Last Man Standing--The Tragedy and Triumph of Geronimo Pratt.
If you've ever had any doubt that the scales of justice are sometimes unbalanced, then you need to read Olsen's new biography. Subtitled The Tragedy and Triumph of Geronimo Pratt, Olsen tells the story of a classic frame-up in the corrupt Los Angeles and federal judicial systems of one of the 20th-century's most famous political prisoners. Readers will also find the parallel stories of a novice white lawyer (Stuart Hanlon) and a flashy veteran black attorney (Johnnie Cochran) who become allies to champion Pratt's cause. Together they lead a team of believers on a fight that lasted twenty-five years.
Olsen sketches an absorbing account of Pratt, a former Black Panther Party member, who was sentenced to life in prison for a murder he did not commit. His conviction was based primarily on the testimony of an FBI informant and some foul play by the LAPD. Pratt becomes a euphemism for every man, as the author shows his rise from altar boy to the Panthers' Deputy Minister of Defense, and from the leader of the infamous LA chapter, to California's most feared prisoner.
Pratt's introduction to the "criminal justice" system comes early in the book. As a young boy, he and his brother are arrested for whistling at a white girl. As his sister tells him after the incident, "slavery isn't dead, it's just changed form."
This is an action-packed biography that reads like a novel. Pratt's spin on the Panthers alone is one of the most interesting since Elaine Brown's autobiography, A Taste of Power (Anchor, 1994). Olsen's clever use of alternating first- and third-person voices is reminiscent of one person telling a story with a witness testifying from the gallery. Anyone interested in a story of persistence against the odds will truly be inspired by Last Man Standing.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Author:||Davis, Anthony C.|
|Publication:||Black Issues Book Review|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2001|
|Previous Article:||Rosa Parks.|
|Next Article:||The New Colored People: The Mixed-Race Movement in America.|
|The Forgotten Heroes: The Story of the Buffalo Soldiers.|
|To Serve and Protect: A Tribute to American Law Enforcement.|
|Courage to Love: A Gay Priest Stands Up for His Beliefs.|