THE LYNCHING will be published June 7. It is the story of the 1981 murder of Michael Donald in Mobile, Alabama by two stalwarts of the United Klans of America and how Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) used the case to destroy the UKA.
Early Readers of The Lynching
"A powerful account of how a Ku Klux Klan-sanctioned lynching in Mobile, Alabama, paved the way for legal victories against such hate groups. Leamer confidently untangles the legal and social aspects of the story, showing how the South has grappled with the horrific legacy Donald's murder represents. An engrossing true-crime narrative and a pertinent reminder of the consequences of organized hatred." (starred review, Kirkus)
"This well-written, suspense-filled book vividly evokes themes from the ugly, not-so-distant past." (Publishers Weekly)
“America's unaddressed history of lynching and racial violence has left this nation vulnerable to horrific hate crimes, none more devastating than what is documented in this compelling book. We ignore Laurence Leamer's detailed account at our peril.”(Bryan Stevenson, Founder of the Equal Justice Initiative)
“For decades, Morris Dees has fearlessly demolished White Supremacist hate groups with his legal cunning. Laurence Leamer does a wonderful job in The Lynching describing how Dees put the KKK out of business. This legal thriller is destined to become a major motion picture. Highly recommended.” (Douglas Brinkley, author of The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast)
“In The Lynching, Laurence Leamer has deftly told the tragic story of the 1981 lynching of Michael Donald and the long campaign of civil rights activist Morris Dees to use unprecedented legal tactics to cripple the modern Ku Klux Klan. But it is Leamer’s compelling and unsparing portraits of all the historical actors in this drama—Dees included--that creates a narrative as powerful as any novelist could imagine.” (Dan T. Carter, Bancroft Prize winning author of The Politics of Rage: George Wallace, the Origins of the New Conservatism and the Transformation of American Politics)
“The Lynching reveals truths that few people know and everyone should. It has everything -- the civil rights movement, the KKK, George Wallace, J. Edgar Hoover, Martin Luther King Jr., Viola Liuzzo, Michael Donald, Alabama and Presidential politics, and much, much more. But, most of all, it has the extraordinary story of Morris Dees, a uniquely American hero, fighting for and winning vengeance and justice in the courts.” (Arthur Bryant, chairman Public Justice)
Rose, my one-person play about the Kennedy matriarch, run off Broadway last year starring the wonderful Kathleen Chalfant. It opens mid August at the Greenhouse Theater in Chicago.
“I see everything, and pretend I see nothing,” Kathleen Chalfant announces as Rose Kennedy in “Rose: The Kennedy Story as Told by the Woman Who Lived It All.” She’s talking, in that specific moment of this charming solo show, about the parade of mistresses of her husband, Joseph P. Kennedy, but the statement could refer to any number of trials during Kennedy’s eventful 104-year life. In Laurence Leamer’s “Rose,” a Nora’s Playhouse production at the Clurman Theater on Theater Row, Ms. Chalfant is enchanting — isn’t she always? — working her typical magic in a white pantsuit, pearls and a 1960s bouffant. The playwright knows his material. Mr. Leamer is the author of a trilogy on the family, including “The Kennedy Women,” a best seller in 1994. And “Rose” has moments of magnificence. The audience seems to hold its breath as Rose reflects on her daughter Rosemary’s lobotomy, which went horribly wrong, and her husband’s dishonesty about the procedure. Was he really just worried that Rosemary was going to embarrass them with wanton behavior? The director, Caroline Reddick Lawson, lets us see Rose’s anger briefly — four of this woman’s children died in early adulthood, two by assassins’ bullets — but Rose quickly picks up her rosary and sublimates.”
---New York Times
“They never stop coming: the Dysfunctional American Family plays. Keeping all that in mind, it still may be that the most unlikely dysfunctional-family opus among us at the moment is Laurence Leamer's one-woman monologue Rose at the Clurman, in which the always impeccable Kathleen Chalfant impersonates the seemingly always impeccable Rose Kennedy. Rose holds nothing back. Candor is her guiding tenet. Chalfant presents an American Mother Courage, a survivor of four children's deaths who's been plagued by perhaps more sorrow than joy but has had to soldier on and will continue to function with a straight, defiant back as long as she's able.”
“Leamer does something clever, almost cruel: He makes Rose the unreliable narrator of her own life, showing how her dedication to the Kennedy myth made her a leading player in the almost unimaginable series of tragedies that have brought her, in her 80th year, to this desolate place. And, in Kathleen Chalfant, the production has an actress who is superbly skilled at probing the unspoken emotions tucked away behind Rose's iron-willed great-lady façade. In the end, Rose is a remarkable portrait of a woman who played the hand she was dealt without ever looking back. "This thing you call personal happiness doesn't last very long," she muses, adding, "Faith, duty, and honor go on forever." It's the accomplishment of Rose that this statement is both inspiring and more than a little disturbing.” -- David Barbour in L&SAmerica
“Was Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy the Machiavellian matriarch of an American political dynasty or just a devout, devoted, possibly self-deluded wife and mother? Laurence Leamer depicts the war between these two Roses in his tightly constructed solo play, set at the Kennedy family’s Hyannis Port compound in July 1969, a week after the Chappaquiddick disaster. At times Rose seems tightly controlled, as when she disavows any knowledge of the bootlegging that filled her marital coffers. But her litany of tragedies—four of nine children killed in their prime, another all but brain dead—also drives her to self-castigating anger. (“All my life I have obeyed men,” she laments, then reaches for the rosary beads.) One could not ask for a better interpreter of this complex role than the brilliant Kathleen Chalfant. Clad in an Arnold Scaasi–esque pantsuit by Jane Greenwood, she exudes her signature fiery intelligence. Rose’s thwarted drive is all there, kept in check by constant hand-wringing—a gesture not of guilt but of determination to maintain decorum at all costs.”
—Sandy MacDonald, TIME OUT NEW YORK
“Her eyes bore right through you, but the impression she gives is not one of anger, determination, or even base intensity — but of fear. Somewhere just behind you stands a powerful force that could not terrify this woman more. And the more time you spend with her, Rose Kennedy, at the production of Laurence Leamer's play Rose that just opened at the Clurman Theatre, you come to have an intimate relationship with it, too: hubris. As Leamer depicts the matriarch of the Kennedy clan, and especially as she's played with icy precision by Kathleen Chalfant, Rose is seemingly alone in her family at not having been directly affected by the corrosive capabilities of excessive pride. But she may have an even heavier burden to bear: watching her husband and most of her children waste away, one at a time, because they're confronted with the fact that none of them can completely escape the consequences of their actions. It's an incisive, sobering take on the family with perhaps the greatest claim (earned or otherwise) to American royalty.”
“There’s no question that the Kennedy story is one of modern American history’s most absorbing, compared by some to Greek tragedy. In fact, we see Rose turning from the Bible to discover solace in Euripides’ HECUBA, about a mother who has lost two children. The Kennedys continue to play an important role in American politics and society. And, for those who don’t know much about them or about Rose Kennedy herself, there’s much to learn from the story of a woman who endured so much grief, and who reveals many of her own potentially controversial personality traits, warts and all.”
--Theatre’s Leiter Side
“I couldn’t help thinking as I sat through Kathleen Chalfant’s brilliantly touching performance in Rose, that such an epic, century-spanning tale of a tragically doomed family puts other political dynasties—such as the Bushes—in a totally different and far dimmer light. The Kennedys are Greek tragedy. The Bushes, Neil Simon. The almost tragically mythological tale of the Kennedy clan, its very high highs and extraordinary lows, is all the more effective funneled through the mind of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, the vastly under-estimated, behind-the-scenes dutiful helpmate, long suffering mother, scorned wife and lonely widow. Laurence Leamer wrote Rose after listening to many hours of recordings of Mrs. Kennedy, so it must be assumed he absorbed her style of speaking, which is slightly stilted, with a cultured patina that hides her “lace curtain” Irish background. He manages to have all the salient events of Kennedy family unroll efficiently, with Rose bravely and self-deludingly spinning each dark moment—from her husband’s long affair with Gloria Swanson to the dastardly lobotomy performed on her daughter Rosemary, to the heartbreaking deaths of too many of her children—to avoid having to face her own feelings of guilt and unutterable grief. Rose has a shockingly limited run. If you want to see the brilliant Ms. Chalfant at the top of her form, and get a refresher course in the colorful Kennedys, run to the Clurman Theatre immediately!” --Theater Pizzazz
“What a difference a year and a half makes. In May 2014, when Rose premiered as a staged reading at New York Theatre Workshop, Kathleen Chalfant gave a riveting one-woman performance of the Kennedy matriarch. That she carried it off, without benefit of props, was a testament to the veteran actress’s professionalism. That and more was on display at the Clurman Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street, when Chalfant, now coifed in a curly brunette wig and clad in a 60s’era white pantsuit, reprises the role of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, complete with a perfect New England accent, on a set design that replicates the living room of the family’s Hyannis Port compound.
Although new material from playwright Laurence Leamer has been added, the core of the dialogue has not changed: a guilt-ridden mother forced to reflect on her less-than-perfect mothering, and how each family member, she included, has learned to cope. Still making excuses for Teddy (who among us hasn’t done the same for our children), fresh from the catastrophe of Chappaquiddick, Rose delivers a 90-minute monologue on the family, leaving few stones unturned. But with this production, she kicks it up a notch, including a poignant quote from Euripides on a mother’s pain over losing a child. Given how many she lost over the years, one wonders which was the most wrenching.”
--Woman Around Town
“After seeing Rose at the Clurman Theatre, you realize the Kennedy children never stood a chance. This is one dysfunctional family. Laurence Leamer’s play is for the most part a one-woman monologue for the brilliant Kathleen Chalfant who embodies the self absorbed Rose Kennedy. The play takes place at the family home in Hyannis Port. Pictures are on tables in framed photographs. It is July 1969 the day after the Ted Kennedy-Mary Jo Kopechne Chappaquiddick car accident. Rose is waiting for son Ted to return from sailing. She gazes out through the large upstage windows that double as screens on which her memories are projection and we see Rose Kennedy’s past turn to present. Chalfant looks elegant in the gorgeous white tailored pants suit designed by Jane Greenwood. She moves and convinces us of the woman she is portraying. We feel her breeding and her poise and the hint of a scratch of a emotional person inside. You will leave the theatre understanding the Kennedy children just a little bit more and understanding that all the wealth, money and power does not make you in the least bit happy.”
--Times Square Chronicle
“Rose, by Laurence Leamer, at the Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row, directed by Caroline Reddick Lawson, is a one woman play, with Kathleen Chalfant giving an amazing performance as Rose Kennedy, the matriarch of the Kennedy family. It takes place in her home in Hyannis Port, in late July, 1969, after the Chappaquiddick tragedy, where her son Senator Edward M. Kennedy drove his car into the water, in which his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowns. Chalfant, in 90 minutes, tells the story of this strong willed lady, who survives the deaths of her famous sons. The playwright had access to 40 hours of tapes, and most of the play is based on her own words. Rose Kennedy would be proud of Chalfant's superb performance.”
Praise for The Price of Justice
“Laurence Leamer does a superb job of condensing this 15-year legal brawl into a highly readable and entertaining narrative. Greed, arrogance, injustice, corruption - it has it all, and, sadly, it’s all true. Fortunately, it also has some heroes. This is a book I wish I had written.” —John Grisham
"Riveting and compulsively readable...Leamer has produced a Shakespearean tale of greed, corporate irresponsability, and personal hubris on the one hand, and idealism, commitment to justice, and personal sacrifice on the other. Blankenship is a villian for all time, and Stanley and Fawcett are lawyers who bring honor to their profession."
“A compelling nonfiction thriller…Leamer is masterful at presenting the important issues, strong personalities, political and legal machinations and economic stakes of the challenge to Massey, looking beyond the law to reveal a case about social inequities, greed, and arrogance.
“Leamer unfolds this amazing account of contemporary political corruption, skullduggery and mayhem. An eye-opening story about the relations among politics, business and justice.”
"The Price of Justiceprovides a captivating journalistic account of an Appalachian legal odyssey that culminated in a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court opinion about fundamental fairness in civil litigation.Leamer excels at describing the joys and strains of both trial preparation and the trial itself, all of which will seem familiar to any civil litigator."
“Don Blankenship and Massey Energy have caused catastrophic environmental damage in Appalachia. But thanks to two intrepid lawyers, there is hope in the ravaged land. The Price of Justice is bound to be an environmental and legal classic.” —Bobby Kennedy Jr, Senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council and President, Waterkeeper Alliance
“The Price of Justice is the nail biting, harrowing story of two courageous trial lawyers’ facing down corporate greed, wall street law firms, powerful politicians and corrupt judges in the hard scrabble and dangerous coal fields of West Virginia to protect the safety of miners and the health of our nation. I have nothing but admiration for these lawyers and this modern-day David and Goliath tale.” —Morris Dees, Founder and Chief Trial Counsel, Southern Poverty Law Center
“A gripping, suspenseful page-turner that reads like fiction and reinforces—with sometimes shocking, tragic clarity—the necessity of a fair justice system for all. This is an important, compelling, powerful book.” —Judge Ken Starr, President of Baylor University
“Laurence Leamer has produced a masterful legal thriller that will stun readers at every page. . . a riveting story of intrigue, corrupt politics, and the corrosive effects of power if left unchecked. This book is a tour-de-force; it will stand up against the best legal dramas of our time.” —Ken Gormley, bestselling author of The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr
“In this engaging narrative, Laurence Leamer shows how money corrupts both politics and the law. A disturbing warning in this era of increasingly unregulated campaign money, including in judicial elections, The Price of Justice is priceless.” —Adam Winkler, Author of Gunfight and Professor of Law UCLA School of Law
Dave Fawcett(l), Theodore Olson, and Bruce Stanley in front of the United States Supreme Court on March 3, 2009
Dave Fawcett(l), Hugh Caperton and Bruce Stanley in front of the West Virginia Supreme Court
Don Blankenship and his friend West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Elliottt "Spike" Maynard off together in France while Justice Maynard was going to vote on a case that if Blankenship's company lost would cost it $70 million.
Here Don Blankenship pushes his hand in front of an ABC cameraman when the man asks him for an interview.