A Shot in the Moonlight by Ben Montgomery

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: It’s amazing how racism and stupidity always go together.

Quick synopsis: The story of George Dinning, who survived being shot in the head to ultimately sue his mob.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: Bennet H. Young, who helped Dinning sue the mob, once took part in a naked charge during the Civil War. Yes, you read that right.

Fun Fact for History Nerds: The outcome of the initial criminal trial was novel in that it made literally no one happy, racist or other.

My Take: A mob showed up at a Black man’s house in the middle of the night just to “talk” as friends. Some of their faces may have been obscured, depending on who you talked to and whether they were in front of a jury or not. Oh, and the Black man shot indiscriminately. Honest. They didn’t do anything aggressive.

There’s the set up of the book which seems anything but paint by numbers. George Dinning survived his ordeal is amazing enough. That he was able to ultimately sue the mob as a Black man is equally amazing. Who helped him sue the mob is the least likely aspect of this story.

Bennet H. Young represented Dinning in the civil case and has entered my list of most confounding human beings at #1. I have never come across a real human so full of contradictions. He was an unabashed Confederate soldier. He was also a tireless advocate for freed people.

Yet another example of history being stranger than fiction.

Verdict: A great book even for a non-history nerd. Go read it.

If You Liked This Try:

  • Tony Horwitz, Midnight Rising
  • Timothy Egan, The Immortal Irishman
  • H.W. Brands, The Zealot and the Emancipator
  • Charles Lane, Freedom’s Detective
  • Brenda Wineapple, The Impeachers
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals
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A Shot in the Moonlight by Ben Montgomery
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