cover image The Committee

The Committee

Sterling Watson. Akashic, $17.95 trade paper (420p) ISBN 978-1-61775-768-6

The Johns Committee, a real, if lesser-known, McCarthy-esque group active in Florida, hovers over this tense, character-driven novel set in 1958 from Watson (Suitcase City). Tom Stall, an English professor at the University of Florida, is on campus when a fellow professor, Jack Leaf, appears to jump to his death from a classroom window. A student says he saw two official-looking men in suits leave the classroom building shortly before Leaf’s fatal fall. Stall soon learns that Leaf hid the fact he was Native American, because the university authorities would never have hired him had they known. The stakes rise when photos of Leaf engaged in homosexual behavior surface. Meanwhile, Stall’s wife, Maureen, is avoiding sex with him, and she’s also chafing under the social restrictions imposed on women. As the political situations both within the English department and in the state intertwine, the threats to Stall’s career escalate and become life-threatening. Watson ably evokes a sense of the McCarthy era’s regional impact in this thought-provoking story. Agent: Ann Rittenberg, Ann Rittenberg Literary. (Jan.)