Brock’s Railroad

Written by Tom Taylor
Review by Cindy Vallar

Luther Johnson risks the treacherous Niagara Falls to escape slave catchers. Once in Canada, he joins the Company of Colored Men, ex-slaves who fight in His Majesty’s Army. But the new recruits can’t measure up to the old Rangers, those who fought during the Revolution. They need Alexander the Great, their former sergeant and Luther’s father. General Isaac Brock sends Ensign Jonathan Westlake, his friend Walt Parrish, and Ensign Robert Simpson to bring Alexander to Canada. They will travel out of uniform and, if caught, be shot as spies.

Brutally whipped for his son’s escape, Alexander wreaks vengeance on the master and his son, who has repeatedly raped Luther’s wife. Once they flee the Virginia plantation, the master sends a dozen slave catchers to hunt them down. Alexander crosses paths with Jonathan at a station on the Underground Railroad. Their return to Canada is fraught with peril, not only from the slave catchers but also Indians allied with the Americans, who patrol the river that separates the two countries. Reaching “glory land” fails to provide the safety they hoped for. Their pursuers, who will stop at nothing to recapture Alexander, Luther, and the other ex-slaves, join the American invasion that culminates in the Battle of Queenstown Heights in October 1812.

Told primarily from the perspective of the Canadians, Brock’s Railroad is also seen through the eyes of slaves, slave catchers, and Americans. Taylor neither sugarcoats the harsh realities of slavery and war, nor preaches about them. Rather he spins sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant individual stories into an intricate web to create a charismatic and powerful tale of freedom that tugs at readers’ hearts.