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THE STORY BEHIND THE BOOK

‘White Hot Hate’ in the heartland

The true story of an FBI informant from Kansas who stopped a terrorism plot in his hometown

illo of dick lehr for books
illo of dick lehr for booksDavid Wilson for the Boston Glo

“I was in the right place at the right time,” said Dick Lehr, a professor of journalism at Boston University. It was 2019, and Lehr had just finished his previous book, “Dead Reckoning,” when a neighbor invited him over to meet some out of town guests. “There was Dan Day, sitting in his living room.”

Day, as Lehr would soon learn, was the Kansas man who had worked as an FBI informant to thwart a 2016 domestic terrorism plot that could have killed scores of Somali immigrants in Garden City, his hometown.

“I got excited real fast. This is the kind of story I like to write,” said Lehr.

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White Hot Hate: A True Story of Domestic Terrorism in America’s Heartland” (Mariner), which tells Day’s story, is the result of that accidental meeting — plus, of course, many months of research. Lehr’s work on the book included reading what he estimates as “several thousands of pages” of FBI transcripts of recordings Day made while in meetings with the bomb plotters.

Before meeting Day, Lehr had been in Kansas only once, while hitchhiking cross-country: He remembered the state as “long and flat and taking forever to get through.” Now that he’s spent more time there, he said, “I keep telling my wife, let’s move to Kansas. I don’t know what it is.” The state does defy expectations: At just over 25,000 residents, Garden City is small and decidedly remote, yet it is home to a richly diverse population, including immigrants and refugees from Africa, Asia, and Central America.

“We read headlines about the rise of white nationalism and domestic terrorism,” Lehr said. Following Day’s story, he added, was a way “to capture where this country has been going. On Jan. 6, we all saw and watched on TV live. This was foreshadowing that in a big way.”

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Dick Lehr will read in person at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 1, at Brookline Booksmith.




Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at kate.tuttle@gmail.com.