Brady Sims shoots and kills his son, who has just been convicted and sentenced to Angola Prison. In front of the emptying courthouse, Brady's act is witnessed by many. Mapes, the small town sheriff, gives Brady 2 hours to take care of his business, and rookie reporter, Louis Guerin, is assigned the story. Guerin observes and listens in the town barber shop, as the old men reveal black stories about Brady and his son and this tragic day. Powerful storytelling in distinctive voices generate the truth about this legendary man, Brady Sims!
Ernest J. Gaines's new novella revolves around a courthouse shooting that leads a young reporter to uncover the long story of race and power in his small town and the relationship between the white sheriff and the black man who "whipped children" to keep order. After Brady Sims pulls out a gun in a courtroom and shoots his own son, who has just been convicted of robbery and murder, he asks only to be allowed two hours before he'll give himself up to the sheriff. When the editor of the local newspaper asks his cub reporter to dig up a "human interest" story about Brady, he heads for the town's barbershop. It is the barbers and the regulars who hang out there who narrate with empathy, sadness, humor, and a profound understanding the life story of Brady Sims—an honorable, just, and unsparing man who with his tough love had been handed the task of keeping the black children of Bayonne, Louisiana in line to protect them from the unjust world in which they lived. And when his own son makes a fateful mistake, it is up to Brady to carry out the necessary reckoning. In the telling, we learn the story of a small southern town, divided by race, and the black community struggling to survive even as many of its inhabitants head off northwards during the Great Migration.
About the Author
Ernest Gaines was born on a plantation in Pointe Coupee Parish near New Roads, Louisiana, which is the Bayonne of all his fictional works. He is writer-in-residence emeritus at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. In 1993 Gaines received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for his lifetime achievements. In 1996 he was named a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, one of France's highest decorations. He and his wife, Dianne, live in Oscar, Louisiana.
“A taut and searing tale about race and small-town justice. . . . The history the men recount is, indeed, riveting in its insights into how racism harms everyone, crystallized in Mapes’ heartbroken tribute to his friend: ‘Hell of a man, that Brady Sims.’ Gaines tells a hell of a story.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist