cover image Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

André Lewis Carter. Kaylie Jones, $17.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-61775-877-5

Carter’s salty debut follows a U.S. Navy recruit who confronts racial division on his search for deliverance. In 1971, Cesar Alvarez, a 19-year-old Afro-Cuban growing up in Orlando, runs afoul of his boss, a vicious drug runner known as Mr. Mike, and decides his only ticket out is to join the Navy. In basic training, Cesar experiences prejudice within the ranks, and after he’s stationed in San Diego for signalman training, he begins a relationship with a female sailor, biracial Aida Hachi. Upon graduation, Cesar flies to Manila to await the arrival of the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk on its way home from Vietnam. On board, Cesar notes that racial tensions are high, exacerbated by the fact that the carrier has received orders to return to Vietnam. To make matters worse, the long arm of Mr. Mike reaches out to take revenge on Cesar. A Navy veteran, the author displays intimate knowledge of the various signaling modes Cesar picks up, such as Morse code and flag semaphore. There’s some contrived plotting involving Mr. Mike, but Cesar makes for a durable hero. Overall, this is one of the most empathetic depictions of navy lifers since The Last Detail. (Jan.)