“And to think at one time I had the foolish notion of being a public figure. No, thank you, limelight, – the shadows suit me fine.” – John Estem
These are the words of the main character John Estem, accountant for the Southern Christian Leadership Council in Our Man in the Dark. The debut novel by Rashad Harrison is a fictional story of an overlooked accountant who through his own larceny finds himself working as an informant for the FBI. What he doesn’t know, is that he was being watched closely. It is the story of a man wrestling with his inadequacies, aspirations, and unrequited love. Situated in Atlanta in the 1960’s, the novel is a laudable piece of historically placed fiction.
With gritty dialogue, complex and unpredictable characters, Harrison gives us a story about the power of personal choices. It illustrates how easy it is to fall into an existence of double dealing and mendacity. While “Our Man” is about the Civil Rights Era, it is also about the frailties of the participants, despite their rank or role in the movement. With great characters and story pacing, the reader is drawn into the inner circle of the SCLC as well as the segregated underworld of the early 60’s. Estem wants prestige, respect, and love; yet they elude him. Moral ambiguity and ambition can and often do conflict with the greater good.
Rashad Harrison has created a thrilling read in “Our Man in The Dark” This is a dark story about a troubling time in American history. It is an enjoyable read that gives you many things to ponder even today. Last year’s revelation of Ernest Withers as an FBI informant, it goes to show how real the issue of loyalty and trustworthiness are to all movements. An impressive first novel, indeed.
Our Man In The Dark
By Rashad Harrison
Simon and Schuster /Atria Books