Chaym Smith is the double of Martin Luther King. Not only does Smith resemble King physically, but he also shares his intellectual voracity: widely read in Eastern and Western philosophy, proficient in Sanskrit and martial arts and a talented painter. And yet, while King aspires to make a difference, Smith is a cynic. When Smith becomes King's stand-in, Johnson creates a taut drama in which he explores issues long at the heart of the race issue.
Charles Johnson won the US National Book Award in 1990 for his novel Middle Passage. A widely published literary critic, philosopher, cartoonist, screen-writer, essayist and lecturer, he is one of twelve African-American authors honoured in an international series of stamps celebrating great writers of the twentieth century. In 1998 he received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and in 2003 literary scholars founded the Charles Johnson Society at the American Literature Association. He is currently the Pollock Professor of English at the University of Washington.