Cover Image: The Coyotes of Carthage

The Coyotes of Carthage

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Member Reviews

Love, love, love this gripping tale perfect. exploring the ins and outs of a local election with aplomb. Just wow, I highly recommend this book. Thank you, Ecco for this gifted copy.
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Dark money and its influence on local elections is at the core of this political thriller, one worth a look. Andre Ross is a successful African-American political consultant but one whose tactics don't sit well with his firm and ends up banished to rural South Carolina with a mission: encourage local voters into voting for the sale of public land on behalf of a mining company. This is the deep south, and as you can imagine it's portrayed in a somewhat (albeit true, perhaps?) stereotypical manner. With a host of complex characters and witty dialogue, and a peek behind the American political machine, this book was a good one.
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This book does so much in exposing how politics has been used, not to support democracy, but to increase the power of big business. I kept thinking about how the gun lobby is using the COVID19 crisis, in the guise of supporting the opening of America, to support gun rights.
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Sometimes coyotes are predators, sometimes they are prey and sometimes they are just roadkill. Toussaint Andre Ross is a 35 year old political consultant. He made a mistake on his last campaign and as punishment/redemption he is sent to Carthage, South Carolina for a 13 week campaign to get approval of a gold mining project.  The gold mine would take up public land that is currently used for hunting (frankly, I would have preferred the mine) and would also pollute the soil. Political consultant is a job that requires a flexible moral code. He has to manipulate people into voting for something that may not be in their best interests. As we have seen, that’s not that hard to do. 

Andre sets up an inexperienced candidate to advance conservative initiatives that will help the mine project. Primarily, they need to undermine Paula Carrothers, the county manager.  The election is close and the campaign turns dirty. Paula’s sexuality and morality are questioned and she is physically threatened.  At the end they use a robocall, supposedly from an Esther Silverstein from Brooklyn, endorsing Carrothers as a strong progressive feminist and a supporter of gun control and abortion rights. Those claims, true or not, couldn’t be more damning in Carthage. 

 I liked this book as Andre reconsidered how he earned a living. Coming from his background of juvenile crime, a mentally ill mother and a brother with ALS, it was quite an achievement to have his job.  He couldn’t walk away from it easily. I don’t know anything about the author, but he seemed knowledgeable about the details of a campaign. I wasn’t crazy about the ending of the book that just leaves you hanging. However, I would read more by this author. 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
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I really liked this book, although found the ending very dissatisfying.  It is well written with strong character development and good insight into the world of dark money used to influence elections. The author captures the culture of the rural south quite picturesquely. I am very uncomfortable reading books with self destructive characters, and, unfortunately, Andre is one
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Andre Ross grew up in and out of shelters in DC, before being plucked out of juvie by Mrs. Fitz, who sees talent and charisma in Andre that she feels will be right at home in her political consulting firm. By 35, he is a high-level political consultant, accepting money from corporations and lobbyists in exchange for "influencing" elections by whatever shadowy means necessary. His recent conduct, however, is extreme even for this shadow world of loose morals, and he’s sent to rural Carthage County, South Carolina, as a last chance to redeem himself in the eyes of his mentor, Mrs. Fitz. His mission: to convince the Carthage residents to sell thousands of acres of public land to a mining company, all under the guise of "liberty." He's given a shoestring budget, a politically amateur assistant, and told to get the initiative to pass or lose his career. Andre's choice to select Tyler and Charlene Lee, a working-class couple with minds of their own, to act as his "straw man" sets off a series of events that will leave you completely disillusioned with the idea of free and fair elections. To say that things get ugly is a gross understatement. I found this to be a really captivating read that delves into the dirty underbelly of politics as well as issues of race and class in rural America. However, this book is slim pickings in terms of likable characters, or even unlikeable characters that you find yourself rooting for regardless. Andre doesn't get much of a character arc, and I thought the author relied on troupes, namely Andre's alcoholism and constant pining for an ex-fiance we know nothing about, and missed opportunities for character depth in other ways. Overall, this book lacked polish and a satisfying ending, but managed to still be a worthwhile read. 3 stars.
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Carthage County, SC is a remote, sparsely populated mountain wilderness where visitors go to hunt and fish, hire the locals as guides, and sit back to enjoy the scenery. Into this paradise comes PISA, an international precious metals group that sees the gold under Carthage County. PISA knows the county council will turn down their mining request because strip mining will destroy the recreation land. So PISA turns to Martin, Fitzpatrick & Deville, a Washington, DC action firm, to convince Carthage residents to vote in an initiative, masked by patriotism, to welcome mining to their county.

In to accomplish this steps Dre Ross, a deeply flawed and failed operative with overwhelming baggage from his youth spent in poverty and later juvenile hall. The Carthage project, offered by mentor Mrs. Fitz(patrick) is his last chance to redeem himself. His only assistant is Mrs. Fitz’ idealistic grandson Brendan. Together, they must find a local citizen to gather petition signatures. Tyler Lee is that man. He and his wife Chalene are ambitious, crafty and intelligent. The battle for Carthage County begins.

The Coyotes of Carthage County is driven by the strength of its many characters. The conflict between Dre and Brendan, between cynicism and innocence carries the plot. Chalene, a natural stump speaker, who manages to combine motherhood, creative cooking and evangelism, stands out among the cast of locals. This novel spotlights all that is good about rural America and lets that shine over the bad. 5 stars.

Thanks to NetGalley, Harper Collins and Steven Wright for this ARC.
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I was very fortunate to have gotten an advance reader’s e-proof of The Coyotes of Carthage from HarperCollins.  I found this debut novel totally absorbing and its main character, Toussaint Andre Ross (Andre/Dre) extremely complex and compelling.  Andre, incarcerated in Juvie for 2 years for a crime he didn’t commit, is “adopted” at age 20 by Mrs. Fitz, the 70+ year old sole founding female partner of a political consulting firm.  She has been a second mother to Andre for 15 years and served as a mentor who brings him along in the firm where he has achieved some success, at least financially.  Then his pride and recklessness goes too far in his management of an election campaign, bringing embarrassment to the firm.  As a result, Mrs. Fitz, instead of firing him, assigns him to a 13 week secret corporate-financed campaign in a small South Carolina town that they both know is “rubbish” but could save his career. 

Along the way, we meet his intern/assistant, Brendan, with whom he forms an unlikely bond, and a cast of town locals who add color and voice to the narrative.  He runs a “textbook dark-money campaign—a case study in street-corner democracy” that is manipulative and damaging.  It illustrates how today’s political actions can cause a community and its people potential harm, in this case through a land grab that only benefits big business.It’s also a stark reminder of what we see today, i.e.:  “God bless social media, good for pictures, bad for truth.” Mr. Wright touches on today’s issues but doesn’t preach.  

His characters totally drive the story. I found myself rooting for Andre. HIs many flaws are offset by his redeeming qualities.  He is empathetic yet ruthless; self-destructive but somehow bent on survival.  He is also witty, charming, and very likable.  I rooted for him all the way and ached as he saw himself in the coyote—“small and vulnerable, a man beat down and alone”. This was a great read and I look forward to more from Steven Wright.
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I didn’t rate it highly on goodreads because it seemed flawed at the time. After some time though I have looked back on it with fondness. Some of the overwrought characters are more believable with time and perspective. Just because the protagonist was a crummy character doesn’t make it a crummy book. Unique take in common practice.
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This is pretty engaging once it gets going. It lacks the polish of a more experienced author, but still pretty good. It's a little dark and centers around politics. Hopefully the author has more in the works. 3.5 stars.

I really appreciate the ARC for review!!
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Good writing, and a very solid first effort.   In this depressing climate, though, not for me.  Protagonist had an interesting back story, but kind of a jaundiced world view and took a while to get rolling.
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The Coyotes of Carthage by Steven Wright, does have elements of Grisham and I feel that others will enjoy it. Simply felt lacking to me but thank you for giving me a chance with it.
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When I started this book I was intrigued about the story of a successful political consultant, Dre Ross, who is down on his luck and sent to Carthage to help fix an election. This book is fast moving and introduces some interesting characters that the author develops very nicely.  I was very happily surprised by the writing quality and plot. I look forward to reading more from this author and hopefully a continuation of this story arc. 
Thank you Netgalley, Steven Wright, HarperCollins Publishers and Ecco for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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