My Book Appears In Gone Girl & Its Story Is Told In An Important New Book


10-6-14   I’ve always wanted one of my books to make it onto the big screen in a major motion picture and this weekend that happened — only not exactly as I had planned.

Circumstantial Evidence: Death, Life, and Justice in a Southern Town can be seen briefly in Gone Girl, the psychological thriller based on the best-selling book by Gillian Flynn.

I don’t want to spoil the movie so  I’ll simply say that the camera pans slowly over several nonfiction crime books, the last being mine, while a killer is plotting a murder. Yep, my book  is a prop.

Ironically, the same week that Circumstantial Evidence appeared in Gone Girl, I received an advance copy of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, which will go on sale October 21st, and already has been nominated for several awards.

Bryan is the hero in Circumstantial Evidence, which describes the murder of a white teenager in the same Alabama town that inspired To Kill A Mockingbird. A innocent black man is convicted and sentenced to death.  With help from two of his colleagues, Mike O’Connor and Eva Ansley, Bryan agrees to investigate the case and defend Walter McMillian.  All three of them face threats as they doggedly peel back an onion of lies. Eventually, they prove that McMillian is innocent but despite overwhelming evidence,  the criminal justice system in Alabama refuses to release him from death row until prosecutors and judges are shamed nationally by a 60 Minutes broadcast that exposes how witnesses  lied and evidence was hidden.  circumevidence

In Just Mercy, Bryan revisits the McMillian case, offering fresh insights and details that should outrage readers as he shows  how racial prejudice and poverty result in justice being anything but blind.


Circumstantial Evidence won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America and the 16th Annual Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. But only Bryan can tell the complete story and I am glad that he is doing that in his remarkable new book.

In addition to the McMillian case, Bryan puts a human face on other true stories about justice being denied to defendants, including those with mental disorders. Today he is recognized internationally as a champion for persons who are marginalized in society. He is founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and the most compelling speaker that I’ve ever heard.

And I’ve heard a lot.

MGM bought the movie rights to Circumstantial Evidence but its executives didn’t like the script so the story was shelved. I’ve always regretted that because Bryan, Mike O’Connor, and Eva Ansley are in real-life what Atticus Finch was in Harper Lee’s novel. Their investigation of the McMillian case would make for an exciting and important movie.

I hope Just Mercy is bought by Hollywood and the McMillian story finally gets told on the big screen. It deserves more than being used as a prop.



About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.