Song of the Jayhawk

Written by Jack Marshall Maness
Review by Fiona Ness

Song of the Jayhawk, the debut novel from Jack Marshall Maness, is set in the territory of Kansas during the most turbulent period in the region’s history. In the 1850s the U.S. Congress looked to the concept of “squatter sovereignty” and left to the inhabitants of the territory whether they’ would be a Free State or a Slave State, and the whole nation watched the turmoil in Kansas as a bellwether of the tensions that would erupt a decade later in the Civil War.

Immigrants to Kansas were immediately embroiled in these tensions, and Maness takes as his narrative focus two such families, the Dugans and the Hawkins, and lets the drama play out in the havoc Slave State and Free State politics wreaks on their lives.

Maness works a great deal of fascinating history into his narrative, and the personalities he fills the plots with – not just the Dugans and the Hawkins but dozens of other immigrants and guerrillas and partisans of every possible stripe – are conveyed very vividly through excellent dialog.

It totally captivated me; I strongly recommend it.