Hard Road to Freedom ISBN: 9781614565123, Sarah Book Publishing, Book Three in the Saxton-Brown Adventure Series (Illustrated), Paper Back Edition by Stephen A. Carter.
In the first volume, the reader met John Saxton, son of the owner of a Boston shipping empire, his ‘mentor’ Marcus Brown, a trusted family retainer and giant former Masai (Massai, Massi) warrior as he shepherds him through a sailing introduction ‘before the mast’; John’s lovely negro wife Virginia and their collective escape while on the couple’s honeymoon aboard ship from Fort Sumter as it falls; their ensuing evasion of pursuit and ultimate arrival at home. In the second volume, John, now owner of the shipping empire upon his father’s death and Marcus, now wealthy and owner of a sizeable ship as reward for his outstanding activity, are persuaded by Alan Pinkerton to meet Lincoln who accepts their idea of building a new design ‘iron clad’ shallow draft ship and organizing an all-black group of rangers to infiltrate enemy lines to provide intelligence and commit havoc. They complete both projects and the story follows the subsequent activity with John also becoming involved with gaining intelligence through use of the hot air balloon. Virginia is importantly involved in the earlier portions of the book as is Marcus’ wife, Belle and the villainous Major Horatio Garrow and his hulking brute accomplice Hurley Blackstone continue in their roles of importance. In this third volume John is wounded and captured by the Confederates, imprisoned in the infamous Salisbury, NC prison, where he meets Lucas Garrow. He escapes, is recaptured and near death in Richmond, VA Castle Thunder, where through Pinkerton’s intercession he is saved by Union Spy Elizabeth van Lew and liberated by the fall of Richmond. Lucas Garrow, gradually becoming addicted to opiates and attaining near psychopathic status joins his father and his henchman to attempt to track down the hated John Saxton and Marcus Brown who have divested themselves of the shipping business and now are the principle owners of a rather idyllic 5000 acres on Raccoon Mountain in a settlement they call Harambee (a Massai word meaning ‘pulling together). Horatio and Hurley are hanged for past murderous deeds, but Lucas, now tremendously wealthy from finding his father’s hoarded wealth, continues his search as well as organizing an operation to eventually take over the country. Much of the story revolves around the inhuman conditions that existed not only within the Civil War prisons, but within the entire population as well with special emphasis upon the injustices and cruelties suffered especially within negro/white relations.
Discussion: This entire series to date exhibits the results of extensive and rather meticulously performed historical research that offers minutia that seldom surface; e.g., the number of Jews who not only served in the Civil War, but even in important positions; the use of opiates by both sides; etc. Interesting illustrations also are included. Such attendance to detail is readily appreciated and understood from an author who has spent years in teaching the subject. And he has interspersed his fictional and historical characters in a most commendable manner with historical fact and fiction and included thoughtful emphasis on the negro/white relationship. Regrettably however, this reader feels compelled to provide a caveat for the tendency that began in the latter part of Book II – the increased amount of historical detail, although fascinating and most appealing to many readers, does provide hiccups to the plot’s smooth flow of advancement. . Most regrettably, a further caveat must be provided for those (hopefully few) readers who cannot accept what today is termed ‘politically incorrect’ verbalization and activity, even though it is entirely correct historically.
4* Engrossing historical novel with unfortunate ‘hiccups’ to plot cohesiveness/advancement; caveat for parochial readers.