SHORTLISTED FOR THE ERNEST J. GAINES AWARD FOR LITERARY EXCELLENCE
“With this splendid debut, Steven Wright announces his arrival as a major new voice in the world of political thrillers. I enjoyed it immensely.” —John Grisham
A blistering and thrilling debut—a biting exploration of American politics, set in a small South Carolina town, about a political operative running a dark money campaign for his corporate clients
Dre Ross has one more shot. Despite being a successful political consultant, his aggressive tactics have put him on thin ice with his boss, Mrs. Fitz, who plucked him from juvenile incarceration and mentored his career. She exiles him to the backwoods of South Carolina with $250,000 of dark money to introduce a ballot initiative on behalf of a mining company. The goal: to manipulate the locals into voting to sell their pristine public land to the highest bidder.
Dre arrives in God-fearing, flag-waving Carthage County, with only Mrs. Fitz’s well-meaning yet naïve grandson Brendan as his team. Dre, an African-American outsider, can’t be the one to collect the signatures needed to get on the ballot. So he hires a blue-collar couple, Tyler Lee and his pious wife, Chalene, to act as the initiative’s public face.
Under Dre’s cynical direction, a land grab is disguised as a righteous fight for faith and liberty. As lines are crossed and lives ruined, Dre’s increasingly cutthroat campaign threatens the very soul of Carthage County and perhaps the last remnants of his own humanity.
A piercing portrait of our fragile democracy and one man’s unraveling, The Coyotes of Carthage paints a disturbingly real portrait of the American experiment in action.
Wright explores the fraught intersection of business and politics in his promising and caustic debut. Beginning with a series of epigraphs juxtaposing Supreme Court justices John Paul Stevens and Antonin Scalia's opinions on Citizens United with Notorious B.I.G.'s rap song "Mo Money Mo Problems," Wright chronicles the labors of Andre "Dre" Ross, a K Street political consultant who receives a second chance after running an ill-advised Machiavellian play that backfires on his firm. Assisted by his mentor's wide-eyed 20-something grandson Brendan Fitzpatrick, Dre hopes to redeem himself by accepting a "clandestine grassroots dark-money campaign" to elect a new manager of Carthage County, S.C., who will be more likely to comply with the firm's client, a mining company whose plans include "pumping millions of gallons of cyanide deep into the earth." Wright conjures a cast of believable blue-collar locals to imagine how a local election can be manipulated through a carefully orchestrated process that includes the grooming of straw men, the crafting of rhetoric to distort issues, and the channeling of discord and dissatisfaction among the electorate to turn a campaign dirty, dangerous and effective. Pungent with dark humor and cynicism, Wright's nuanced portrait shows how the campaign not only pulls apart the town but threatens to drive a wedge between Dre's career ambitions and his humanity. This incisive satire introduces an sharp new voice.