Shot Tower: Henry and Silas Make the Big Shoot

Written by William Shefski
Review by Christopher Hawthorne Moss

Words in the present speak to you from the past. Shot Tower is a coming of age story about Harry, the teenage son of Irish immigrants and his best friend Silas, a black from a Quaker family. When Harry’s mother is murdered at her loom, the two boys travel south in search of her killer where they witness the Battle of Port Royal, test the bonds of their friendship, and return to Philadelphia as men.”

Styled as a history-mystery, this novel is set in the years before and during the American Civil War in Philadelphia and features young Harry, whose parents were Irish immigrants, from the time he is born in a church in the shadow of the Shot Tower to his partnership with Silas, a free African American, to seek out and punish the man Harry believes murdered his weaver mother. The setting is crystal clear and mirrors to some extent the sort of landmarks you will find in Edward Rutherfurd’s New York, with much the same mix of people.

Harry, basically a teenager through most of the novel, has a combination of free spirit and drive that takes him far, while Silas is unique in not being, nor ever having been, a slave. The boys’ view of the young continent builds a sense of wonder and adventure as they brace battles and seek justice for Harry’s mother.

Spoiler: If you want a full solution to the mystery, it appears you will have to read an as-of-yet unpublished sequel, unfortunately.

E-edition reviewed