A Free State: A Novel by Tom Piazza
Release Date: September 15, 2015
The year is 1855. Blackface minstrelsy is the most popular form of entertainment in a nation about to be torn apart by the battle over slavery. Henry Sims, a fugitive slave and a brilliant musician, has escaped to Philadelphia, where he earns money living by his wits and performing on the street. He is befriended by James Douglass, leader of a popular minstrel troupe struggling to compete with dozens of similar ensembles, who imagines that Henry’s skill and magnetism might restore his troupe’s sagging fortunes.
The problem is that black and white performers are not allowed to appear together onstage. Together, the two concoct a masquerade to protect Henry’s identity, and Henry creates a sensation in his first appearances with the troupe. Yet even as their plan begins to reverse the troupe’s decline, a brutal slave hunter named Tull Burton has been employed by Henry’s former master to track down the runaway and retrieve him, by any means necessary.
Twain's End by Lynn Cullen
Release Date: October 13, 2015
In March of 1909, Mark Twain cheerfully blessed the wedding of his private secretary, Isabel V. Lyon, and his business manager, Ralph Ashcroft. One month later, he fired both. He proceeded to write a ferocious 429-page rant about the pair, calling Isabel “a liar, a forger, a thief, a hypocrite, a drunkard, a sneak, a humbug, a traitor, a conspirator, a filthy-minded and salacious slut pining for seduction.” Twain and his daughter, Clara Clemens, then slandered Isabel in the newspapers, erasing her nearly seven years of devoted service to their family. How did Lyon go from being the beloved secretary who ran Twain’s life to a woman he was determined to destroy?
The Rifleman by Oliver North
Release Date: May 3, 2016
The man who has “been there, done that” in other wars immerses you in a ripping saga of courage, tenacity, and intrigue torn from the pages of a Revolutionary War soldier’s journal. Nathaniel Newman is a volunteer with Morgan’s Riflemen, an elite infantry unit of Virginia sharpshooters who fought with the cutting-edge military technology of the day: long rifles. As North turns the pages of Nathaniel’s captivating diary, he reveals how the struggle to forge a new, independent nation was nearly lost by traitors, cowards, and the faint of heart. Brother against brother, friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor, this sweeping and meticulously researched novel of our nation’s fight for liberty explores the bravery and perseverance of those who fought and won the bloody battles—and how treachery and betrayal threatened victory in a brutal test of arms.
Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings: A Novel by Stephen O'Connor
Release Date: April 5, 2016
In his vivid, original, and heartrending account of the thirty-seven-year relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, one which began in Paris in 1789 and ended with Jefferson's death in 1826, Stephen O'Connor manages to be unsparing in his rendition of the hypocrisy of the slaveholder who wrote "all men are created equal," and yet to allow both of his protagonists their tender, beautiful, and deeply human moments. This is a novel in which nothing is what it seems, in which innocence shares the heart with evil. O'Connor's tale alternates among lush realism, rendered with a historian's eye for detail, a first person confession penned by Hemings after Jefferson has passed away, and fabulistic interludes in which Jefferson watches a movie about his life. Hemings fabricates an "invention" that becomes the whole world, and they run into each other "after an unimaginable length of time" on the New York City subway. Fundamentally, Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings is a story about yearning—for love, for justice, for an ideal world—and about the survival of hope, even in the midst of catastrophe.
Twain & Stanley Enter Paradise by Oscar Hijuelos
Release Date: November 3, 2015
Twain & Stanley Enter Paradise, by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Oscar Hijuelos, is a luminous work of fiction inspired by the real-life, 37-year friendship between two towering figures of the late nineteenth century, famed writer and humorist Mark Twain and legendary explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley.
From their early days as journalists in the American West, to their admiration and support of each other's writing, their mutual hatred of slavery, their social life together in the dazzling literary circles of the period, and even a mysterious journey to Cuba to search for Stanley's adoptive father, Twain & Stanley Enter Paradise superbly channels two vibrant but very different figures. It is also a study of Twain's complex bond with Mrs. Stanley, the bohemian portrait artist Dorothy Tennant, who introduces Twain and his wife to the world of séances and mediums after the tragic death of their daughter.