word craft


Writing about the history
that hasn’t been written

His­to­ry, you’ve no doubt heard it said a mil­lion times, is writ­ten by the win­ners. But what if you could find out what hap­pened to the losers?

If one is going to write his­tor­i­cal fic­tion, it seems fair to assume one needs to read his­to­ry. And if one does reads history—as I do—you won­der about the sto­ries of the so-called under­dogs, those small, and some­time very large tales which are shoved into the dark­ness by the bright light of tri­umphant torches.

Those sto­ries are what inter­est me and what I’ve come to write about.

The Fighting Ground, Sophia's War, The Player King

Thus, The Fight­ing Ground, a momen­tary (but true) tale of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion, of lit­tle impor­tance save to the peo­ple who lived and died in that small skir­mish in New Jersey.

Thus, Sophi­a’s War, which in large part is about the plight of the huge num­bers of Amer­i­can sol­diers who, tak­en pris­on­er by the British, were most cru­el­ly held and, in the main, for­got­ten. (Though there is a mon­u­ment to the many who died, a mon­u­ment cham­pi­oned into cre­ation by Walt Whitman).

The Play­er King is about a 15th Cen­tu­ry boy—about whom very lit­tle is known—who claimed the king­ship of Eng­land against an oppres­sive monar­chy and was actu­al­ly crowned as such in Ire­land, only to have his cause fall to pieces in The Bat­tle of Trent. Anoth­er true tale.

a modern day tobacco field
a tobac­co field

Then there are the 18th cen­tu­ry colonies of Vir­ginia and Mary­land. This area, around Chesa­peake Bay came to be known as the Tobac­co Coast. It was where the Amer­i­can econ­o­my first became both suc­cess­ful and inter­na­tion­al. The point is, most of the labor who worked this tobac­co econ­o­my were not free.

That was because in the ear­ly 17th cen­tu­ry it was Eng­land’s trans­port­ed felons and inden­tured ser­vants who made up much of the labor force there. It con­tin­ued into the 18th cen­tu­ry and has come to be called white slav­ery. We are ref­er­enc­ing about fifty thou­sand peo­ple, men, women, and children.

It soon shift­ed to Black slav­ery. Either way, it was slavery.

That is the essen­tial nar­ra­tive sub­ject of The End of the World and Beyond. A white boy, Oliv­er Cromwell Pitts, is caught up by the British legal sys­tem, trans­port­ed to America—to the Tobac­co Coast—as a felon. How does he get there? He is bought, but by whom? How does he live? How does he inter­act with Black slav­ery? Does he, can he, will he escape, when the local com­mu­ni­ty is well orga­nized to track down any escaped slave, white or black?

Where do Oliv­er and his fel­low African slave Bara flee? More about that anon, in anoth­er post. Do I have to tell you, there’s not a great deal writ­ten about that.

I’ve cho­sen to in The End of the World and Beyond.

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