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Our Man in the Dark: A Novel Hardcover – November 15, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Harrison is an excellent writer. His prose is strong and assured and elegant... His stories are mysterious and powerful."
-- Jonathan Ames, author of The Extra Man, and creator of the HBO series Bored to Death

"Our Man in the Dark is an amazing story, amazingly told...This is an ambitious novel that wraps its powerful arms around what it means to be an American. Bold, rhapsodic, and daring, Rashad Harrison has written a morally engaged masterpiece."-- Darin Strauss, author of Chang & Eng, The Real McCoy, and the award winning Half a Life

"Our Man in the Dark is gripping, filled with historical detail that puts the reader in the middle of the fight for civil rights. Harrison's memorable characters, most of them morally challenged, pop off the page...his tale of intrigue and betrayal will keep you reading, always wanting more."-Charles Salzberg, author of Swann's Last Song

"The dark conclusion descends into powerful moral ambivalence about love, loyalty and family. Harrison's debut novel contemplates a nightmare inside a dream."-Kirkus Reviews

"...explores the volatility of social change and the frailties of the human condition...successfully demonstrates that fiction can use the past to comment on issues of contemporary concern...An entertaining work of historical fiction with a touch of the noir; readers who enjoyed Don DeLillo's Libra will appreciate."-Library Journal

“Draws the reader in like metal shavings to a magnet.” —New York Journal of Books

“An entertaining work of historical fiction with a touch of the noir; readers who enjoyed Don Delilo’s Libra will appreciate.” —LIBRARY JOURNAL, REVIEW (9/23)

“The dark conclusion descends into powerful moral ambivalence about love, loyalty and family.” — KIRKUS REVIEWS, REVIEW (10/15)

“Harrison’s debut mystery offers a fascinating setting for his intriguing mix of fact and fiction.”— BOOKLIST, REVIEW (10/1)

“Absolutely great. I truly enjoyed every bit of it. The plot, the boldness of the intent, and the wonderful, wonderful writing. The characters were so true and real and new to the page. I’ll never forget any of them. I’m a big fan of this book and of this writer!”— Pearl Cleage, author of Just Wanna Testify

"Our Man in the Dark is smart, snappy and fascinating. As the child of civil rights activists, I applaud Rashad Harrison's wonderfully written debut and his examination of how an ordinary man ended up on the wrong side of history." --Tananarive Due, author of My Soul to Take and Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights

"Our Man in the Dark is an amazing story, amazingly told. Intrigue and sadness, race and Government, Dr. King and the FBI, foibles and loyalties -- this is an ambitious novel that wraps its powerful arms around what it means to be an American. Bold, rhapsodic, and daring, Rashad Harrison has written a morally-engaged masterpiece."

–Darin Strauss author of Chang & Eng, The Real McCoy, and the National Book Critics Circle Award winning memoir Half a Life

“Rashad Harrison is one of the finest young writers I’ve come across. Our Man in the Dark, is gripping, filled with historical detail that puts the reader smack in the middle of the dark days of the fight for civil rights in the ’60s. His memorable characters, most of them morally challenged, pop off the page and his tale of intrigue and betrayal will keep you reading, always wanting more.”

— Charles Salzberg, New York Times Book Review and Esquire contributor, and author of Swann’s Last Song

“What a great voice [Rashad Harrison] is employing here…utterly assured, smart, witty, and incisive…the writing is strong and clear and dead on. What an invention John Estem is as a character….Most impressive is Estem’s deadpan, quietly understated narrative voice throughout…a cool, low tone that is extremely compelling…. He unfurls one revelation after another—about himself, King, the SCLC—as if his store of them is boundless, each more outrageous (and natural sounding) than the last. What an amazing story…and what an incredible amount of inventive energy [Harrison] is displaying. It’s brave and brilliant to bring Dr. King into the story as both icon and man—especially the latter—and to do it with such verve and ease.”

— Nicholas Christopher, author of The Bestiary, Veronica, and Somewhere in the Night

"[Harrison] is an excellent writer. His prose is...strong and assured and elegant and also quite beautiful when it needs to be. His stories are mysterious and powerful."

–Jonathan Ames, author of The Extra Man, and creator of the HBO series Bored to Death

About the Author

Rashad Harrison was the Jacob K. Javits Fellow in fiction at New York University. He is the author of Our Man in the Dark (2011) and The Abduction of Smith and Smith (2015). He and his family currently live in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; (states and 1 in number line) edition (November 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451625758
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451625752
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,224,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rashad Harrison was the Jacob K. Javits Fellow in fiction at New York University. He is the author of Our Man in the Dark (2011) and The Abduction of Smith and Smith (2015). He and his family currently live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Unabridged Chick on September 13, 2012
Format: Paperback
I began this book while my wife was running her New Year's Day half marathon, and in her three hour run I almost finished it. Then my wife wanted me to, like, congratulate her on her run and talk about how pretty the locale was, and really, all I wanted to do was get back to this book. It was so good, I really wanted the world to go away so I could just flippin' read.

Set in 1963, the story is told by John Estem, an accountant working for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Crippled after surviving a childhood bout with polio, Estem wants to show his father, his mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his unrequited love, Candice, that he's a mover, a complicated, successful man worth knowing. His aspirations draw the attention of the FBI, who contact him about identifying Communist elements in the Civil Rights Movement. From then, Estem's world changes as he learns more about King, the FBI, and himself than he wanted to know.

Seriously, I loved this book. Estem himself is the hook, a fascinating, complicated character I liked despite, really because of, his flaws. But every other character in this book was marvelous -- complicated, surprising, real, shocking -- and Harrison's uncomfortable exploration of Dr. King's personal life was well done.

I especially adored Harrison's writing style. This book has those great memorable lines that I so enjoy in noir, that unexpected splash of lyricism and poetry among the unadorned, bald ugliness:

The woman singing with the band is Miss Candy, also known as Candice. She looks just like what her name implies -- bad for you, but oh so good. Her singing is awful, but she's not up there for her voice. She's like a sepia-tinted dream with fiery red lips flickering in the darkness.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By P. Woodland TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This very intriguing book is written in a noir style that takes a bit of getting used to. But once you get into the rhythm of the writing you are in for a trip down a rabbit hole to the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. John Estem, the protagonist is a very flawed man. He had polio as a child and has to wear a brace. His father has made him feel like less than a human being let alone a man. John has made it through school and is trying, hard, to become one of the very few black CPAs in the country. He has a job working for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and thinks he is closer to Martin Luther King than he is.

Wanting to be noticed he steals $10,000 from the Conference to ostensibly start a movement in Chicago but he lured by his darker side into buying some fancy clothes and a new Cadillac to impress his childhood love. She is involved with a gangster named Count who runs a bar/lounge where she is a singer/hooker.

The FBI is looking for a way to get a man inside to spy on Dr. King and they are aware of Estem's thievery. They leverage that into having him pass them information but Estem doesn't want to spy on Dr. King so he makes a deal with Count to get the money to pay back the Conference. And so the circle is created. All of the relationships will be entwined into an explosive ending - and I don't mean Dr. King's assassination.

This is a whole different kind of historical fiction. Based on more recent history it delves into a very difficult time period in this country's history. Martin Luther King did a whole lot of good in his life but he was as human as any other powerful man who couldn't keep it in his pants. The FBI was looking to use this to destroy the Civil Rights movement.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Larry S. Miller on November 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This review is from: Our Man in the Dark: A Novel (Hardcover)
John Estem cleans up a lot of mess, but not without a lot of personal heartache and loss involved in a crime-noir thriller that hangs loosely, yet solidly in the civil rights travails of the Martin Luther King camp.
Several competing factions converge to exact their toll on their various interests of Reverend King's pioneering civil rights works.
You'll be drawn into a fast moving turn of events you won't be able to put down.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Melissa Myers on December 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well done to Rashad Harrison for his debut novel!! Hooked me instantly. I couldn't put it down. Each page was every bit as gripping and powerful as the next and the next and the next. Definitely a must read!! I can't wait to see what's next for this eloquently expressive up and coming wordsmith!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Carol Kasper Winet on December 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The civil rights movement was beset with spies. This book sets a suspenseful spy thriller in the midst of the action. It's a new locus, a new sort of hero, of and in the civil rights movement. It would make a good movie. I hope to hear more from the author.
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By P. Greer on January 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I have to preface this review by admitting that I failed history in school. It was one of my least favorite subjects.

But as of late, I have discovered historical fiction. Historical fiction, when it is good, makes me want to learn more. Find out what is true and what is not true.

Our Man in the Dark is good historical fiction. It is a historical noir novel about a worker in the civil right's movement who becomes involved with the FBI.

John Estem is an accountant working for Dr. Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference. After he steals $10,000 from the organization, he is approached by the FBI. They want him to act as informant; they are concerned with communism infiltrating the organization. If he refuses, they remind him that they know about the money.

The rest of the story unfolds, exposing all of the bad qualities that human beings possess.

I have no idea what facts in the story are true. I do not know if the FBI had tapes on Martin Luther King. I do not know if they infiltrated the SCLC. What I do know is that book makes me want to learn more.

What elevated this book from a standard historical fiction was the writing. I love a good noir, and Rashad Harrison did not disappoint.

"The allure of money and it's hold are undeniable. I would love to strut for her and let her have a glimpse of the man I've been hiding away. I have tried persistence, but never money. I've never tried it because I've never had any. This is tragic considering that every day I track its movements. I know money's habits. I know where it breeds, where it rests, and where it feeds, but it remains elusive. Like a frustrated hunter, I lose its scent somewhere."

See?! It's all good. I look forward to reading more from this author!
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