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The Day The Klan Came To Town on Criminal Element

By Alverne Ball
Criminal Element

The Day the Klan Came to Town

Publisher: Pm Press, writer: Bill Campbell, artist: Bizhan Khodabandeh

This 2021 book is a fictionalized retelling of the 1923 riot that occurred in Carnegie, PA after the KKK came to town to cleanse it of its Catholic and Jewish residents. The story focuses on a Sicilian immigrant, Primo Salerno. He is not a leader; he’s a man with a troubled past: He was pulled from the sulfur mines of Sicily as a teen to fight in the First World War. Afterward, he became the focus of a local fascist and was forced to emigrate to the United States. He doesn’t want to fight the KKK but feels that he may have no choice. The entire town needs him—and indeed everybody—to make a stand. This breakout hit is up there with Incognegro because it does something that rarely occurs in the genre of crime graphic novels— it takes a look at an objectionable moment in the racially charged history of the United States and it reflects that image back at the reader as a pseudo-double-consciousness to remind us of how far we’ve come, but more importantly, to show us how easy it can be for us to step back into that darkness of our racist past.

While these 5 books are an excellent place to start, they in no way can represent all of the treasures in the vast sea of graphic novels and comics that deal with the subject of crime. For those of you who already know and love the genre, what are some of your favorites that aren’t (yet) on this list?

Back to Bizhan Khodabandeh’s Artist Page | Back to Bill Campbell’s Author Page

The Day the Klan Came to Town