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Our Man in the Dark

3.56  ·  Rating Details ·  91 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews

A stunning debut historical noir novel about a worker in the civil rights movement who became an informant for the FBI during the months leading up to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Feeling underappreciated and overlooked, John Estem, a bookkeeper for Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), steals ten thousand dollars from the organiza

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 15th 2011 by Atria Books
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Oct 08, 2011 Lou rated it it was amazing
The Martin Luther king days of the 1960's that's the time-line you are transported to in this novel. An outstanding work involving history, corruption, G-men, mobsters, Klux Klan and the Martin Luther King.

The main protagonist a black male one who started out as an account for Martin Luther King's circle gradually climbed the ladder and had the choice of pickings for company, the FBI, a black mobster, the trusted inner circle of the MLKing and one lovely beauty of a singer. This story is more th
Dec 08, 2011 Babydoll rated it liked it
“…being invisible and without substance, a disembodied voice, as it were, what else could I do?” This first line in the epigraph of the novel, Our Man in the Dark, belongs to the eminent writer, Ralph Ellison. The quote is taken from the text of his highly acclaimed literary classic; Invisible Man. Author Rashad Harrison makes his fictional literary debut, by creating a noteworthy novel, whose message seems to echo that of Ellison’s work. The plot features the main character, John Estem, who, si ...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
What a perfect way to start 2012!

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, J
Jan 13, 2012 Kristen rated it really liked it
My review for the Historical Novel Society:

John Estem is an accountant apprenticing with one of the few black CPAs in the country in the 1960s. Even better, he’s working for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with Dr. Martin Luther King. On the downside, his CPA boss is a bully, making fun of his brace and limp (the result of childhood polio) in front of Estem’s heroes—including Dr. King, Andrew Young, and Ralph Abernathy. Estem pilfers $10,000 and suddenly two white guys are tailing
Oct 24, 2011 Toni rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, 2011
By this time we are all familiar with the FBI's activities in trying to discredit the reputation and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all of the information they acquired during their lengthy investigation. Someone had to be on the inside, right, to feed them the info that they wanted. In this debut novel, John Estem, is that person. Estem, who could have easily been the protagonist in Ellison's Invisible Man, embezzles money from the SCLC, where he is employed as a bookkeeper. He has l ...more
May 06, 2015 Susan rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
I read about a quarter of the book.

Estem is a bookkeeper for King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He is basically someone who can't get anything right and has been handed a hard life which includes polio and an abusive father. He is the protagonist and there is nothing likable about him and his morals are quickly circulating the drain. There is no one likable. Even King comes across poorly as he allows one of his inner circle to badger and tease Estem. There is no sense that Estem w
Sep 16, 2012 Rodney rated it really liked it
Not sure why more people aren't talking about this book.. Harrison does an excellent job weaving historical facts with fiction. Intriguing! A constant theme in this book focuses on the good and bad in man.. everyone has the potential for greatness and typically the environment/situation determines if a person will live in that gray area. The title of the book reflects on all the characters.. all the characters in some respect was hiding something.. not necessarily bad, but just potentially somet ...more
Nov 04, 2011 Megan rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put this book down. The author writers his characters so vividly and he puts so much detail into accurately describing 60's Atlanta. Although its historical fiction I found this book to be really educational about the civil rights movement from a different point of view. I highly recommend this book and am looking forward to more from this author.
Oct 29, 2011 J.L. rated it it was amazing
I thought the portrayal of King was powerful and I was completely mesmerized by John Estem as a character and thoroughly impressed with this blend of historical and noir fiction with a literary slant. If you liked Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn or Ellison's Invisible Man, you will love this!
Karen Miller
Jul 31, 2012 Karen Miller rated it liked it
All John Estem wanted out of life was to feel important – to feel needed. Stricken with polio at a young age, and with only average intelligence and average looks, it doesn’t seem that wish will ever be fulfilled.
But when he starts working for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference – the civil rights organization headed by his hero Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. –he wants to believe his fortunes may soon change.
“Martin and I are very close,” he tells anyone who will listen. He even intimat
Feb 08, 2012 Screenplaydiva rated it it was amazing
As you know, I’m a fan of historical novels. So I jumped on the chance to read OUR MAN IN THE DARK for TLC Book Tours.

OUR MAN IN THE DARK centers around Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement during the 1960s. However, King isn’t the protagonist of the novel, but a fictional character named John Estem who works as a bookkeeper for King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta. When Estem finds out King’s funds contain an extra $10,000, which hasn’t been used, Este
Ryan G
May 04, 2014 Ryan G rated it it was ok
I'm going to be honest right up front. I'm going to be honest about something that, I have a feeling anyway, will put me in the minority on this one. I really didn't care about this one. I didn't hate it, but after I put it down, I felt nothing; zip, zero, nada, nothing. It's been a few days since I've finished it, and to tell you the truth, I had to reread the synopsis on the dust jacket to really remember what the book was about.

I know part of the problem is that the book has a really noirish
Jan 13, 2012 Patty rated it liked it
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 ...more
Alexis Villery
Jan 28, 2012 Alexis Villery rated it liked it
John Estem has led a life where he has been constantly ridiculed, teased, and disrespected. As a bookkeeper for the SCLC, he hopes to gain respect and participate the movement. Even here he is under-appreciated and ignored. Hoping to gain some self-respect and win the affections of his long-time friend, Candy, John steals money from the SCLC which starts a series of events where John can't be sure how is friend or foe. John finds himself working as an informant for the FBI and taking orders from ...more
Dec 17, 2011 Pam rated it really liked it
Shelves: tlc-book-tour
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'
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Jan 22, 2012 Meg - A Bookish Affair rated it really liked it
A couple months ago, I saw the movie J. Edgar. I really enjoyed it. J. Edgar Hoover was just a strange character that you almost can't believe that he was a real person. He was incredibly paranoid and was very afraid of the red scourge taking over America for much of his career. He was notorious for gathering informants to gather information about anyone he wanted. I'm not sure if he really thought that all of the people he had informants on were Communists or not but nonetheless, he got tons of ...more
Feb 07, 2015 Bonnie rated it really liked it
John Estem, a bookkeeper for Dr. Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference, narrates this story of the early years in the Civil Rights movement in America. Feeling overworked and overlooked, he steals ten thousand dollars from the organization with the idea of seeding a new civil rights initiative in Chicago. Instead, he squanders the money on a slightly used Cadillac Fleetwood and a custom made suit that helps disguise the leg brace he wears from having polio. To his dismay, ...more
Myron Brown
Jan 09, 2012 Myron Brown rated it liked it
Recommends it for: African American Thriller fans
John Esteem was a man who was on the margins of history. Although he worked for SCLC in the mid-60's when Dr. Martin Luther King was cementing his place in history, Esteem was not only on the margins of history he was also on the margins of his own life. When he decides to steal $10,000 from SCLC he gets caught up in a whirlwind of circumstances that forces him to truly examine who he is. Within a backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement and COINTELPRO, Rashad Harrison examines the nature of tempta ...more
Joshua Finnell
Library Journal Review:

Historical fiction is a genre that feels the constraint of realism, forcing the author to represent an alternate reality by developing the unheard thoughts of individual characters without straying too far from fact. In his debut novel, Harrison introduces us to the complex motivations behind John Estem, a civil rights worker with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) who turns FBI informant. Though not explicitly stated, the character is loosely based on Jim
While this book raises some interesting questions about what it means to be invisible to the world around you, I REALLY hated reading it. Even though my book group had a good discussion (lots of interesting comments on when it's okay to say critical things about inspirational people, what we do to make ourselves seen, ending up on the wrong side of history), we all despised reading it. Part of it is that I just don't enjoy reading noir - I like noir movies, but I never like books in that style. ...more
Jun 22, 2012 Angela rated it liked it
I liked this book at times. The book was written in the language of the time period, the1960s. Mr. Harrison does an excellent job in the writing of the book. He writes poetically.
I didn't like any of the characters in the book. Some of them seemed so typical and had no imagination to them at all. I especially did not like the women they were demeaned. They were cast as property in the story. We all know that Martin King was not the angel but he made him seem to flawed, I think. John Estem was n
Feb 04, 2012 Hope rated it really liked it
Very good, interesting debut novel. The storyline centers around an accountant in the SCLC who becomes an informant to the FBI regarding Dr. Martin Luther King. History tells us that a number of people served in this capacity, so it was interesting to read this fictional account of one who made the decision to do so. I think the author did an awesome job in developing the main character, John Estem, as well as weaving together fact and fiction. Though one might expect to extremely dislike someon ...more
May 24, 2013 Jenny rated it it was ok
Recommended to Jenny by: Bob of S&S
This novel explored the underside of MLK's civil rights movement from the perspective of John Estem. Estem gets involved with the FBI and an Atlanta underground kingpin. At times I felt the plot was leaving me in the dark, but I think that was because Estem was an unlikable character.
Dec 06, 2011 Melissa rated it it was amazing
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!
Mar 06, 2012 Jake rated it really liked it
An excellent debut novel from Rashad Harrison. Quality historical fiction with good characters, good dialogue and well-described scenery. The writer also is able to make his larger point on the human condition without being preachy or didactic. A quality noir read from start to finish.
Dec 26, 2011 Nick rated it really liked it
Remember when Metacritic used to do books? Go to to see a makeshift metacritic for books. AND LIKE THIS COMMENT SO IT CAN GET NOTICED!!!!!!!
Von Coleman
Aug 03, 2013 Von Coleman rated it it was amazing
If you don't have a copy of Our Man in the Dark don't waste another second and pick up a copy for yourself and disappear in this fantastic story.
Dec 06, 2011 Ashley rated it did not like it
Stopped reading it- I'm getting better at that!!
Once it became clear certain things that weren't going to change in the direction of the story I was done.
Alison Evans
Oct 21, 2013 Alison Evans rated it liked it
This is based on true rumours about Martin Luther King and Hoover's obsession with communism, but the main character is fictional. It is quite interesting, but not unmissable!
Zandra Everett
Zandra Everett rated it liked it
Apr 11, 2012
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Rashad Harrison received his M.F.A. in creative writing from New York University where he was a Jacob K. Javits Fellow in fiction and taught creative writing. Our Man in the Dark is his first novel.
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“The sight of a cross on fire should be unsettling to any true Christian. To a Negro it is worse. A unique kind of fear enters your mind, one perfected by the South: that you could die for the most harmless of offenses. You could die just for the crime of living.” 3 likes
“I used to wonder how a man working for the saintly organization of the saintly Dr. King could find himself in such a sinful place. But I'm no saint although I'm a good Christian, and even the best Christians are more familiar with sinners than saints.” 1 likes
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