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Last Man Standing--The Tragedy and Triumph of Geronimo Pratt.

Last Man Standing--The Tragedy and Triumph of Geronimo Pratt by Jack Olsen Doubleday, October 2000, $26.95 ISBN 0-384-49367-3

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.
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Davis, Anthony C.
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2001
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