Steve Oney is the author of And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank. The book received the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award, the National Jewish Book Award, and the Georgia Historical Society’s Malcolm and Muriel Barrow Bell Award. He is also the author of A Man’s World, a collection of magazine articles drawn from his career writing for GQ, Esquire, Los Angeles, The Atlanta Journal & Constitution Magazine, Time, and other publications. Over the years, his articles have been anthologized in The Best American Sports Writing, 2006, The Best American Magazine Writing, 2008, and Men of Letters: Fifty Years of the Playboy Interview. His history of National Public Radio will be published in 2025 by Simon & Schuster’s Avid Reader Press. Oney was raised in Atlanta and educated at the University of Georgia and at Harvard, where he was a Nieman and a Shorenstein Fellow. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, interior designer Madeline Stuart.
And the Dead Shall Rise
On April 27, 1913, the bludgeoned body of thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan was discovered in the basement of Atlanta’s National Pencil Factory. The girl’s murder would be the catalyst for an epic saga that to this day holds a singular place in America’s collective imagination—a saga that would climax in 1915 with the lynching of Leo Frank, the Cornell-educated Jew who was convicted of the murder. The case has been the subject of novels, plays, movies and even musicals, but only now, with the publication of And the Dead Shall Rise, do we have an account that does full justice to the mesmerizing and previously unknown details of one of the most shameful moments in the nation’s history.
In a narrative reminiscent of a nineteenth-century novel, Steve Oney recounts the emerging revelations of the initial criminal investigation, reconstructs from newspaper dispatches (the original trial transcript mysteriously disappeared long ago) the day-to-day intrigue of the courtroom and illuminates how and why an all-white jury convicted Frank largely on the testimony of a black man. Oney chronicles as well the innumerable avenues that the defense pursued in quest of an appeal, the remarkable and heretofore largely ignored campaign conducted by William Randolph Hearst and New York Times publisher Adolph Ochs to exonerate Frank, the last-minute commutation of Frank’s death sentence and, most indelibly, the flawlessly executed abduction and brutal lynching of Frank two months after his death sentence was commuted.