Media Center: ‘Back Channel’ by Stephen Carter
WHO: Stephen L. Carter
WHAT: BACK CHANNEL, a novel
WHEN: Published by Knopf July 31, 2014
WHERE: The action takes place in Ithaca, Washington DC, and Bulgaria.
WHY: “A fast-paced espionage thriller
with tantalizing grains of truth.
“In October 1962, when Soviet ships are offloading nuclear missiles in Cuba, Margo Jensen is a young black coed at Cornell, every bit as ambitious as the father she never knew. Though he had an engineering degree, his race kept him from being more than a driver during the war, when he died in a truck accident. So Margo is particularly vulnerable when an esteemed professor recruits her for a mission to serve as part of a ‘back channel’ for secret negotiations between President John Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to prevent a nuclear war.
“Shuttling between Ithaca, Washington, D.C., and Bulgaria, Margo is entangled in the internecine battles between spy agencies on both sides, unsure who to trust as she is caught in the twists and turns of backstabbing, double-dealing skulduggery. Hawks on both sides threaten to push the odds of nuclear war as the fate of the nation balances on the aplomb of a 19-year-old black coed.
“Carter renders a fast-paced espionage thriller with tantalizing grains of truth that highlight the general ‘back channel’ in which black Americans have had to operate as citizens for much of the nation’s history.”
—Vanessa Bush, in a starred review for BOOKLIST
“An intriguing what-if thriller.
Carter makes this audacious premise convincing and manages to build suspense around a historical event with a known outcome.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
From the beginning of the book: The President was in one of his moods. He stood at the bedroom window, tugging the lace curtain aside with a finger, peering down onto East Capitol Street. Outside, Washington was dark. He picked up his bourbon, took a long pull, and rubbed at his lower back. Margo sensed that he would rather be pacing, except that he was in too much pain just now; he never complained, but she had spent enough time around him these last few days to tell. All the same, she marveled at the man’s aplomb, given that he was quite possibly presiding over the end of the world.
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Publicist for this title: Gabrielle Brooks | 212-572-2152 | email@example.com