Sunday, May 17, 2009

Palace Council by Stephen L Carter * * * *

This is the third historical-fiction novel by the the Yale Law Professor Stephen L Carter. Unlike other lawyers (John Grisham, Gwen Freeman), Stephen L Carter does not write about lawyers. All of his three novel (so far, and we're eagerly awaiting to see what he writes next) have been historical fiction centered around rich and powerful black families and their efforts to control U.S. politics, especially the President.

This offering spans the period from Brown v Board of Education (school desegregation - 1954) through the end of the Vietnam War (fall of Saigon - 1975). As usual the book provides a seamless mixture of historical events with the narrative. In this case, the mysteries involve a radical black woman terrorist (or not, nothing is clear cut), her two children, both missing, dead, underground, or not, and a group called the Palace Council which plans to control the President, successfully or not.

The protagonist, Edward Trotter Wesley Junior, is a famous writer, searching for his sister, the missing woman, who apparently left Harvard Law School to lead a black terrorist group, for many possible reasons, or not. Eddie goes everywhere (South Carolina, Vietnam, ...) unsuccessfully, either helped or hindered by Edgar J Hoover, Richard Nixon, an assassin who works for the CIA or a Senator, and several others.

As you might have noticed, I did not feel the plot was as clear or comprehensible as the previous efforts, but the characters and scenes as so good, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, even as my confusion ebbed and flowed. If you are new to Stephen L Carter, even though each book stand on its own, I'd recommend you start with the first novel: New England White.

Smith College History (circa late 1940s), or not:
"Remember when we first met? The mixer at Northampton?"
"The Smith girls and their chaperons," he corrected lightly. "There were so many chaperones, you almost had one each."

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