Synopses & Reviews
In the early 1970s, César Alvarez enlists in the navy to escape a life of crime; while the decision saves him from the streets, it also lands him amid volatile racial tensions at a crucial moment in US history.
André Carter weaves a riveting tale about a side of the US Navy we seldom see. With tone-perfect delivery and in an inarguably authentic voice, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea marks the debut of a powerful new talent. —David Poyer, author of Violent Peace
César Alvarez doesn't know if he deserves a second chance, but he gets one anyway in Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. From the streets of Orlando to the deck of a Vietnam-bound carrier, André Carter finds ambiguity in moments of conscience, self-preservation, loyalty, and betrayal. This is an outstanding read. —Barbara J. Taylor, author of Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea opens in the early 1970s with young César, a street tough of Afro-Cuban descent, standing outside a US Navy recruitment office at the crack of dawn. The Vietnam War is raging, the navy has only recently begun the serious process of integration, and the country is reeling from racial turmoil and unrest.
So why enlist? Because César sees it as his only hope of survival. He is on the run from a life of crime on the streets of Orlando, and from Mr. Mike, a charismatic, sociopathic gangster who was once a mentor but has now turned on him. Escaping into a navy wrestling with its history of racism and sexism, César soon sees the absurdity of certain prejudices that seem as old as the US Armed Forces.
His new life takes him from Orlando to Naval Station Great Lakes, where he questions his resolve as he endures the inferno that is boot camp. But he discovers that the military is a brotherhood of service that feeds his need to belong. From there, César travels to San Diego and finds a California that is nothing like the unbiased utopia he saw portrayed in the movies. Yet he does find love, falling for a beautiful young biracial woman who is much more knowledgeable about life.
César is soon deployed across the sea to join the real navy, embarking aboard an aircraft carrier where racial tensions are high and are moving quickly toward violence. The growing flames are fanned with the arrival of a new set of orders. The ship, sailing home, is ordered to turn around and steam toward Vietnam. Through it all, César's ever-growing sense of honor and self-worth force him to make moral decisions he never knew he was capable of. It's a fortitude he will desperately need, because Mr. Mike is coming.
"André Lewis Carter can tell a helluva story. With well-paced prose and silky-smooth voice and style, Carter also makes a case for the beauty and brilliance of human redemption in the face of irredeemable trauma. Full of complex characters to root for and believe in, and set against the backdrop of one young man's evolving understanding of American racism, this coming-of-age story manages to tell that truth without preaching. It acknowledges America's deep generational hurts, without turning from beauty and love. And what more could we ask from any writer chronicling a life, a place, a generation? This novel is worth everyone's time." Roger Bonair-Agard, author of Where Brooklyn At?
Watch the Powell’s virtual event with André Lewis Carter & Kaylie Jones!
About the Author
André Lewis Carter is a retired navy veteran who writes fiction, essays, and plays in the urban sprawl of Portland, Oregon. Carter's one-act play, Reaction, was staged at the Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez, Alaska. He holds an MA in fiction writing and an MFA in creative writing from Wilkes University, where he was a Beverly Blakeslee Hiscox Scholar. He is married to a very patient woman who occasionally tells dirty jokes. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is his debut novel.