Scribner Book Company, Paperback, 9780684854434, 240pp.
Publication Date: February 2, 1999
Set against the tensions of Civil Rights era America, Dreamer is a remarkable fictional excursion into the last two years of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life, when the political and personal pressures on this country's most preeminent moral leader were the greatest. While in Chicago for his first northern campaign against poverty and inequality, King encounters Chaym Smith, whose startling physical resemblance to King wins him the job of official stand-in. Matthew Bishop, a civil rights worker and loyal follower of King, is given the task of training the smart and deeply cynical Smith for the job. In doing so, Bishop must face the issue of what makes one man great while another man can only stand in for greatness. Provocative, heartfelt, and masterfully rendered, Charles Johnson confirms yet again that he is one of the great treasures of modern American literature.
Dr. Charles Johnson is a novelist, screenwriter, essayist, professional cartoonist and the Pollock Professor of English at the University of Washington. He is the author of more than sixteen books, including the PEN/Faulkner nominated story collection The Sorcerer's Apprentice and the novel Middle Passage, for which he won the National Book Award.
The New York Times Book Review
It's a joy to read fiction in which there is a cultivated vision at work...the greatest victory of Dreamer is the light it shines on the life of Martin Luther King Jr.
The Boston Globe
With compelling profundity and power Johnson takes us to a time, one within living memory, when a "dreamer" among us saw love as our redemptive principle and strongest weapon before he "died for our collective racial sins."
San Francisco Chronicle
With his novelist's instinct, [Johnson] grips us immediately with a stunning doppelgänger theme.
A deep look at the last two crisis years in the life of [King]...Johnson is an ambitious writer who is not satisfied with merely creating...passages of imagined thinking, however powerfully rendered.
The Seattle Times
Masterfully rendered set piece...writing so assured and compelling...even when you already know the ending.