Books: And a Taut Account of a 1920s Race Trial Gets the Nonfiction Prize

To put it mildly, the book world was surprised when Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton was not even nominated for the NBA. A fat biography of a Founding Father--wasn't that the very thing the judges were supposed to love? Instead, Kevin Boyle, an associate professor of history at Ohio State University, turned out to be this year's winner. Although no one in his book wears a powdered wig, Boyle has an irresistible story to tell in Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age (Holt; 415 pages). And tell it he does, sometimes with a novelistic richness, always with a sure feel...

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