Sweetsmoke by David Fuller
Amazon Link: Sweetsmoke
The year is 1862, and the Civil War rages through the South. On a Virginia tobacco plantation, another kind of battle soon begins. There, Cassius Howard, a skilled carpenter and slave, risks everything — punishment, sale to a cotton plantation, even his life — to learn the truth concerning the murder of Emoline, a freed black woman, a woman who secretly taught him to read and once saved his life. It is clear that no one cares about her death in the midst of a brutal and hellish war. No one but Cassius, who braves horrific dangers to escape the plantation and avenge her loss.
As Cassius seeks answers about Emoline's murder, he finds an unexpected friend and ally in Quashee, a new woman brought over from another plantation; and a formidable adversary in Hoke Howard, the master he has always obeyed.
With subtlety and beauty, Sweetsmoke captures the daily indignities and harrowing losses suffered by slaves, the turmoil of a country waging countless wars within its own borders, and the lives of those people fighting for identity, for salvation, and for freedom.
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"Mystery novels, ever in need of fresh points of view, are given to strange genre hybrids like Fuller's debut novel: part investigative procedural, part narrative of American slave life. Cassius, a secretly literate slave on a Civil War — era Virginia tobacco plantation, is determined to track down whoever killed his mentor and surrogate mother, Emoline Justice, a free black woman. Making liberal use of his limited freedoms, Cassius takes to the road, playing the obvious disadvantages of life under the yoke to his favor. Along the way, he encounters slave traders, Underground Railroad conspirators, Confederate soldiers, Northern spies and a wide assortment of African-Americans, slave and free. Fuller, a screenwriter, has palpable sympathy for his African-American characters, and Cassius's encounters with other characters — like the haunted slave owner Hoke Howard — are the book's strongest parts. Unfortunately, Fuller's solid plot doesn't carry the novel through to its end, and, despite sourcing the work of historians Eugene Genovese and John Hope Franklin, the novel gives off a distinct whiff of unreality. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"David Fuller vividly and movingly describes the life of Cassius, a slave on a Virginia tobacco plantation. Meticulously researched and beautifully written, Sweetsmoke resonates with unforgettable characters and is a gripping story of loss and survival." Robert Hicks, author of The Widow of the South
"The beauty in this book lies in the writing. Fuller['s] people, places and plot turns shine as vividly here as they would on the big screen. He creates characters complex enough for readers to pity, detest and, in some cases, even admire all at the same time." USA Today
"[A] suspenseful novel rich in period detail....The plot unfolds at a brisk pace, and Fuller does an especially good job with the battle scenes....Sweetsmoke is a well-imagined and researched novel of survival and courage." The Atlanta Journal Constitution
"Sweetsmoke is a fascinating and gripping novel about the Civil War. The slave, Cassius Howard, is a great fictional character, and his story is part mystery, part love story, and a harrowing portrait of slavery that reads with the immense power of the slave narratives. A tour de force for David Fuller." Pat Conroy, author of Beach Music and South of Broad
"With Sweetsmoke, David Fuller gives an extraordinarily nuanced, privileged, and convincing view of the world of slavery during the American Civil War, and of the hearts and minds of the men and women who had to live in that world." Madison Smartt Bell, author of All Souls' Rising and Toussaint Louverture
"[T]his novel from veteran screenwriter Fuller is well worth reading because of Cassius's sinuous and guileful complexity." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author:
David Fuller has been a screenwriter for twenty-five years. He spent eight years researching Sweetsmoke, his first novel, and along the way discovered that he had ancestors who fought on both sides of the Civil War. Fuller lives in Los Angeles with his wife and twin sons.