Like a nonfiction John Grisham thriller with echoes of Rainman, Just Mercy, and a captivating smalltown Southern setting, this is the fascinating true story—sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking—of an idealistic young lawyer determined to free an innocent neurodivergent man accused of murdering the wife no one knew he had.
An inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice for readers of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Just Mercy.
Was this small-town TV repair man “a harmless eccentric or a bizarre killer” (Atlanta Journal Constitution). For the first time, Alvin Ridley’s own defense attorney reveals the inside story of his case and trial in an extraordinary tale of friendship and an idealistic young attorney’s quest to clear his client’s name—and, in the process, rebuild his own life. In October 1997, the town of Ringgold in northwest Georgia was shaken by reports of a murder in its midst. A dead woman was found in Alvin Ridley’s house—and even more shockingly, she was the wife no one knew he had.
McCracken Poston had been a state representative before he lost his bid for U.S. Congress and returned to his law career. Alvin Ridley was a local character who once sold and serviced Zenith televisions. Though reclusive and an outsider, the “Zenith Man,” as Poston knew him, hardly seemed capable of murder.
Alvin was a difficult client, storing evidence in a cockroach-infested suitcase, unwilling to reveal key facts to his defender. Gradually, Poston pieced together the full story behind Virginia and Alvin’s curious marriage and her cause of death—which was completely overlooked by law enforcement. Calling on medical experts, testimony from Alvin himself, and a wealth of surprising evidence gleaned from Alvin’s junk-strewn house, Poston presented a groundbreaking defense that allowed Alvin to return to his peculiar lifestyle, a free man.
Years after his trial, Alvin was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, a revelation that sheds light on much of his lifelong personal battle—and shows how easily those who don’t fit societal norms can be castigated and misunderstood. Part true crime, part courtroom drama, and full of local color, Zenith Man is also the moving story of an unexpected friendship between two very different men that changed—and perhaps saved—the lives of both.
About the Author
McCracken King Poston, Jr., is a criminal defense attorney and former state legislator in the Georgia House of Representatives. He gained national attention for his handling of several notable cases that were featured on CNN Presents, Dateline NBC, A&E's American Justice and Forensic Files. He lives in Ringgold, Georgia. Visit him at McCrackenPostonJr.com or @RealZenithMan.
Praise for ZENITH MAN
“A wild ride of love, death, and justice in small-town Georgia . . . McCracken Poston, Jr shares intimate knowledge of a sensational case. This highly engaging read combines the best parts of hard-boiled true crime with a host of colorful characters, a small-town Southern setting, and Poston’s natural gift for gab. The results beg for an eight-part Netflix series." —Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Wildly entertaining…Zenith Man by McCracken Poston, Jr. is a true crime book but the events described seems more like a John Grisham novel.” —Mystery Tribune
“McCracken Poston is a good storyteller and has a good story to tell, with the kinds of twists and turns that will make readers think it’s great fiction—except it all happened.” —Jon Meacham, New York Times bestselling author, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
“Poston found himself defending a guy he knew was guilty in what appeared to be a slam-dunk murder case. But the amazing truth in this true crime drama is there was no crime at all. It’s one hell of a story.” —Jonathan Karl, author of Betrayal, Chief Washington Correspondent for ABC News
“Poston is a natural storyteller in the great Southern Gothic tradition. He sees the pain, but finds the humor, too, and ultimately the humanity, turning a tale of murder into a remarkable story of love, friendship and justice.” —Rory Kennedy, Emmy Award‑winning documentary filmmaker
“Autistic, paranoid, and a recluse, Alvin Ridley is charged with murdering his wife, only to be found innocent thanks to overlooked peculiar evidence and a dogged small-town lawyer struggling with his own demons. McCracken King Poston Jr.’s skillful account in Zenith Man is a warning about prejudice, a rush to judgment, and how Americans who are different can be swept up unfairly in our justice system. An inspiring tale about courage and how both lawyer and client helped each other find redemption. A must-read.” —Pete Earley, New York Times bestselling author of The Hot House, Crazy, and No Human Contact
“Poston's unique voice has brought to life two fascinating characters thrown into a case that challenges our basic assumptions about law enforcement, the courts, and the media. You won't be able to put down The Zenith Man until the very last word.” —Charles Bosworth, Jr, and Joel Schwartz, authors of Bone Deep