On the Spur of Speed
In volume four of the Frost series, J.E. Fender provides a new insight into a seldom-seen Revolutionary War battle, a detailed look at the slave trade, and a challenging way of organizing these two stories.
Joseph Frost volunteers for Benedict Arnold’s 1776 Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain. Fender gives us a Patrick O’Brian-like description of how Frost and Arnold build and fight an outnumbered American fleet against the British. This offers a rare look at a patriotic Benedict Arnold and a key strategic battle in the Revolutionary War. Joseph’s story is interspersed, chapter by chapter, with a flashback to his brother’s first voyage on a slave ship. Here we see ten-year-old Geoffrey Frost abused under the heavy hand of a slave ship captain. This tale, too, abounds in O’Brian-like descriptions of eighteenth century nautical detail.
Each tale tells an interesting story. However, the stories stand alone. They are two fine novellas shuffled together like a deck of playing cards. The result imposes on the reader the task of shifting gears at each chapter. If your interests lie in the American Revolutionary War, the slave trade or the ongoing saga of the Frost family, you will find much to like here. However, your pleasure will be tempered by the two-stories-in-one approach.