Picks and Pans Review: The Ghosts of Medgar Evers: a Tale of Race, Murder, Mississippi, and Hollywood

updated 02/23/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/23/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Willie Morris

Cappuccino-drinking filmmakers meet good ol' boys in this vivid, behind-the-scenes account of the making of Rob Reiner's 1997 film, Ghosts of Mississippi, in which Alec Baldwin plays Bobby DeLaughter, the young Jackson, Miss., assistant district attorney who succeeded, 31 years after the deed, in convicting white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith of murdering civil rights leader Medgar Evers. It would be hard to imagine the collision of two more different worlds than Mississippi and Hollywood: In one memorable sequence, Reiner gets into a shouting match with district attorney Ed Peters over how the script portrayed members of the prosecutor's office. In another, Reena Evers, Medgar's daughter, is moved to tears by Baldwin's emotional summation of the evidence marshaled against her father's killer.

For noted author and Mississippi native Willie Morris (North Toward Home), who covered the 1994 De La Beckwith trial for a national magazine, this is rich soil, indeed. The film, which also starred Whoopi Goldberg and James Woods, wasn't a blockbuster, and Morris's somewhat cluttered account helps explain why. But most affecting is the author's sensitive rendering of the vivid human landscape of his Mississippi Delta homeland, a place still very much haunted by the ghost of Medgar Evers. (Random House, $23)

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