Mark Oppenheimer at The New York Times:
Not all works of history have something to say so directly to the present, but Heather Ann Thompson’s “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy,” which deals with racial conflict, mass incarceration, police brutality and dissembling politicians, reads like it was special-ordered for the sweltering summer of 2016.
But there’s nothing partisan or argumentative about “Blood in the Water.” The power of this superb work of history comes from its methodical mastery of interviews, transcripts, police reports and other documents, covering 35 years, many released only reluctantly by government agencies, and many of those “rendered nearly unreadable from all of the redactions,” Ms. Thompson writes. She has pieced together the whole, gripping story, from the conditions that gave rise to the rebellion, which cost the lives of 43 men, to the decades of government obstructionism that prevented the full story from being told.
Ms. Thompson’s book has already been in the news because she names state troopers and prison guards who might have been culpable in these deaths. But the real story here is not any single revelation, but rather the total picture, one in which several successive New York governors are called to account as much as anyone on the ground that week in September 1971 in Attica, N.Y.