Our Man in the Dark: A Novel

Image of Our Man in the Dark: A Novel
Release Date: 
November 14, 2011
Atria Books
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“Our Man in the Dark is an eye-opening insight into the troubling times this nation experienced as it struggled to reset its moral compass.”

As a debut novel, Our Man in the Dark draws the reader in like metal shavings to a magnet. I found myself rooting for the protagonist, despite his sometimes evil intent and criminal actions. Rashad Harrison bases this suspenseful story on a real person, one who actually worked for a civil rights organization as an accountant. The story is complex and interesting as it moves forward quickly, and we see our main character working both sides of the fence agreeing to become an informant for the FBI.

The historic time frame takes place in the months leading up to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. We catch glimpses of King which are not so inspiring, and we are privy to some of King’s alleged indiscretions as well. These descriptions of the private life of the civil rights pioneer add realism to the story, as does the inside fighting among the power brokers in the SCLC and NAACP.

The author has created a complex protagonist, one who elicits both sympathy and outrage. John Estem, an accountant who longs to be accepted as a successful independent businessman, feels neglected and shunned by his peers. Born with polio, Estem is reminded daily that he is inferior as he limps about, dragging the metal brace on his almost useless leg. He is constantly humiliated by others in the movement, despite the fact he is responsible for keeping the finances of the organization.

Like many others involved in the historic struggle, both black and white, Estem is recruited by the FBI to become a paid informant. It is the Bureau’s purported intent to prove Dr. King is a communist, but there is a much more nefarious intent underlying their objective. The FBI, Ku Klux Klan, and a Negro night spot become additional characters in this intriguing novel. The author uses the language and culture of the time to make an impact.

Young readers who did not live through that age of segregation may be shocked at some of the things author Harrison rightly depicts. But that’s exactly what makes this book such an interesting and powerful read.
Our Man in the Dark is an eye-opening insight into the troubling times this nation experienced as it struggled to reset its moral compass. It offers a glimpse into a world where two races lived together—separately. This is a well written journey back in time.