Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
By: André Lewis Carter - Akashic Books, $17.95
Description: 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.
Verdict: André Lewis Carter’s debut novel Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is a story that examines one man’s personal odyssey from the America’s criminal urban underworld to the US Navy’s most infamous “race riot” aboard the USS Kitty Hawk in 1972.
When most young men are looking forward to setting off chasing their dreams, César Alvarez has learned that he may have seen his last sunrise.
He’s a man on the run from the criminal gangsters that until recently had been the closest thing he had to a family. He attempts to evade his pursuers by shipping off with the US Navy as fast as possible.
His knowledge of what military life entails is next to nothing, and the story that unfolds is the tale of a would-be sailor who must take a path of survival and discovery.
This path lies through a world totally alien to him in its character, discipline, and racial dimensions. Eventually, César’s past will reach him in the vortex of one of the US Navy’s most infamous episodes.
César’s story is that of a man caught between colossal forces that are shaping his life, without any guarantee that he will survive the collision. He will experience firsthand the racial conflicts boiling within American society, but as a Cuban-American he will be afforded a chance to see these tensions from both sides, as he finds his role is not easily defined in a black/white conflict.
In the prime of his life, César will ship to Vietnam, not the tropical jungles normally associated with that war, but aboard one of the largest and most powerful aircraft carriers in the world. He will feel the compelling force of the two paths that threaten to pull him apart, one is a criminal path whose tentacles will be far harder to shake than he thinks.
The other path is the promising future that may be his, if he can learn to navigate the official and unofficial laws of his new vocation.
The vividness of César’s story is not simply a story of the Kitty Hawk riot. Reader’s will be treated to an all too rare look at life in the 1970’s Navy whose unique and intense culture is both mysterious and compelling, from the subtle and inscrutable numbering of buildings on a military base to the comradery that is the life blood of military service.
André Lewis Carter’s vivid and authentic prose will take the reader into the disorienting yet compelling society of that Navy across a spectrum of experience, from surviving basic training to surviving shore leave to surviving one of the Navy’s most harrowing nights.
From the ghetto to the top deck of a warship, the novel Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea weaves a rarely trod path that will give the reader a finely crafted taste of the potentially catastrophic choices that the young men and women of the American military must make in the harsh world they can sometimes find themselves in. [TS].
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.
Official Book Purchase Link