The Emperor of Ocean Park, which dedicates quite a number of pages to the game of chess its narrator loves, is itself a sort of chess match. Author Carter runs multiple sophisticated plots concurrently through the story, making Emperor a novel of academia, of racial and professional politics (here often identically aimed), a straight-up legal thriller, and a story of an already disintegrating family coping with the loss of its domineering patriarch – all of which somehow meld into a coherent and satisfying finale. But Carter's great creation is Talcott Garland, a persona whose intelligence and intellectual accomplishment combine with an initial innocence, even naivete, about the turpitude he discovers on all fronts. Talcott's ability to remain a character true to his own strictly defined moral standards – within a community of nefarious, if well-crafted, personalities -- carry the novel to some of its best epiphanies and most memorable asides. Without Talcott, there simply wouldn’t be a novel, and for a fiction that can ask for perhaps more than the typical amount of patience of its readers, he is quite literally the center of gravity around which the entire work, and its fictive world, revolve.