From Publishers Weekly
Mystery novels, ever in need of fresh points of view, are given to strange genre hybrids like Fuller's debut novel: part investigative procedural, part narrative of American slave life. Cassius, a secretly literate slave on a Civil War–era Virginia tobacco plantation, is determined to track down whoever killed his mentor and surrogate mother, Emoline Justice, a free black woman. Making liberal use of his limited freedoms, Cassius takes to the road, playing the obvious disadvantages of life under the yoke to his favor. Along the way, he encounters slave traders, Underground Railroad conspirators, Confederate soldiers, Northern spies and a wide assortment of African-Americans, slave and free. Fuller, a screenwriter, has palpable sympathy for his African-American characters, and Cassius's encounters with other characters—like the haunted slave owner Hoke Howard—are the book's strongest parts. Unfortunately, Fuller's solid plot doesn't carry the novel through to its end, and, despite sourcing the work of historians Eugene Genovese and John Hope Franklin, the novel gives off a distinct whiff of unreality. (Sept.)
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is a fascinating and gripping novel about the Civil War. The slave, Cassius Howard, is a great fictional character, and his story is part mystery, part love story, and a harrowing portrait of slavery that reads with the immense power of the slave narratives. A tour de force for David Fuller."―Pat Conroy, author of Beach Music and South of Broad
"David Fuller vividly and movingly describes the life of Cassius, a slave on a Virginia tobacco plantation. Meticulously researched and beautifully written, Sweetsmoke
resonates with unforgettable characters and a gripping story of loss and survival."―Robert Hicks, author of The Widow of the South
, David Fuller gives an extraordinarily nuanced, privileged, and convincing view of the world of slavery during the American Civil War, and of the hearts and minds of the men and women who had to live in that world."―Madison Smartt Bell, author of All Souls' Rising and Toussaint Louverture