More than monkey business
As the 1925 trial of the century shapes up, Dayton does, indeed, attract publicity. It becomes the laughingstock of the entire nation. Readers who know the story through Inherit the Wind will enjoy Ronald Kidd's retelling in Monkey Town: The Summer of the Scopes Trial. Kidd does a fabulous job of recreating the sense of a small Tennessee town taking on more than it can handle. When William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow hash out evolution versus science, with H.L. Mencken reporting for the national papers, Judge Raulston decides to limit the case to a simple matter of whether Scopes did indeed teach evolution. All of the fiery rhetoric comes to naught when Scopes is found guilty after nine minutes of jury deliberation and fined $100.
In the chaos of a little town inundated by the outside world and a young girl in love with a man on trial, all lives are changed.
Readers will find inevitable similarities to To Kill A Mockingbird in this superb historical novel, which has a strong sense of place, well-developed characters and clearly related ideas. Dean Schneider is a teacher in Nashville.