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Supreme EmperorThe Emperor of Ocean ParkStephen L CarterJonathan Cape 18 pp657After Jonathan Franzens T he Corrections and Jonathan Safran Foers Everything Is Illuminated The Emperor of Ocean Park is the third recent American novel to arrive here with the hyperbole that comes with a massive advance and ecstatic US critical reaction But The Emperor of Ocean Park lives up to the hypeCarters debut novel is an assured combination of almost satirical social observation and thriller that gains much from a setting not often described in modern fiction - that of upper middle-class African-Americans in Washington and New YorkIn an authors afterword Carter is at pains to deny that his novel is in any sense a roman clef Nevertheless as Yale professor of law and scion of such an upper middle class family he is describing a world he knows well and analyses with often biting humourThe novel begins with the suspicious death of Judge Oliver Garland the conservative patriarch of an affluent African-American family The family is networked into the highest echelons of government business and crimeYears earlier Garland a ruthlessly ambitious man had received a judges ultimate accolade and goal a nomination to the Supreme Court However he had never really recovered from the national scandal that ensued when humiliatingly he had to withdraw abruptly and publicly in front of a television audience of millionsHis unexpected death focuses attention on that scandal anew But his law professor son Talcott is concerned that a greater scandal is lurking in the murky underbelly of his fathers life and political career Garland has left Talcott a mystery to solve In attempting to do so Talcott catches sight of this greater scandal and decides not to shy away from itTalcotts investigation takes him from the Ivy League law school at which he teaches via the wealthy peoples retreat of Marthas Vineyard to Washington DC Americas centre of political and judicial power This rich social milieu allows Carter
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