Tim Queeney, better known for his clever Perry Helion thrillers, has penned a historical novel that frankly, surprised me on many different levels. It’s historical fiction at its finest in that we feel like we know young George Washington and are on the same journey with him. Queeney’s use of the first person narrator, an educated, free black man with advanced nautical skills, is an inventive and highly literary device that both puts the reader in the scene and allows the reader insight into their way of thinking.
The voice of Darius Atticus as Washington’s sidekick is both literate and in keeping in times with the dialogue from that era. I loved that Queeney used him to tell this story as much as I’d come to love his character.His descriptions of London and of Washington, who he nicknames Geo, cut the legs out of the legend and introduced me to a Washington that was a real and alive. We smell London and see and hear it in such rich detail that I often lost myself. Washington drinks and chases woman, harboring dreams of making a name for himself in England society. Historical figures come and go, and all the while the reader is totally enthralled with the crazy journey these two ambitious young go-getters have embarked on.
And there is a caper, a plot that keeps us on the edge of our seat. They are pursued throughout the novel by a crazed Lieutenant Chase, who thinks they are Jacobites. They get ensnarled in a financial con game and while this is happening Geo falls deeply in love with a stunning woman. We can’t help but think of poor Martha. What makes this stand out is Darius Atticus’ incredibly rich description of these events. And because he is a black man he is beholden to Geo even though he greatly admires the young man and sees his potential greatness.
Hilarity ensues in this clever caper. A Duke of Clay invents the Claywich for convenience (meat-bread-meat); a thirteen year-old George (future King George) s obsessed with Indian warfare and stages real battles; a royal astronomer is depressed that Halley had a comet named after him (Atticus promises to name an American crater after him). So many laughs and foibles that it swept me through this tale.
This is real living, grimy history. The narrator describes the various ales and foods in such detail that I wished I could sample them. He describes the landscape of London and the way people talked back in the day, as well as tradition and norms of life on a merchant ship. I really can’t say enough about this wonderful book. Washington stands out as a real, living man; a man who lusts, has ambition and enjoys having fun as much as the next 19 year old. And you may never think of custard in the same way again.