National Book Award winner James McBride goes in search of the "real" James Brown—and his surprising journey illuminates not only our understanding of the Godfather of Soul but the ways in which our cultural heritage has been shaped by Brown's legacy. A product of the complicated history of the American South, James Brown was a cultural shape-shifter who arguably had the greatest influence on American popular music of any artist. Brown was long a figure of fascination for James McBride, a professional musician as well as a writer. When McBride receives a tip that promises to uncover the man behind the myth, he follows a trail that reveals the personal, musical, and societal influences that created this immensely troubled, misunderstood, and complicated soul genius. James McBride is one of the most distinctive and electric voices in American literature today, and in Kill 'Em and Leave he uncovers a story that helps to explain Brown's legacy: the cultural landscape of America today.