Stephen Carter

Professor, Yale Law School
Author, Civility, The Violence of Peace

A leading public intellectual in politics, ethics and law.

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Biography

Recognized by TIME magazine as one of the fifty leaders of the next century, Stephen Carter is a leading interpreter of American culture and discourse. An author, a novelist, and a columnist for the Bloomberg View, Stephen has shaped the national debate on issues ranging from the role of religion in our politics to the role of civility in our daily lives. Nearly fifteen years after publication, his book Civility is still the defining treatment of how the way we treat each other defines the society we live in. His latest work of non-fiction, The Violence of Peace, is a careful examination of Barack Obama's philosophy of war.

Civility: Manners, Morals and the Etiquette of Democracy explores the customs necessary for a healthy society. Stephen explains that self-interest and market-oriented thinking have hampered our ability to think of ourselves as a community. Obsessed with our personal rights and skeptical of good manners as limitations on our individuality, we treat each other rudely and call it self-expression. The solution, Stephen argues, is complex, ranging from a re-examination of our vocabulary to a re-focus on self-sacrifice as the foundation of community.

Stephen turns to the current presidency for his latest non-fiction book, The Violence of Peace: America's Wars in the Age of Obama. Analyzing Barack Obama's views on war — what makes it just or unjust and what it can accomplish — Stephen offers insight into how the President will handle future conflicts and how this will shape America's fate.

Professor Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell of Law at Yale University. He once served as a law clerk to Thurgood Marshall, the civil rights veteran and Supreme Court Justice. A trustee for the Aspen institute, he moderates seminars for business executives on the role of values in leadership. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Law Institute. He has written six novels: the first, The Emperor of Ocean Park, spent three months on the New York Times bestseller list. His latest novel, The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, presents a dramatic alternate history of the Civil War. Stephen's newest novel will be available in July and is titled Back Channel. He is the author of seven critically acclaimed books on law, ethics and politics.

Books

Back Channel

A Novel

Stephen Carter

From the best-selling author of The Emperor of Ocean Park and The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln - a new novel of terrific suspense and surprise: a brilliant amalgam of fact and fiction about a young black woman on whom the outcome of the Cuban Missile Crisis depends.

October 1962. In Cuba: Soviet ships off-load what intelligence reveals to be nuclear missiles. In Washington, President Kennedy and his advisers are in furious debate over how long they can wait to discover what the Soviets intend before dropping the first bomb. And, in Ithaca, New York, Margo Jensen-a nineteen-year-old Cornell sophomore-is swept up in a "bizarre concatenation of circumstances" that will make of her the "back channel" liaison between Soviet Premier Khrushchev and Kennedy. Events unfold too quickly for her even to ask "why me?" But the stunning answer is revealed bit by bit as she races from Ithaca to Bulgaria to Washington, D.C., drawn ever more deeply into the crossfire-figurative and literal-of infighting between governmental agencies, both American and Soviet; into the confidence and-unsettlingly-the affection of the president of the United States; into desperate negotiations to avoid nuclear war; and, finally, into the secrets of the extraordinary legacy-of honor and bravery-she inherited from the father she never knew.

Knopf (July 29, 2014)

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln

A Novel

Stephen Carter

From the author of the best sellers The Emperor of Ocean Park and New England White, an electrifying, provocative new novel that asks the question: What would have happened had Lincoln not been assassinated?

Stephen Carter's thrilling new novel takes as its starting point an alternate history: President Abraham Lincoln survives the assassination attempt at Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865 — only to be charged with overstepping his Constitutional authority during the Civil War, and faced with impeachment. Abigail, a young black woman recently graduated from Oberlin, is hired by a D.C. law firm to assist in Lincoln's defense. Working with a white clerk named Jonathan, and ducking the admonitions of her formidable Nanny Pork, Abigail embarks on a life that defies the norms of Washington society. But when one of Lincoln's lead lawyers is found brutally murdered, she finds herself plunged into a web of intrigue, politics, and conspiracy more tangled than she could have imagined. Here is a sweeping drama that captures the emotional tenor of post-Civil War America, that explores the nature of presidential authority (a particularly resonant subject for our own moment in history), and that gives us a galvanizing story of political suspense.

Knopf (July 10, 2012)

The Violence of Peace

America's Wars in the Age of Obama

Stephen Carter

"The man who many considered the peace candidate in the last election was transformed into a war president," writes bestselling author and leading academic Stephen l. Carter in The Violence of Peace, his new book decoding what President Barack Obama's views on war mean for America and its role in military conflict, now and going forward. As America winds down a war in Iraq, ratchets up another in Afghanistan, and continues a global war on terrorism, Carter delves into the implications of the military philosophy Obama has adopted through his first two years in office. Responding to the invitation that Obama himself issued in his Nobel address, Carter uses the tools of the Western tradition of just and unjust war to evaluate Obama's actions and words about military conflict, offering insight into how the president will handle existing and future wars, and into how his judgment will shape America's fate. Carter also explores war as a way to defend others from tyrannical regimes, which Obama has endorsed but not yet tested, and reveals the surprising ways in which some of the tactics Obama has used or authorized are more extreme than those of his predecessor, George W. Bush. "Keeping the nation at peace," Carter writes, "often requires battle," and this book lays bare exactly how America's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are shaping the way Obama views the country's role in conflict and peace, ultimately determining the fate of the nation.

Beast Books/Perseus (January 11, 2011)

Praise

"In this very important book, Stephen Carter demands, and provides, a clear-eyed ethical examination of Obama's ideas about just and unjust war — nothing less than what is worth dying for."
— Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University

"In this brilliant examination of the moral dimensions involved in our nation’s decision to wage — or refuse to wage — war, Stephen L. Carter writes with the intellectual profundity of a scholar and the grace of a gifted novelist. The Violence of Peace is a must-read."
— Former Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen

Jericho's Fall

A Novel

Stephen Carter

Stephen L. Carter’s brilliant debut thriller, The Emperor of Ocean Park, spent eleven weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and was followed by two nationwide best sellers, New England White and Palace Council. Now, in Jericho’s Fall, Carter returns us to the high-stakes world of power, privilege, and conspiracy.

In an imposing house in the Colorado Rockies, Jericho Ainsley, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency and longtime Wall Street titan, lies dying. Jericho summons to his bedside Beck DeForde, the younger woman for whom he threw his career away twenty years ago, miring them both in scandal. Beck believes she is there to say good-bye, but she is quickly and unwittingly drawn into a battle of wits being fought over an explosive secret that foreign governments and powerful corporations alike want to wrest from Jericho before he dies.

An intricate, fast-moving thriller that plumbs the emotional depths of a failed love affair and a family torn apart by mistrust, Jericho’s Fall embraces a wide range of issues, from the morality of intelligence operations to the meltdown of the world financial system. And it creates, in Beck DeForde, an unforgettable heroine for our turbulent modern age.

Vintage (June 1, 2010)
Knopf ( July 14, 2009)

Video

Book TrailerKnopf Group

Palace Council

A Novel

Stephen Carter

“Carter twists plotlines like pretzels while wryly skewering America’s wealthy intellectual elite.” — People

John Grisham called Stephen L. Carter’s first novel, The Emperor of Ocean Park, “beautifully written and cleverly plotted. A rich, complex family saga, one deftly woven through a fine legal thriller.” The Chicago Tribune hailed Carter’s next book, New England White, as “a whodunit with conscience.” Now this best-selling novelist returns with an electrifying political thriller set in the turbulent era of Watergate and Vietnam, giving us one of the most riveting and naked portraits of Nixon ever written.

In the summer of 1952, twenty prominent men gather at a secret meeting on Martha’s Vineyard and devise a plot to manipulate the President of the United States. Soon after, the body of one of these men is found by Eddie Wesley, Harlem’s rising literary star. When Eddie’s younger sister mysteriously disappears, Eddie and the woman he loves, Aurelia Treene, are pulled into what becomes a twenty-year search for the truth. As Eddie and Aurelia uncover layer upon layer of intrigue, their odyssey takes them from the wealthy drawing rooms of New York through the shady corners of radical politics, all the way to the Oval Office.

Stephen Carter’s novel is as complex as it is suspenseful, and with his unique ability to turn stereotypes inside out, Palace Council is certain to enthrall readers to the very last page.

Vintage, Reprint edition (June 16, 2009)
Knopf (July 8, 2008)

Book Review

A new chapter in black historyToronto Star
'Palace Council' aspires, conspiresThe Los Angeles Times

Video

'Palace Council'Knopf Group

New England White

A Novel

Stephen Carter

The eagerly awaited, electrifying new novel from the author of The Emperor of Ocean Park (“Among the most remarkable fiction debuts in recent years . . . A rip-roaring entertainment” — The Boston Globe).

When The Emperor of Ocean Park was published, Time Out declared: “Carter does for members of the contemporary black upper class what Henry James did for Washington Square society, taking us into their drawing rooms and laying their motives bare.” Now, with the same powers of observation, and the same richness of plot and character, Stephen L. Carter returns to the New England university town of Elm Harbor, where a murder begins to crack the veneer that has hidden the racial complications of the town’s past, the secrets of a prominent family, and the most hidden bastions of African-American political influence.

At the center: Lemaster Carlyle, the university president, and his wife, Julia Carlyle, a deputy dean at the divinity school — African Americans living in “the heart of whiteness.” Lemaster is an old friend of the president of the United States. Julia was the murdered man’s lover years ago. The meeting point of these connections forms the core of a mystery that deepens even as Julia closes in on the politically earth-shattering motive behind the murder.

Relentlessly suspenseful, galvanizing in its exploration of the profound difference between allegiance to ideas and to people, New England White is a resounding confirmation of Stephen Carter’s gifts as a writer of fiction.

Vintage (May 27, 2008)
Knopf (June 26, 2007)

Book Review

His Dark MaterialsThe New Yorker

The Emperor of Ocean Park

A Novel

Stephen Carter

"The Emperor of Ocean Park is set in two privileged worlds: the upper crust African American society of the eastern seaboard — old families who summer on Martha's Vineyard — and the inner circle of an Ivy League law school. It tells the story of a complex family with a single, seductive link to the shadowlands of crime." "The Emperor of the title, Judge Oliver Garland, has just died, suddenly. A brilliant legal mind, conservative and famously controversial, Judge Garland made more enemies than friends. Many years before, he'd a earned a judge's highest prize: a Supreme Court nomination. But in a scene of bitter humiliation, televised across the country, his nomination collapsed in scandal. The humbling defeat became a private agony, one from which he never recovered." But now the judge's death raises more questions — and it seems to be leading to a second, even more terrible scandal. Could Oliver Garland have been murdered? He has left a strange message for his son Talcott, a professor of law at a great university, entrusting him with "the arrangements" — a mysterious puzzle that only Tal can unlock, and only by unearthing the ambiguities of his father's past. When another man is found dead, and then another, Talcott — wry, straight-arrow, almost too self-aware to be a man of action — must risk his career, his marriage, and even his life, following the clues his father left him.

June 2002

Civility

Stephen Carter

The acclaimed author of "The Culture of Disbelief" proves to readers that manners matter to the future of America.

Basic Books, 1999

The Culture of Disbelief

Stephen Carter

America, it is often noted, is the most religious nation in the Western world. At the same time, many political leaders and opinionmakers have come to view any religious element in public discourse as a tool of the radical right for reshaping American society. In our sensible zeal to keep religion from dominating our politics, Stephen L. Carter argues, we have constructed political and legal cultures that force the religiously devout to act as if their faith doesn't really matter. This book explains how we can preserve the vital separation of church and state while embracing rather than trivializing the faith of millions of citizens or treating religious believers with disdain. What makes Carter's work so intriguing is that he uses liberal means to arrive at what are often considered conservative ends. Carter explains how preserving a special role for religious communities can strengthen our democracy. The book recovers the long tradition of liberal religious witness (for example, the antislavery, antisegregation, and Vietnam-era antiwar movements), and argues that the problem with the 1992 Republican convention was not the fact of open religious advocacy but the political positions being advocated. A vast array of issues appear in a new light: everything from religion in schools to the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's mass weddings, from abortion to the Branch Davidians.

Basic Books, 1993

Topics

Stephen tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Democracy's Choice: Books or Bumper Stickers

Feedback

A county government association:
Karen
Just wanted to let you know that all went wonderfully well yesterday. Prof Carter achieved exactly what we wanted and was so sweet to stay for the entire second part of the program. Thank you for all of the help organizing this program.

A university program on Civility & Democracy:
We all absolutely loved Carter's speech and his comments during the panel thereafter. He was fantastic! He brought so much energy to the room and used beautiful metaphors to inspire the audience, just a few short weeks before the election. I cannot thank you enough for all your work in making this happen for us.

An academic association:
I wish to express our sincere gratitude for your superb talk at the [...] Annual Conference last month. We appreciated very much your comments on integrity and ethics. We were also intrigued by your delivery and story-telling skills. Below is a sample of the comments made by participants:

  • Excellent presentation — wish he had spoken longer.
  • Speaks to the point and touched us all.
  • Critical topic — terrific speaker.
  • Very thoughtful presentation.
  • Dynamic presentation — much needed.
  • Great — very inspirational.
  • Great model. This is the best presentation I've heard.
  • Dr. Carter was inexplicably motivating and transformative.
  • Awesome.
  • Provided much needed light on academic integrity and honesty. Dr. Carter is an important voice for academia.
  • Excellent speaker with a clear message reinforced with relevant stories.
  • Appropriate integration of humor and story-telling to emphasize main points. Engaging speaker.

President who participated in your follow-up session stated the following:

"Stephen Carter's remarks were most helpful. Fantastic topic and speaker. A subject of both professional and intellectual interest. Thank you for the thoughtful selection. His discussion on integrity was outstanding. Great job. Excellent speaker. Sessions like this one provoke us to begin to think in other terms. Presidents need more opportunities to engage in a higher thought level. The technique of having the keynote speaker from the morning session spend extra time with the presidents is helpful and hopefully will be continued."

Again, we are very grateful you were able to spend time with our group. Your contributions to the success of our conference were significant.

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