That deadpan, merciless self-examination by itself would make for a fine, lacerating memoir of one white boy's life in the late civil rights era. But Blood Done Sign My Name is so much more. An exhaustively researched history of a ''late-model lynching'' and the subsequent riots that rocked Oxford in 1970, ''Blood'' pulses with vital paradox. It's a detached dissertation, a damning dark-night-of-the-white-soul, and a ripping yarn, all united by Tyson's powerful voice, a brainy, booming Bubba profundo.
After the brazen beating and shooting of Henry ''Dickie'' Marrow, it hardly seems surprising that the acquittal of three Klan-connected white men touched off a small race war. But the details of this drama, which involved the KKK, the Black Panthers, budding black activist Ben Chavis, fire-eating segregationist Jesse Helms, and the FBI's infamous COINTELPRO unit, reveal something far more rich and nuanced than the didactic movie-of-the-week treatment we've come to expect.
Provocatively, Tyson credits the militant radicals of the '70s, not the sanitized saints of the '60s, for the practical social gains of black Americans. ''The indisputable fact was that whites in Oxford did not even