Fire Bell in the Night
New York Tribune reporter John Sharp arrives in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1850 to cover a trial that will prove pivotal in Southern history. Darcy Nance Calhoun is a white man accused of harboring an escaped slave. The die is seemingly cast, as everyone expects a guilty verdict followed by execution. To this simple plot, Geoffrey Edwards adds the complexity of controversial North-South attitudes, which might have swayed history a different way. Enter the plantation world, where one slave boy’s cruel, incomprehensible death becomes the reactive force forever known as the Habersham County Rebellion. Meet Tyler Breckinridge, who befriends Sharp, and introduces him to plantation life and owners whose opinions on slavery and secession run the gamut from fierce support to quiet opposition.
But something is not quite right in this lazy but dynamic city. Fires are mysteriously breaking out daily, too many different militia troops appear to be training for something larger than a local hanging, and secret groups of South Carolina’s leading citizens are secretly meeting under the cover of darkness. Edwards presents related earlier events—the northern Astor Place riots, the Wilmot Proviso compromise, and the Denmark Vesey uprising—in a fresh, controlled, and pertinent manner. John Sharp has an unparalleled opportunity to interview and become friends with the accused criminal, Darcy, who is so much more than the simple-minded character he appears to be.
Fire Bell in the Night is a fresh, unique presentation of pre-Civil war history that is riveting, adventurous, poignant, and one of the finest historical novels this reviewer has read in years!