Cover image "Killing the Messenger" by Bay Area News Group/The Chauncey Bailey Project reporter...

In many countries, journalists who investigate political corruption or major crime figures get thrown into prison, gunned down or kidnapped -- never to be heard from again.

In the United States, however, few people have been crazy enough or bold enough to assassinate a journalist to stop a story.

It has happened twice. In 1976, when Arizona Republic Reporter Don Bolles was mortally wounded in a car bombing in Phoenix.

Then, on Aug. 2, 2007, when a brainwashed 19-year-old man with a sawed-off shotgun ambushed journalist Chauncey Bailey as he walked from a McDonald's in downtown Oakland to his newspaper office.

Six months ago, Yusuf Bey IV, the leader of the now-defunct Your Black Muslim Bakery, was sentenced to life in prison for ordering two of his underlings to kill the 57-year-old editor of the Oakland Post and former Oakland Tribune reporter.

Bey IV wanted to stop Bailey from publishing a story about his illegal takeover of the bakery and its impending bankruptcy.

Thomas Peele was the lead reporter for the Chauncey Bailey Project, a coalition of journalists from various media outlets that formed to investigate Bailey's killing and bring those responsible to justice.

Peele, a reporter for the Tribune, has just written a riveting account of the events that led up to Bailey's murder.

"Killing the Messenger: A Story of Radical Faith, Racism's Backlash and the Assassination of a Journalist," goes on

sale Feb. 7.

It is an exhaustively researched narrative that details the rise and fall of Your Black Muslim Bakery.

Peele uses Bailey's killing as a launching point for exploring the blood-soaked history of the Black Muslim movement in the United States. He examines how virulent racism made blacks ripe for exploitation by charlatans like Nation of Islam founder Wallace D. Fard, his disciple Elijah Muhammad and later the Beys in Oakland.

Peele takes us to Chicago and Detroit to the heart of the Nation of Islam and to Los Angeles where a police shooting at a mosque convinced Santa Barbara hairdresser Joseph Stephens to join the Black Muslim movement.

Stephens who would later rename himself Yusuf Bey, opened Your Black Muslim Bakery in 1971.

He lured followers -- many of them straight out of prison -- with his message of black self-empowerment. He was a respected community leader. Politicians paid homage to him despite his racist pronouncements.

But as "Killing the Messenger" lays out in sometimes stomach-churning detail, behind Bey's carefully cultivated public facade lurked a monster.

A bakery employee once stumbled upon Bey sexually assaulting a young boy in a bathroom.

After he told others about it, he was found shot to death.

Horrors would go on at the bakery for decades while police, politicians and just about everyone else in Oakland turned a blind eye.

"For years the police backed off, and the Beys owned North Oakland," Peele says. "The police didn't want to mess with them."

When Bey died in 2003 he was facing charges that he had raped four girls under the age of 14. Alameda County prosecutors alleged that DNA tests proved Bey had fathered a child with one of them -- among the more than 40 he is believed to have sired with various women.

After his father's death, Yusuf Bey IV seized control by killing off his rivals, including one of his brothers.

He proceeded to run the family business into the ground and sow terror.

His oversized ego made him think he could get away with killing Bailey. I suspect he might have succeeded were it not for the reporters on the Chauncey Bailey project who unearthed important leads that law enforcement had not pursued.

Peele presents an unvarnished picture of Bailey. He was not the great journalist some claimed after his death.

He had in fact been fired from the Tribune for ethical lapses. He was a human being with flaws.

"It's not like they killed Bob Woodward, but that doesn't matter," Peele says. "What matters is they killed a reporter who was trying in his own way to speak truth to power."

Thomas Peele will discuss "Killing the Messenger" at 7 p.m. Feb. 9 at Diesel Books, 5433 College Ave., in Oakland.

Exhibit Marvin X continues this Saturday, February 11, 7pm, 1222 Dwight Way, Berkeley. For reservations, please call 510-575-2225. Dr. J. Vern Cromatie, chair of the sociology program at Contra Costa College will discuss Marvin X's brief tenure at UC Berkeley.