Clarence Olgibee

Written by Alan S. Kessler
Review by Laura Fahey

Alan Kessler’s Clarence Olgibee splits its narrative between 1974 and 1954: in 1974, teenager Jimmy Tate Sullivan is sentenced to life in prison as an accessory to a crime he witnessed, two of his friends beating a black man to death. In prison, Jimmy becomes a part of a white supremacist church by a fellow convict who was once a friend of a young black man named Clarence Olgibee, whose family story is told in segments going back to 1954 in the Midwest.

The narrative is expertly written, heavy on dialogue and razor-sharp social commentary, and the two intertwined time periods both reinforce and undercut each other in ways that are both thought provoking and unsettling.

Perhaps the cover is a little dark. It does not stand out very well at thumbnail size online.

This is double-edged historical fiction of a very high order.