• When Evil Lived in Laurel

  • The "White Knights" and the Murder of Vernon Dahmer
  • By: Curtis Wilkie
  • Narrated by: Stephen Graybill
  • Length: 12 hrs and 38 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (40 ratings)

1 title per month from Audible’s entire catalog of best sellers, and new releases.
Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Premium Plus plan is $14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
When Evil Lived in Laurel  By  cover art

When Evil Lived in Laurel

By: Curtis Wilkie
Narrated by: Stephen Graybill
Try for $0.00

$14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Buy for $31.50

Buy for $31.50

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

One of NPR's Best Books of the Year

A Finalist for the 2022 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime

The inside story of how a courageous FBI informant helped to bring down the KKK organization responsible for a brutal civil rights-era killing.

By early 1966, the work of Vernon Dahmer was well-known in South Mississippi. A light-skinned Black man, he was a farmer, grocery store owner, and two-time president of the Forrest County chapter of the NAACP. He and Medgar Evers founded a youth NAACP chapter in Hattiesburg, and for years after Evers’ assassination, Dahmer was the chief advocate for voting rights in a county where Black registration was shamelessly suppressed. This put Dahmer in the crosshairs of the White Knights, with headquarters in nearby Laurel. Already known as one of the most violent sects of the KKK in the South, the group carried out his murder in a raid that burned down his home and store.

A year before, Tom Landrum, a young, unassuming member of a family with deep Mississippi roots, joined the Klan to become an FBI informant. He penetrated the White Knights’ secret circles, recording almost daily journal entries. He risked his life, and the safety of his young family, to chronicle extensively the clandestine activities of the Klan. Veteran journalist Curtis Wilkie draws on his exclusive access to Landrum’s journals to recreate these events - the conversations, the incendiary nighttime meetings, the plans leading up to Dahmer’s murder, and its erratic execution - culminating in the conviction and imprisonment of many of those responsible for Dahmer’s death.

In riveting detail, When Evil Lived in Laurel plumbs the nature and harrowing consequences of institutional racism and brings fresh light to this chapter in the history of civil rights in the South - one with urgent implications for today.

©2021 Curtis Wilkie (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Vivid.... [N]ow the virulent white supremacy that once coursed through Laurel has reached into the center of our embattled democracy. Maybe that evil will also be brought down and peace built on its ruins. Or maybe our current crisis should force us to see that the evil of the Knights had never really been broken at all." (Kevin Boyle, Washington Post)

"When Evil Lived in Laurel is set during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, but its concerns could not be more central to our current moment: voting rights, white supremacist terror, and the ground-level mechanisms of white radicalization. With meticulous research and all the tools of a novelist, Curtis Wilkie chronicles the Klan-ordered murder of activist Vernon Dahmer, and Tom Landrum’s infiltration of the White Knights. Read this book if you want to understand how racist words and ideas turn into violent, murderous action." (Patrick Phillips, author of Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America

"I’m a longtime admirer of Curtis Wilkie’s deep and insightful work, and his chilling journey through the KKK’s murder of Vernon Dahmer will stay with you long after you close this book. This kind of violence is where tacit encouragement of extremists leads, and Wilkie shows you how." (Greg Iles, New York Times best-selling author of Natchez Burning)

What listeners say about When Evil Lived in Laurel

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    31
  • 4 Stars
    5
  • 3 Stars
    2
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    1
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    28
  • 4 Stars
    6
  • 3 Stars
    2
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    1
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    30
  • 4 Stars
    4
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    1

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

True history that reads like a Hollywood script.

As a southerner who has spent half my life in Alabama and the other half in Mississippi, I am not new to the story of the KKK. I just didn’t know, what I didn’t know.

The book is part history and part thriller. All the while, It sets the table of the cultural realities in play at the time.

It also gives great insight into every day people performing life-threatening acts of bravery just because they wanted to do the right thing.

In the end, I found chores to do around my property simply to be alone and listen to the story being told in this book. I highly recommend it.

Curtis Wilkie brings history to life. He is an artist who uses words to paint a picture in time.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

When Evil Lived in Laurel

I am currently a resident of Laurel and found this book both enlightening and horrifying. It is common knowledge that MS has a past that is horrible when it comes to race relations and segregation. However, hearing the names of people familiar to me, some of whom have been lauded in Laurel for their Christian beliefs and community involvement is sickening. I do think it is important to point out that what was once Laurel is not Laurel today. I think it is also important to remember that Tom Landrum represented more people with his view than not.
I had a difficult time listening to the narrator. I found him to be of low energy with his voice lowering inflection at the end of most sentences. I will avoid his narration in the future.
I very much appreciated the fact that this book was based on fact. Landrum and his wife kept copious notes which appeared to allow for an authentic telling. However, in the epilogue the author veers away from fact and inserts his own opinion unnecessarily. He is listing several incidents of racism and antisemitism that have occurred as of recently. In doing so he voices an opinion of Trump that does not contribute to the story nor does he cite evidence to back his opinion. I found this very off putting.