"In this sharply crafted novel, his seventh, [Watson] re-creates the era with rich detail and a creeping sense of dread...The Committee is the kind of story that makes you hope it can't happen here--but reminds you that it already has."
--Tampa Bay Times
"A captivating read and an absorbing tale about the abuses that can arise from intolerance and prejudice. It carries a warning from the past to the siloed, fractured communities of today."
--Historical Novel Society
"Bold and intriguing."
"The Committee takes place on campus, but deserves to be included with those 'academic' novels like Mary McCarthy's The Groves of Academe, Randall Jarrell's Pictures from an Institution, Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim, and Jane Smiley's Moo, all books that burst out of their scholarly settings to light up the characters and societies they live in. And life in Gainesville in the 1950s doesn't bear looking at too closely: Without being preachy or didactic, Watson's book exposes the race, class, and gender wars running below the picturesque pathways like tainted water; there's been some progress since then, but the reader is led to wonder how meaningful it's been...This book will hold you to the very end, and after."
--Creative Loafing Tampa, a Poet's Notebook post from Peter Meinke, Poet Laureate of Florida
"Sterling Watson's new novel, The Committee, transmutes Lavender Scare investigators' ruthless assaults on suspected homosexuals in 1950s Gainesville into heart-racing fiction that's every bit as spellbinding as Watson's noir masterpiece Suitcase City...Even in the midst of its historical and political pre-occupations, as well as its expertly paced progression into danger and violence, The Committee has its moments as a finely nuanced academic novel. With its richly drawn cast of identifiable English department types, from the brilliant and ambitious to the middling and jaded, their covert alliances and prickly departmental meeting dynamic, The Committee at times feels like a darker counterpart to Richard Russo's Straight Man."
--New York Journal of Books
Included in CrimeReads's list of The Best Historical Fiction of 2020 (So Far)
"A well-written story with many layers, that Watson skillfully peels away in each and every chapter."
--Bookstr, Three to Read pick for the week of Febraruy 3
"The Johns Committee, a real, if lesser-known, McCarthy-esque group active in Florida, hovers over this tense, character-driven novel set in 1958...Watson ably evokes a sense of the McCarthy era's regional impact in this thought-provoking story."
In the late 1950s, Gainesville, Florida, seems to be a sleepy university town. Its residents live, by outward appearances, ordinary lives. And yet the town is far from ordinary. The most private acts of professors, students, townspeople rich and poor, and politicians are under the close scrutiny of a shadowy group of men--the Committee--who use the powers of government and the police to investigate, threaten, and control this increasingly fearful community.
The Committee pits friends against friends and threatens careers and lives in a struggle for the soul of a town, a university, and an ideal. Based on actual historical events and set against the backdrop of politi