Grant Park is a page-turning and provocative look at black and white relations in contemporary America, blending the absurd and the poignant in a powerfully well-crafted narrative that showcases Pitts's gift for telling emotionally wrenching stories.
begins in 1968, with Martin Luther King's final days in Memphis. The
story then moves to the eve of the 2008 election, and cuts between the
two eras as it unfolds. Disillusioned columnist Malcolm Toussaint,
fueled by yet another report of unarmed black men killed by police,
hacks into his newspaper's server to post an incendiary column that had
been rejected by his editors. Toussaint then disappears, and his
longtime editor, Bob Carson, is summarily fired within hours of the
While a furious Carson tries to
find Toussaint—at the same time dealing with the reappearance of a lost
love from his days as a 60s activist—Toussaint is abducted by two
improbable but still-dangerous white supremacists plotting to explode a
bomb at Obama's planned rally in Grant Park. Toussaint and Carson are
forced to remember the choices they made as idealistic, impatient young
men, when both their lives were changed profoundly by their work in the
civil rights movement.
Editorial Reviews From the Publisher
"A novel as significant as it is engrossing." —Booklist, starred review
Park is layered, insightful, and passionate. Pitts's subtly explosive
language grips readers with the delicate subject matter and earnestly
implores them to understand that '[race] has always meant something and
it always will.' The scars will remain, but stunningly powerful
examinations like Grant Park can be the salve that helps heal open
wounds." —Shelf-Awareness, starred review
book, one that honestly examines the current, tumultuous racial divide
in our country and demands we not turn away from its harsh realities." —Amy Canfield, Miami Herald
high-stakes, hard-charging political thriller. . . . The sharply etched
characters, careful attention to detail, and rich newspaper lore propel
Pitts's socially relevant novel." —Publishers Weekly
Pitts has written a taut thriller that weaves together a stark look at
America's tortured racial past with a fast-paced tale of terrorist
conspiracy and love rekindled." —Neil Steinberg, Chicago Sun Times
"The book is a page-turner, but also one that commands deep reflection on history, racism, and personal choices." —Blanca Torres, The Seattle Times
masterfully revisits [election night on November 4, 2008] and four
decades of the civil rights struggle to create one of the most
suspenseful and spectacular fictitious moments you'll experience this
fall." —Patrik Henry Bass, Essence
"Pitts does a skillful
job of building tension in the novel's historical sections as well as on
Election Day. . . . He also does something not every political thriller
writer does: builds believable, complex characters." — Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times
then there are those thrills—gasping, mouth-gaping page-turners that
author Leonard Pitts Jr. weaves through another realism: truthful,
brutal plot-lines about racial issues of the last five decades, mulling
over exactly how far we’ve really come. That makes this
will-they-live-or-won't-they nail-biter into something that also made me
think, and I absolutely loved it." —Terri Schlichenmeyer, The Bookworm Sez
GRANT PARK: CHAPTER ONE
Martin Luther King stood at the railing, facing west. The moon was a
pale crescent just rising in early twilight to share the sky with a
waning sun. He leaned over, joking with the men in the parking lot
below. A couple of them were wrestling playfully with James Orange, a
good-natured man with a build like a brick wall.
“Now, you be careful with preachers half your size,” King teased him.
“Dr. King,” called Orange in a plaintive voice, “it’s two of them and one of me. You should be asking them not to hurt me.”
“Doc,” someone called out from below, “this is Ben Branch. You remember Ben.”
“Oh yes,” said King. “He’s my man. How are ya, Ben?”
Another voice yelled up from below. “Glad to see you, Doc.”
As Malcolm Toussaint moved toward King, it struck him that the preacher
seemed somehow lighter than he had the last time Malcolm had seen him.
It had been late one night a week before, by the Dumpsters out back of
the Holiday Inn. The man Malcolm met that night had seemed… weighted, so
much so that even Malcolm had found himself concerned and
moved—Malcolm, who had long scorned the great reverend doctor, who had,
in the fashion of other young men hip, impatient, and cruel, mocked him
as “De Lawd.” But that was before Malcolm had met the man. That was
before they had talked. Now he moved toward King, his mind roiling with
the decision that had sprung from that moment, the news he had come to
share. King, he knew, would be pleased. There would be a smile, perhaps a
heavy hand clamping on Malcolm’s shoulder. “Good for you, Brother
Malcolm,” he would say. “Good for you.”
Malcolm was vaguely amused to find himself here on this balcony,
anticipating this man’s approval. If you had told him just a few days
ago that he would be here, ready to go back to school, ready to embrace
nonviolent protest, he would have laughed. But that, too, was before.
Malcolm meant to raise his hand just then, to catch King’s attention,
but a movement caught his eye. Just a reflected ray of the dying sun,
really, glinting off something in a window across the street. Something
that—he knew this instinctively—should not have been there. He wondered
distractedly what it was.
King’s voice drew him back. “I want you to sing it like you’ve never
sung it before,” he was calling to someone in the parking lot below.
“Sing it real pretty.” And Malcolm realized he had missed something,
because he had no idea what they were talking about. His attention had
been distracted by… what was that?
“It’s getting chilly.” Yet another voice calling to King from below. “I think you’ll need a topcoat.”
“Okay, Jonesy,” King was saying. “You really know how to take good care of me.”
And here, the moment breaks, time fracturing as time sometimes will into
its component parts, until an event is no longer composed of things
happening in a sequence, but somehow all happens at once. And you can
see and touch and live all the smaller moments inside the right now.
This is how it is for Malcolm Toussaint now. King is laughing. Malcolm
is taking a step toward him. King is straightening. Laughter is echoing
from below. King is reaching into a pocket for his cigarettes. He is
becoming aware of Malcolm on his left. His head is coming around. There
are the bare beginnings of a welcoming smile. And Malcolm knows.
Suddenly knows. And Malcolm is leaping, leaping across space, across
time itself, becoming airborne—he was sure of it, that detail felt
right, even though by this time King is barely six feet away. Malcolm
grabbing two hands full of expensive silk, yanking Martin Luther King
off balance, yanking him down hard in the same instant they all hear the
popping sound like a firecracker, in the same instant he feels the
soft-nosed 30.06 bullet whistle past his cheek like a phantom breath, in
the same instant he falls awkwardly across King’s chest.
And then time seems to reel for a crazy breathless moment, as if
decid¬ing what to do now. The fulcrum of history teetering, the future
hanging, suspended in midair.
Until all at once and with a brutal force, time decides itself and slams back into gear.
A woman shrieked.
Someone yelled, “Somebody is shooting!”
Someone yelled, “Doc, are you OK?”
Someone yelled, “Stay down!”
Malcolm’s breath was ragged in his own ears. His heart hammered like
drums. Then from beneath him, he heard a familiar baritone voice say
calmly, very calmly, but yet, with a touch of breathless wonder. “Oh my
God. Was that a gunshot?”
Their eyes met. Malcolm didn’t speak. Couldn’t speak. “Brother Malcolm,”
said Martin Luther King, his voice still suffused with wonder and yet,
also, an almost unnatural calm, “I think you just saved my life.”
Malcolm was overwhelmed by the thereness of the man. He was not myth and
mist and history. He was not a posterboard image on a wall behind a
child dutifully reciting in a child’s thin, sweet tenor, “I have a dream
today.” No, he was there, beneath 20-year-old Malcolm Toussaint, who
had fallen crosswise on top of him. Malcolm could feel the weight and
heft of him, the fall and rise of his chest. He could see his very
pores, could smell the tobacco on his breath, the Aramis on his collar.
Martin Luther King was there, still alive, beneath him. Malcolm opened
his mouth to speak.
And then, he awoke.
( Continued... )
© 2015 All rights reserved. Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the
author, Leonard Pitts Jr. Do not reproduce, copy or use without the
author's written permission. This excerpt is used for promotional
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About the Author
Leonard Pitts, Jr.
is a nationally syndicated columnist for the Miami Herald and winner of
the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, in addition to many other
awards. He is also the author of the novels Freeman (Agate Bolden, 2012)
and Before I Forget (Agate Bolden, 2009); the collection Forward From
this Moment: Selected Columns, 1994-2009, Daily Triumphs, Tragedies, and
Curiosities (Agate Bolden, 2009); and Becoming Dad: Black Men and the
Journey to Fatherhood (Agate Bolden, 2006). Born and raised in Southern
California, Pitts now lives in suburban Washington, D.C., with his wife