When it was first published in 1944, this novel with a curious title – taken from a Billie Holiday song about a lynching – sparked immediate controversy. In 1918, soldier Tracy Deen returns home to Georgia and resumes his love affair with Nonnie Anderson. Tracy is white, and Nonnie is a college educated black girl, now pregnant. Set in the era of lynch mob justice, where murderers must all be black and punished without delay, the too-late recognition by authorities of unrest results in a double tragedy. It horrified some critics, prompted booksellers in Boston and Detroit to ban its sale, caused the U.S. postal service to seize copies, and tempted the public enough to make it the years’s fiction bestseller.
Mariner Books, 1992 (1944)