Colson Whitehead stopped by CBS Mornings to discuss his novel Crook Manifesto, recently released in paperback.

Whitehead’s book, originally published last July by Doubleday, follows furniture store owner and ex-fence Ray Carney as he makes his way in 1970s New York. In a starred review, a critic for Kirkus wrote of the novel, which recently won the Gotham Book Prize, “It’s not just crime fiction at its craftiest, but shrewdly rendered social history.”

Crook Manifesto is the second installment in a planned trilogy featuring Carney; the first novel in the series, Harlem Shuffle, was published in 2021.

Whitehead discussed making Carney the center of his trilogy.

“He has a divided nature, like all of us,” he said. “He has a side that wants to be legit and be an upstanding citizen…But there is this voice in the back of his head that’s always saying, Let’s do some crimes. So over the series of books, we follow him as he embraces and rejects that criminal side, and I think we can see ourselves in him. We’re social beings and have to act a certain way, but we do have natures that we have to tame.”

Whitehead, who grew up in Manhattan, talked about setting his trilogy in Harlem in the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.

“[Harlem] is a great stage,” he said. “The city went through ups and downs, and Harlem is transforming as well, so we can see the main character’s transformation…For me, I was living there as a kid, I come back when I was much older, and doing research, and trying to figure out where Ray Carney lives, where his office is. And so it’s very different, but I felt very at home going back to my earliest memories.”

Michael Schaub is a contributing writer.