Talk about a dream deferred: Carter, an African-American expat who spent much of his adult life in Bern, Switzerland, finished this ambitious first novel in 1963; when he died in 1983, it was still unpublished. In retrospect, it's easy to see why editors hesitated to take on his magnum opus. Though it casts a lingering eye on one black man's journey from cradle to adulthood in 1920s-'40s America, Thunder contains little of the political subtext of civil rights-era writers like Richard Wright and James Baldwin. Instead, it's an unapologetically literary effort with echoes of Faulkner, Twain, and Joyce. Thunder isn't exactly beach reading. Still, for its lyrical rendering of a time and place long vanished, this is a book to savor, slowly.