Newton, Maryland, 1973
A pristine and meticulously planned city. An environment engineered to be free of urban strife. A place where blacks and whites are supposed to live in harmony. Two men control its quiet streets and wooded lots. Austin Swope, the white lawyer who put together the real estate deals that made the city possible, a man who believes that progress comes through discipline and order. And Earl Wooten, the black master builder who physically raised the city from the ground, a man who thinks that he has found in Newton freedom from the prejudice that has plagued his whole life. They have become best friends in building the city, as have their teenage sons, Teddy and Joel – each the repository for his father’s deepest hopes. The shining future beckons.
But cracks are beginning to riddle the infrastructure, cracks that grow deeper, until one moment of suspicion sets in motion a series of events that threatens to devastate the families at the centre of the story.
Set in a faithfully rendered 1973, where the background sounds are Emerson, Lake & Palmer LP, Lennon, the O’Jays and the Senate Watergate hearings, The New City is a powerful novel that combines a compassion for the humanity of its characters with a gripping plot that gathers momentum with every page, until it reaches an almost unbearable pitch of pity and horror. It is an American tragedy on a grand scale, which leaves you shaken by the knowledge that our best impulses reside frighteningly close to worse.