The Fence: Book summary and reviews of The Fence by Dick Lehr

The Fence

A Police Cover-up Along Boston's Racial Divide

By Dick Lehr

The Fence
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  • Published in USA  Jul 2009,
    400 pages.

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Book Summary

The Boston police officers who brutally beat Michael Cox at a deserted fence one icy night in 1995 knew right away that they had made a terrible mistake. The badge and handgun under Cox's bloodied parka proved it: He was not a black gang member but a plainclothes officer who had been chasing the same murder suspect they were.

While Cox was being beaten, Officer Kenny Conley chased down and captured the suspect. Afterward, as Cox waited for an apology from his department, federal prosecutors accused Conley of lying when he denied witnessing Cox's beating. Both Cox and Conley grew up in Boston and had dedicated their lives to serving the Boston Police Department, but when they needed its support, they were abandoned.

A remarkable work of investigative journalism, The Fence details the shocking story of the attack, the attempted cover-up by police officers beholden to a "blue wall of silence," and the bitter repercussions on the lives of those involved. It follows Cox's 1998 federal civil rights trial against the Boston Police Department and features a diverse cast of characters, including the victims, their families, the officers accused in the beating, city officials, and the actual murder suspect—all set against the rich backdrop of Boston.

Like J. Anthony Lukas's 1985 Pulitzer Prize-winning classic Common Ground, The Fence examines Boston's race relations and the unwritten police code of covering up through the intimate lens of those who experienced the crime directly. By coming to know the officers and criminals brought together that night at the fence—and the families whose lives were changed forever as a result—we sense how deeply the strains of prejudice run in this city still haunted by tribalism and racial tension.

Boston journalist Dick Lehr has written a gritty, captivating true-crime story with unusual depth—a chilling exploration of what happens when fear of admitting mistakes combines with a police culture of lying to undermine justice.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"An intriguing read that provides an admirable, in-depth description of police corruption." - Library Journal

"Starred Review. Jolting, nightmarish and potent, this true cop yarn bests any bogus reality show or overblown tabloid tale with its hard-boiled spin." - Publishers Weekly

"A cautionary tale about the abuse of power and a timely civics lesson on the virtue of standing up to authority." - Kirkus

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by JOSEPH SHEPPECK
Overzealous Prosecutors and their willful investigators.
An excellent read. The story is thoroughly documented by a reporter/writer without an agenda. Policemen and their personal history, street gang members, prosecutors with their associated investigators play their roles as a consequence of the events that stem from the night at the Fence. It is a sad but predictable result that prejudices, the weakness of human nature, apparently rational but wrongful conclusions and the power of the prosecutors and investigators create a double travesty of justice. Most of the players in this real drama acted out over ten plus years have little be proud and some behaved in shamelessly. We all can profit from the story and learn valuable life lessons.
JRS

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Author Information

Dick Lehr Author Biography

dicklehr.com

As a reporter for nearly two decades for the Boston Globe, Dick Lehr won numerous journalism awards and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. A professor of journalism at Boston University, he is coauthor of the Edgar Award-winning Black Mass and the Edgar Award finalist Judgment Ridge, among others. He lives near Boston with his wife and four children.

Link to Dick Lehr's Website

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  • Black Mass jacket
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