In 1970, one of Mississipi's more colourful weekly newspapers, The Ford County Times, went bankrupt. To the surprise and dismay of many, ownership was assumed by a 23-year-old college drop-out, named Willie Traynor. The future of the paper looked grim until a young mother was brutally raped and murdered by a member of the notorious Padgitt family. Willie Traynor reported all the gruesome details, and his newspaper began to prosper. The murderer, Danny Padgitt, was tried before a packed courtroom in Clanton, Mississippi. The trial came to a startling and dramatic end when the defendant threatened revenge against the jurors if they convicted him. Nevertheless, they found him guilty, and he was sentenced to life in prison. But in Mississippi in 1970, "life" didn't necessarily mean "life", and nine years later Danny Padgitt manages to get himself paroled. He returns to Ford County, and the retribution begins.