen Song, a parody of Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen) by Baz Luhrman.

So, after being a fan of his documentaries and funny antics (such as getting a fatwa put out on Rove) I was very interested to learn John Safran had turned his hand to writing. Murder In Mississippi is S
David Beards
Sep 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Safran's literary debut is a sensational, irreverent and absorbing book about the murder of white supremacist Richard Barrett, his killer Vincent McGill, and the eclectic cast of Mississippi characters he meets along the way. The 'book about writing a book about a murder' narrative makes the reader feel as though they are along side john for his 6 month Mississippi journey.

One quote sums up the tone of the book: "Two pitch-black teenagers are joylessly filling balloons from a helium tank.
Chris Steeden
Jan 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I confess to not having heard of the Australian John Safran before and have not seen any of his documentary work but will look out for it in the future.

This is not like your average true crime account. It appears that Safran sets out to write a true crime book of the murder of Richard Barrett, a white supremacist in Mississippi, in the way of ‘In Cold Blood’ and other greats but events transpire that Safran actually becomes a part of the story after the fact and for that it is original and reall
Eryn Grant
Dec 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this...loved the ballad sections where Safran recounts peoples stories and histories. The picture of the South is etched in people's real lived experiences that Safran doesn't have to explain how Mississippi works. I've been to America's south and it is so different to the rest of the country. Safran picks up on this difference well and also demonstrates how one could become used to the subtle aspects of segregation in this context. However I felt uncomfortable at how close Saf ...more
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This felt a bit pointless, or if there was a point it was just to explore the crime and surrounding circumstances and not to provide any insight or answers. Safran quotes a book early on that suggests that true crime reflect the prevailing existential point of view of the time: this gave no such point of view even a nihilistic one.

Also, while I understand that Safran has a unique "voice" some of the book needed some editing. The "fade in fade out" construct at the beginning was irritating and e
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“Mike says the district attorney knows Vincent will be out in thirty, and his tough talk is theater for the voters of Rankin County. He says county officials are in a bind. Their conservative constituents have two demands: (1) Lock ’em away and throw away the key, and (2) don’t raise taxes. So officials go through the show of being arch-conservative, then, when faced with paying the prison bill, they release prisoners early. In fact, Mike says, this is why Vincent was out of prison early and able to kill Richard.” 0 likes
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