Tag Archives: Historical Fiction
Date Published: January 2016
Thirty years before the Spanish Inquisition, the seeds of hatred have sprouted in Castile. Suspicions fester. Rage churns beneath the surface. Viçente Pérez—a man who wields enviable power but harbors a shameful past—is the only one who can keep the tension from exploding out of control.
As the Christian son of secret Jews, Viçente is in a hopeless position—charged with keeping the peace, but always suspected by the city’s Old Christians, unwilling but duty-bound to help the increasingly persecuted Jews, and to aid his king whose rule is threatened.
When Viçente crosses the ruthless, power-hungry lawyer Marcos García de Mora, he makes a formidable enemy. García’s plan: to rally the common men, attack Jews, and purify Toledo by purging suspected heretics—the Christian descendants of Jews, converts like Viçente.
As war breaks out between the king and his cousins, and García and his madmen rise to power in Toledo, Viçente falls in love with the mysterious Francesca and finds himself faced with impossible choices: love or duty, respect or intolerance, reverence or disdain for his ancestry.
From the courts of kings in Naples and Castile to the chambers of Pope Nicholas and the torture cellars of Toledo, this gripping novel brings to life an era of little-known history in fifteenth-century Spain, a time when a rogue inquisition threatened to destroy the very soul of Toledo.
About the Author
Edward D. Webster has had an eclectic mixture of careers, ranging from teaching Navajo students to managing transit operations. And he’s the author of a diverse collection of books. Webster admits to a fascination with unique, quirky and bizarre human behavior, and he doesn’t exempt himself from the mix. His acclaimed memoir, A Year of Sundays (Taking the Plunge and our Cat to Explore Europe) shares the eccentric tale of his yearlong adventure in Europe with his spirited blind wife and headstrong, deaf sixteen-year-old cat. His historical novel, Soul of Toledo recounts a diabolical moment in history, when madmen took over the City of Toledo and tortured suspected Jews, 30 years before the Spanish Inquisition. And his 2014 novel, The Gentle Bomber’s Melody, explores what might happen if a nutty woman, bearing a stolen baby, landed on the doorstep of a fugitive bomber hiding from the FBI. The result: irresistible insanity. From the happily unusual of A Year of Sundays to the cruelly perverse in Soul of Toledo, Edward D. Webster shines a light on offbeat aspects of human nature. Webster lives in Southern California with his divine wife and two amazing cats.
Date Published: October 8, 2016
A murderer stalks the orange groves of 1923 Southern California. Detective Sidney Snipes is called to the Harrington Manor when retired Colonel Peter Wescott Harrington is found slumped over his desk by his family. Snipes entrusts the sensational new crime fighting technology—Fingerprint Analysis to find a fierce fiend.
Just when he though he had the murderer cornered, a neighbor discovers a shallow grave in the orange groves; an unsolved missing person’s cold case files. A case that has haunted the Orange County Sheriff’s Department for three years. The evidence in the missing person’s case rumples Snipes proficient sleuthing skills as the leads take him in circles. Then to add to the muddying discord, another Harrington turns up dead, apparently murdered in his sleep.
But when a sinister child’s Jack-in-the-box, seemingly from the grim reaper himself, materializes on the Colonel’s desk, the detective is bedeviled more than he cares to admit. Nevertheless, Snipes had enough moxie to send fingerprints to every city where his suspects had ever lived. The leads take Snipes in a direction he never saw coming. Within days, he’s shocked to his eyebrows by the results; the identity of the murderer befuddles his mind. Alas, the oldest Harrington son, Shep, supposed wife, had a mock wedding to him in Manhattan, New York, and their plan was to kill the whole Harrington clan for their wealth.
Praise for Harrington Manor:
“Harrington Manor is James at his very best.”-Publisher’s Weekly
About the Author
Ronald James was born during the great depression, and as a toddler watched WPA men build a new street, from his home’s big front window. His playmates were a red rider wagon, a small black satchel and rocks. By using his imagination he had conversations with mythical street workers that bloomed into fashioned fantasies by age four. He used cardboard boxes to create fun spaces for his neighborhood playmates to enjoy and he kept telling stories all through high school. In college he abandoned writing and studied architecture. James had a successful architectural career and retired, however he wanted to keep his creative juices fluent, so he returned to his childhood story telling days and joined a writers group. Like architecture, each day he couldn’t wait to create, finish, and start new stories—like, Harrington Manor.
Date Published: December 2016
“Who in the west has not heard of Wetzel, the daring borderer, the Boone of North-Western Virginia.” Wills de Hass, 1851.
Lewis Wetzel came of age near the end of the Revolutionary War and was an important participant in the twenty-year war between the woodland Indian Nations and the settlers of western Pennsylvania, western Virginia, and Kentucky. The novel, although classified as historical fiction, traces Wetzel’s life over a period of more than twenty years, featuring events and the rich history that occurred in the upper Ohio River Valley, Kentucky, Ohio, and down the Mississippi to New Orleans. According to de Hass, a historian in the mid-nineteenth century, Wetzel’s efforts were without parallel in border warfare.
He moved along in the direction indicated by the track he had found, and he soon found another. The Indian was moving along the path parallel to the tree line, which ended at the riverbank.
Lewis knew that the Indians often used the islands such as Boggs Island to help them cross the Ohio, and he figured that this warrior was heading directly to the shore opposite the island.
“This red buck ain’t doin’ much to cover his trail,” said Wetzel aloud to himself. “And he ain’t too far ahead neither.”
He came to a break in the tree line, and he could see the island in the distance. There was tall grass and some light brush in the open area, then another clump of trees. Wetzel dropped to a crawl, keeping his head below the taller grasses until he reached the trees.
He looked for some sign of his quarry and eventually saw a broken twig just a few feet to the left of where he had entered. A natural path led along the base of a low-rising hill, and Lewis followed it, stopping often to listen and examine the forest floor to both sides.
It seemed to Wetzel that he should be close to what he had thought was the Indian’s intended destination. He heard
Something that sounded like singing, a female voice. His eye then caught sight of his prey, kneeling behind a big maple and watching something intently. Wetzel dropped down behind some bushes and stared at the husky brave. What was he looking at?
Lewis backed up a bit and shifted to his right where there was a small opening in the trees through which he could see to the riverbank. What he saw nearly took his breath away. A woman Wetzel stood at the edge of the stream, splashing water on herself. She was completely naked, and she was singing softly. Wetzel knew immediately that it was Lydia, and he could not take his eyes off her. When she began to turn, Lewis was so enthralled that he nearly forgot his dusky friend who was sharing this view.
Lydia stepped toward the canoe that was pulled up on the bank near where she stood and reached for the towel, slung over its side. In so doing, she exposed her front side to the two men watching her with avid attention. Lewis was conscious of the effects this sight was having on his body. Her breasts were as beautiful as he had imagined, and as his eye dropped down to the dark thatch between her legs, he could scarcely keep himself from crying out. He felt the desire well up within him, and he wanted to rush down and take her in his arms.
Lydia casually lifted the towel and began to dry herself, completely unaware of the two men watching her from so nearby.
Lewis, remembering finally the danger to Lydia crouching behind the big tree, looked to see what the warrior was doing.
The Indian, as if mesmerized by the erotic show in front of him, had not moved. This couldn’t last much longer, and Wetzel
eased back into the woods behind him and moved to a position advantageous for an attack. How should he do it without revealing to Lydia that the two of them had been peeping at her. He could not wait much longer, he knew.
He dropped down to a prone position and raised his rifle, sighting through the opening at the Indian who stood next to the tree, still watching the girl. His face was painted and a stone hung
from his right ear. Wetzel aimed just in front of the dangling gem and squeezed the trigger. The ball slammed into the unsuspecting brave in the right jaw, plowing through his mouth and out just under the left eye. He dropped instantly and without making a sound. Wetzel could hear the scream from Lydia, but he waited for a short while before moving.
He was confident that the Indian was dead, but he made no move to go to the body and retrieve the scalp. He could not see Lydia now, but he figured that she was scrambling to get dressed and get the canoe out into the river. Waiting until he thought she was probably dressed, he then pushed through the trees, making as much noise as possible. Lydia was visible as Wetzel neared the edge of the woods, and he could see that she was no longer naked. She had put on the gown, but he could see that her petticoat was still in the canoe. She had crouched down by the side of the canoe that was nearest the river, and as he came into the clearing, she screamed again.
“Lyddy, it’s me, Lew Wetzel,” he shouted, hoping to stop her screaming.
It had just occurred to him that they might not be alone, even though he had seen no one else.
“Who?” Lydia stopped screaming but remained half hidden by the canoe.
“Lew Wetzel!” exclaimed Lew, louder this time.
Now Lydia stood up and immediately recognized the young hunter.
“Lew Wetzel, you fool. You look like an Indian. You scared me to death.”
“That wasn’t my intent, Lyddy,” protested Lew.
“Was that you shooting?” Lydia demanded, walking around the bow of the canoe and approaching Lew. Her expression had changed from one of fright to one of fury.
“I reckon it was,” admitted Wetzel.
“What were you shootin’ at then?” Lydia wanted to know. “I thought somebody was shootin’ at me.”
“I was shootin’ at a rabbit, Lyddy. I missed him.”
“I thought you was supposed to be a crack shot,” said Lydia, beginning to calm down.
“Suppose to bein’ and bein’ are two different things, mebbe,” said Lew.
He had decided it was better not to mention the Indian.
“Well, everybody says you’re one of the best shots on the whole border. Guess you got ’em fooled.”
Another thought occurred to her, and she felt herself beginning to blush. “When did you first see me?” she asked suddenly.
Wetzel was ready for this question. “Why, just when I came out of the woods,” he explained. “I saw you crouchin’ there behind the canoe. Why do you want to know that?”
“None of your business, Lew Wetzel.” In spite of herself, Lydia’s face broke into a coquettish grin. “Maybe I wasn’t dressed proper for receivin’ company.”
Wetzel stole a glance at the petticoat draped against the side of the canoe. “Maybe you ain’t dressed quite proper even now,” replied Lew, surprised that he would talk that way to a girl. He surely would never say such a thing to Betty Zane.
Lydia had seen his glance, and she blushed even more. Still she was feeling a certain excitement at this turn in the conversation.
“Well, it’s better than it was before I heard that shot. I was takin’ a bath in the river.”
“I sure wish I had seen that!” said Wetzel emphatically.
“You’re bad, Lew,” said Lydia. “Would you have watched me without warning me?”
Lew realized he could be on dangerous ground here, and he answered accordingly. “Of course not, Lyddy. Why, you’re my friend Billy’s little sister.”
“What difference does that make? Does that mean if it was some other girl, like Betty Zane, you would have watched?” Lydia was not particularly fond of Betty Zane. It was rumored that she was engaged to Moses Shepherd, a young man that Lydia had in mind for herself.
“No, I wouldn’t have looked at Betty Zane neither. Listen here, Lyddy, it ain’t smart for you to come over here by yourself like you did. I could’ve been an Injun, and if I was, you’d be dead about now.”
“Well, I ain’t dead, and I don’t like you sneakin’ up on me like some Injun anyway.”
“I didn’t sneak up on you, Lyddy. I’ll go behind these bushes and turn my back while you finish gittin’ dressed. Then I’ll take you back home.”
Wetzel did as he promised, and Lydia finished dressing. She wanted to stay angry with him, but she supposed she didn’t really have a good reason. The look on his face, though, made her wonder if maybe he had seen more than he was admitting. When she was ready, she called to him and climbed into the canoe. He laid his rifle carefully on the bottom and pushed the little craft out into the water, jumping in as the current began to carry it away from the shore. He took the paddle and began the trip back around Boggs Island and to the shore on the other side.
Two days later, Lydia sat in the commandant’s room at Fort Henry when John Linn came in to talk to her father, Captain John Boggs. The two men spoke for a few moments when a remark of Linn’s caught her attention.
“Funny thing, Captain,” said Linn. “Across the river, in the woods across from your island, I found the body of a dead redskin. He’d been shot through the head but wasn’t scalped. I don’t know how long he’d been there, but he was beginnin’ to stink. His gun was leanin’ against the tree right where he fell. I didn’t see no sign of any others around anywhere.”
A puzzled look came across Boggs’ face. “Weren’t you over there a couple days ago, Lyddy?” he asked his daughter. “Lew Wetzel said he’d found you there. Did you hear anything that day?” Boggs had intended to address the matter with his daughter and give her a good scolding, but he hadn’t got around to it yet.
“Not a thing,” said Lydia immediately, wondering how much Wetzel had told her father.
The men looked at each other and shook their heads. “Let that be a lesson to you, Lyddy. You’d best not go over there again like that,” said Captain Boggs.
“I won’t, Pa,” answered Lydia. Some rabbit, she was thinking to herself.
About the Author
Richard Fleming has degrees from Northwest Missouri State and Florida State University, including a doctorate in mathematics. After forty-two years as a professor of mathematics at the University of Missouri, the University of Memphis, and Central Michigan University, he retired and began to indulge a lifelong love of history. He lives in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, with his wife, Diane.
Coming of Age, Historical Fiction
Date Published: July 27, 2016
In 1941, when thirteen-year-old Ricky Parker’s family is uprooted from their home in Arkansas and relocated to Venezuela, Ricky thinks his life is over. But what he finds in a rough and tumble oil camp on the banks of Lake Maracaibo is the adventure of a lifetime. An adventure filled with Nazi spies, treachery, betrayal, true love, and even murder.
While touching on issues that remain relevant today, such as racism and America’s reliance on foreign oil, this coming-of-age novel is a page turning, high-octane suspense tale of star-crossed young lovers set in exotic wartime Venezuela.
One Friday evening right before the Fourth of July in the summer of 1941, I answered the front door and my whole life changed.
Two men in suits stood on the porch. One of them was an older fellow, wearing a cheap brown suit and a high starched collar that was wilting from the summer heat. The band in his rumpled fedora was stained with sweat. He had a droopy mustache that was part black and part white and an Adam’s apple that looked about the size of a baseball.
The other man was younger and had on a nicer suit. He removed his hat and showed off a thick head of blond hair. His face was pasty white, and I knew right off that he’d never done a lick of farmwork in his life.
“Is Mr. Chester Parker at home? We’d like a word with him if it would be convenient.” The younger man sounded like Mr. Hunter who taught English over at El Dorado Junior High, where I had just finished the seventh grade. They both talked real educated and proper-like.
“I reckon he’s out back,” I said. “Y’all come on in and I’ll get him.” I looked past the two men on the porch and saw some angry-looking dark clouds gathering off to the east, promising a summer rain.
The two men stepped into the living room. The older man removed his hat and scratched his bald head.
Before I could fetch Daddy, Mama stepped into the living room from the kitchen. She was wearing her big red apron that was dusty with flour from making the biscuits for supper. She had a dot of flour on her nose. “Who is it, Ricky? Did you . . .” She pulled up short in the doorway and drew in a quick breath.
“Howdy, Dixie,” the older man said. “How you been?”
Mama eyed the man like a dead garden snake she’d found on the back porch. “Evening, Mr. Taggert. I reckon I’m fine.” Mama’s tone filled the living room with a chilling frost.
The older man ignored Mama’s coldness. “This here is Mr. George Quinn. He’s from Washington. We need to have a word with Mr. Ches if we might.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Washington? What on earth would some stranger from Washington, DC, want with my father?
Mama wiped her hands on her apron. “Ricky, run on out to the shed and fetch your daddy. Be quick now.”
I scampered back through the kitchen and out the screen door and sprinted across the yard to the shed. I found Daddy hunched over his worktable lost in thought, staring at the parts of a radio he had spread out in front of him.
Daddy could fix anything as long as it was mechanical. Big machines, little machines. It didn’t make any difference. My father could fix all of them.
His pipe was clinched tight in his teeth and the sticky sweet smell of his burning tobacco filled the tiny shed.
“There’s a pair of fellows in suits here to see you,” I said, a little breathless from the ru
n across the yard. “I don’t think they want you to fix anything. I think they just want to talk.”
Daddy smiled and stood up from the worktable. “Then I guess we better go in the house and see what’s going on.”
My father was a tall man, skinny as a rail as the saying went. He had black hair slicked back with Brylcreem. Some folks said he looked Italian, but that was mainly because he’d spent so much time out in the sun that his skin was all brown and leathery looking. He always wore a blue work shirt with the sleeves rolled up past his elbows even in the summer.
Daddy had been a drilling supervisor at Murphy Oil and a real good one from what everybody said, but one day back in ’39 something happened out on one of the rigs and Daddy came home, put his lunch pail on the high shelf up in the pantry and announced that he’d never work for Murphy or any oil company again. And that was that.
My father didn’t do much but hang around the house for a few weeks. He’d sit at the kitchen table and take old radios apart and put them back together. Finally other folks started bringing him their busted radios and percolators and mix masters and stuff to fix and Daddy cleared out a space in the old shed out near the chicken coop and went into the small appliance repair business.
Daddy never hurried anywhere. Even after I told him about the two visitors, he ambled across the yard as if he were just heading up to the house for a drink of water.
Back in the living room, Mama had served ice tea to the two men, who were sitting on the blue sofa when Daddy and I came in. They stood up and shook hands all around. Mama brought Daddy a glass of tea. He drained half of it in one gulp.
“It’s good to see you again, Mr. Ches,” Taggert said.
Daddy nodded. “What can I do for you?” He sounded unfriendly and I could tell my father didn’t have much truck with the Taggert fellow.
The first plunks of the summer rain hit the roof. The smell of Daddy’s tobacco overpowered the living room.
Taggert and Quinn sat back down, balancing their hats in their laps. Mama leaned on the doorsill, wiping flour off her hands with her apron.
“Mr. Ches,” Taggert said. “We need to talk some business if you have a few minutes.” Daddy shrugged.
Taggert turned and looked at me. “Son, why don’t you run outside and play for a while. This won’t take long.”
“It’s raining,” I said, indicated the front window where the summer storm was pelting the glass.
Taggert gnawed on his lower lip.
“Come on, Ricky.” Mama came to Taggert’s rescue. “Let’s you and me run out to the henhouse and fix up those stalls like we been promising to do since school let out.”
I didn’t want to leave the living room. Something was going on. Something big. You could just feel it in the air. You could see it on Daddy’s face, hear it in Mama’s voice. This was important. And I had to go out and fix up the stalls in the henhouse. I was not happy.
But I went.
By the time Mama and I hammered all the loose boards back into the chicken stalls, replaced the straw, swept out the walkway, and went back to the house, Taggert and Quinn were gone.
Daddy sat in the chair in the living room, staring out the window at the rain. The drops pounded the glass and ran down the panes in fast flowing rivulets.
It was getting dark, but Daddy hadn’t turned on any lights. He just sat there in the chair, smoking his pipe and staring out the window. He didn’t even turn around when Mama and I came back into the house. He just sat and stared and smoked. I’d never seen him look like that.
“Daddy? Are you all right?” I stood in the doorway to the kitchen, fighting back that awful sense that something was bad wrong.
My father didn’t say anything. Blue smoke drifted out of his pipe and floated toward the ceiling. The room got darker and darker.
Two weeks later, he and Mama and I took a train down to New Orleans, got on a big ship, and headed for Venezuela.
About the Author
Jim Lester is the author of two previous coming of age novels-Fallout, which Booklist called ” a fast paced, clever coming of age story, Salingeresque in spirit and The Great Pretender, which received consistently excellent reviews on Amazon. He is also the author of the sports history book Hoop Crazy: College Basketball in the 1950s.