Hamilton’s Choice

Written by Jack Casey
Review by Susan Higginbotham

On the Fourth of July of 1801 in New York City, young Philip Hamilton, hearing a speaker insult his father, Alexander, aches for a fight. Soon enough, he gets it—with a well-known result that inexorably leads to an even more famous encounter.

In Hamilton’s Choice, attorney Jack Casey asks us to consider why, with his political future never more promising, a new home just built and a loving family of eight to support, would Alexander Hamilton choose to face Aaron Burr’s pistol at ten paces? In doing so, he offers his own, quite plausible theory as to what brought Alexander Hamilton to his famous, fatal encounter at Weehawken. (It’s no spoiler to say it wasn’t honor, as the back-cover copy trumpets this.) The characters are vivid, as is Casey’s portrayal of the tensions within the Hamiltons’ marriage. The dialogue is sharp, and while the language may strike some as overly modern, this appears to have been a conscious choice on the author’s part rather than sloppiness. The present-tense narration, which can be bothersome in some novels, seems appropriate to the story here.

In his acknowledgments, Casey informs us that this novel was started 37 years before its publication. I’d say it was worth the time.