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Israel Potter's story has been told four times, the last by the current authors, David Chacko and Alexander Kulcsar, in two well-received novels--Gone Over and The Brimstone Papers. Beggarman, Spy, the third installment, is "nonfiction" and equally impressive.
Beggarman, Spy retells the facts of "one of the strangest stories ever made known." Though Herman Melville, as well as Chacko and Kulcsar, made the story a basis for fiction, no one ever examined the biography to verify its sensational claims. That mistake has now been corrected.
The authors turn a hard eye on Potter's words from the first sentence of his book, which states three lies as facts. This is "forensic" history, and it includes looking at everyone around Potter. His biographer Henry Trumbull, for example, was a man as much at home churning out pornography as sermons.
Not our idea of a founding father? They're here, too, from Washington to Franklin, from sex-addled Quakers to money-driven Pilgrims. All had a part in making Potter's life less a mad-cap adventure than a weird tragedy. As these characters turn the wheel of Potter's fate, we gain a view of the times that has seldom been shown.
Did the captain of Potter's ship make his bones as a slave trader? Did Trumbull burn down the home of one of his subjects to create a bestseller? Did the most incredible of Potter's adventures--his mission to Franklin in Paris--actually take place?
Yes, but how it happened is where Beggarman, Spy excels. The authors rarely trust accepted accounts. By digging deeper, they produce many surprises. When surprise turns to coincidence, they explore those, too.
The book closes with a look at Melville set against the homecoming of Potter. It's the tale of an exile--or two--and the blood ties that define their lives. The way blood ties intertwine are the most important theme in the book.
What happened when the wife of Benedict Arnold took a strapping young stone mason into the house? Did the richest man in America really begin his fortune by drowning a slave?
See Beggarman, Spy for the answers.
This is the final installment in the Israel Potter cycle. The first two books were novels--GONE OVER and THE BRIMSTONE PAPERS. Now BEGGARMAN, SPY caps the series with the truth that is almost as strange as the fictions. You will never read another book about American history like it because there has never been a story like it.See all Editorial Reviews