Edgars Flashback: Zebra · Keanu · Killer Mike
Plus stupid A&E tricks and a Chippendales first look.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be doing a look back at the 1980 Edgar Award nominees for Best Fact Crime. These titles, published in 1979, include a cold war espionage classic, an account of one of the 1970s’ most high profile criminal trials, a Texas murder saga, an investigative look at inmates on death row, and the story of one of the decades’ lesser-known serial murder cases. Are any of these titles worth a read 43 years on?
Our next title is Zebra by Clark Howard (no relation) which chronicles the 179 days in 1973 and 1974 when an unknown group of shooters targeted residents of San Francisco. The shootings were very public — on street corners and at bus stops — which created a palpable level of panic among citizens, and frustration from law enforcement. And all the victims were white, while eyewitness accounts pegged the assailants as Black.
As it turns out, this campaign of violence was seeded in a vision of driving whites out of the city and establishing San Francisco as a modern-day Mecca for the Nation of Islam (NOI). The beliefs of the NOI at this time were that the Black man was morally culturally superior and was destined to rule the earth.
From the jump, Zebra situates the reader in the inner sanctum of the Nation of Islam security branch, the Fruit of Islam. Within this operation, a group of men pegged the “Death Angels” get their marching orders from the groups’ leaders: kill whites (or “blue-eyed devils”) and earn your wings, with the rewards coming sooner if the victims are women and children. The perpetrators were largely ex-convicts, many of whom converted to the Nation of Islam during stints in California’s prison system. After release, they secured jobs in NOI-run businesses in San Francisco, and found community in the clubhouse of the mosque where this destructive indoctrination took hold.