It's purely coincidental that I should be reviewing this the day after the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Set in 1964 Atlanta, Our Man in the Dark is the story of John Estem. Estem is close to esteem, of which John seems to be lacking, but I'll come back to that shortly.
A bookkeeper in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) office, Estem is overlooked by his co-workers and antagonized by his boss, Gant., though he fancies himself a late night confidante of Dr. King. In his life outside of the office, he desperately longs for the affection of Candy, a childhood friend who lives on the dark side. The only surviving son of his father, he is in a constant battle to prove that he's just as much of a man as his father is and his brother, Fred, would have been. With all of these insecurities, and low self-esteem masked by confidence, Estem is ripe for the picking when the FBI comes calling.
Not sure if his recent Cadillac purchase has brought him to their attention, John Estem is flattered when initially approached by FBI agents Mathis and Strobe. Convinced that he is doing his part as an American to report un-American activities, he agrees to report back to them on the goings on at the SCLC office, particularly as it relates to Communism or homosexual acts. (Side note: I'm still blown away that being gay was viewed as being as bad as, or worse than, being a Communist.) The money he receives as in informant will assist him in paying back funds he stole from the organization, which he used to purchase the new car and suits, in hopes of winning over Candy.
Far too late, John realizes he's in over his head with the FBI and Candy's notorious lover, Count. Only time will tell if the "gimp" will have the nerve to stand up to agents Stroble and Mathis and free himself of his obligations to Count for once and all.
This really started off as a slow read for me, but that's not surprising as books written from a male point of view tend to be more difficult for me to dive into. In John Estem, Rashad Harrison has created a character that evokes sympathy and disdain at the same time. While you can understand some of Estem's actions, you don't necessarily condone them and may, at times, find yourself despising him. With characters similar to those found in the Easy Rawlins or Leonid McGill series, I'd recommend this to anyone that's a fan of Walter Mosley books.
Published: November 2011
Disclaimer: Copy provided by publisher as part of TLC Book Tour.
Theme: Trouble Man by Marvin Gaye