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 lofty dreams of starting his own branch of the movement in Chicago, an area he believes is overlooked. Estem instead blows the money. The FBI is already monitoring the activity of Dr. King and the SCLC and they use the knowledge of Estem's indiscretion to recruit him to their ranks.
Our Man in the Dark is at it's essence a noir mystery that follows John Estem's journey as he is torn between his allegiance to his people and the movement, his duty to his country, and his desire to be seen as someone important. Two things I had a problem with:
- The dialogue attributed to Dr. King during personal moments sounded a little too "speechy" and formal.
- There's a scene where the rumors about J. Edgar Hoover's alleged homosexuality are discussed. That's something that we know about now, but I doubt that FBI field agents in the 60's would have heard about it. Especially since Hoover was still alive and would have squashed any talk of that.
Other than that, I enjoyed reading about how the motives of one seemingly insignificant person can affect an entire movement.