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Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea


In the early 1970s, César Alvarez enlists in the navy to escape a life of crime; while the decision saves him from the streets, it also lands him amid volatile racial tensions at a crucial moment in US history.

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$18.95 $14.21

What people are saying…

“Skillfully blending his fictional hero’s coming-of-age story with a real-life racial confrontation aboard ship, Carter’s tale is a winning combination of military procedural, suspense, and Black history.”
Booklist, STARRED Review

“This excellent first novel, while chronicling the racism faced by main character César Alvarez, in the end is [a] love letter to the U.S. Navy . . . Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is not a war story; it’s a war-time story. And a great one.”
The VVA Veteran

“Taking its title from a nautical term for a conundrum, the novel is a coming-of-age and redemption story about two young Black men going through boot camp, training school and their first assignments in an early 1970s Navy struggling with racism and sexism.”
The Oregonian

Included in New West Indian Guide Bookshelf 2021 Roundup

“The strength of Carter’s lean, straightforward prose . . . mirrors César’s earnest, ethical nature and urges readers to root for him . . . A naval adventure thriller from recent history, told in a fresh, straightforward new voice.”
Kirkus Reviews

“One of the most empathetic depictions of navy lifers since The Last Detail.”
Publishers Weekly

“André Lewis Carter weaves a riveting tale about a side of the US Navy we seldom see. Tone-perfect delivery and an inarguably authentic voice mark the debut of a powerful new talent.”
—David Poyer, author of Violent Peace

“César Alvarez doesn’t know if he deserves a second chance, but he gets one anyway in Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. From the streets of Orlando to the deck of a Vietnam-bound carrier, André Lewis Carter finds ambiguity in moments of conscience, self-preservation, loyalty, and betrayal. This is an outstanding read.”
—Barbara J. Taylor, author of Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night

“André Lewis Carter can tell a helluva story. With well-paced prose and silky-smooth voice and style, Carter also makes a case for the beauty and brilliance of human redemption in the face of irredeemable trauma. Full of complex characters to root for and believe in, and set against the backdrop of one young man’s evolving understanding of American racism, this coming-of-age story manages to tell that truth without preaching. It acknowledges America’s deep generational hurts, without turning from beauty and love. And what more could we ask from any writer chronicling a life, a place, a generation? This novel is worth everyone’s time.”
—Roger Bonair-Agard, author of Where Brooklyn At?

“The first virtue of Carter’s book is its authentic, granular depictions of life aboard an American aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War—the best I’ve ever encountered. But the novel’s other virtues—vividly depicted characters; an unsparing examination of racial discrimination and conflict aboard ship and at the San Diego Navy base; and a simmering story line that explodes on the high seas—makes this engrossing debut novel a must-read for Navy vets, as well as all who appreciate a fast-paced tale of a young man trying to find love, forge a new identity, and come to grips with his criminal past while serving his country.”
—J. Michael Lennon (LCDR, United States Navy Reserve, ret.), author of Norman Mailer: A Double Life


The latest novel in Akashic’s Kaylie Jones Books imprint.

The Vietnam War is raging, the US Navy has only recently begun the process of integration, and the country is reeling from racial turmoil and unrest. So why does César, a street-tough kid of Afro-Cuban descent, enlist in the navy? He is on the run from a life of crime and from Mr. Mike, a charismatic, sociopathic gangster who was once a mentor but has now turned on him.

Escaping into a navy wrestling with its history of racism and sexism, César soon sees the absurdity of certain prejudices that seem as old as the US Armed Forces. When he is deployed aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, racial tensions are high and are moving quickly toward violence. Through it all, César’s ever-growing sense of honor and self-worth force him to make moral decisions he never knew he was capable of. It’s a fortitude he will desperately need.

Read a feature on André Lewis Carter at The Oregonian.

Watch interviews with André Lewis Carter on KOIN 6’s AM Extra, Veterans Breakfast Club, and From Mess to Miracle with Keith Haney.

Listen to André Carter discuss his novel on ArtScene with Erika Funke.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Published: 1/4/22
  • IBSN: 9781617758775
  • e-IBSN: 9781617759864
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • IBSN: 9781636140759


ANDRÉ LEWIS CARTER is a retired navy veteran who writes fiction, essays, and plays in the urban sprawl of Portland, Oregon. Carter’s one-act play, Reaction, was staged at the Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez, Alaska. He holds an MA in fiction writing and an MFA in creative writing from Wilkes University, where he was a Beverly Blakeslee Hiscox Scholar. He is married to a very patient woman who occasionally tells dirty jokes. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is his debut novel.

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