Today, most people think of colonial Boston and the events leading up to the Boston Massacre as part of a unified and principled march toward democracy–but the view from the streets was very different.
The Boston Massacre (March 5, 1770) and the events leading up to it reflected more than an idealistic debate on taxes. The merchants of Boston were locked in a grim and violent economic struggle and they relied on crowds of mostly illiterate and unemployed sailors and dockhands for threats and physical intimidation. Samuel Adams and others were masters at combining crude physical attacks with a variety of political tricks, lies, and manipulations to advance the patriot cause. Nicholas Gray is a fictional British Navy deserter and part-time thief who finds a home in Boston but can’t avoid the tumult around him, especially given his criminal skills that the Sons of Liberty find so useful. The story of Nicholas Gray and Maggie McGowan, license holder for The Sword and Scabbard tavern in Boston’s North End, illustrate a colonial Boston that doesn’t show up in the history books.
The Sword and Scabbard: Thieves and Thugs and the Bloody Massacre in Boston (Boston Heritage Publishing, 2015, 978-0-8841-0-1, $19.99 online or e-book 978-0-8841-1-8, $11.99, www.theswordandscabbard.com) brings the period to life in a fast-paced tale using real and fictional characters who experience the social and political conflicts from a different point of view.
“The struggle in Boston before the Revolution did include philosophical ideas, long speeches, and intricate arguments, but it also depended on people in the streets carrying clubs and stones,” says Allen Woods. “Many of the actions taken by the Sons of Liberty and their followers were either criminal in nature or probably carried out by criminals.” Woods notes that the novel’s political events and leaders are based on well-accepted research and timelines, with the fictional characters’ actions (including bribes, burglary, insurance fraud, and more) based on journals, newspaper accounts and court records. “But The Sword and Scabbard isn’t really a political novel,” says Woods, “it’s a tale of the times as seen from the bottom up. It’s a perspective that gets little attention because the people in the streets either couldn’t read or write or they had no time to keep a journal or diary.”
Woods also notes that Adams and the Sons of Liberty manipulated and controlled the information in the colonies to a degree modern partisan outlets such Fox News or MSNBC can only dream about. They also had no use for freedom of the press if it involved opposing views or inconvenient facts. John Mein was harassed, attacked, and ultimately driven from town because he insisted on publishing facts about how John Hancock and other merchants continued importing banned goods while supporting punishments for smaller merchants doing the same thing.
The spark for the novel came as Woods did research for a social studies text and happened on the importance of smuggling in establishing the fortunes of Hancock and other powerful merchants. Woods plans a series that follows the characters through the Revolutionary period and beyond. Along with enjoyable and exciting tales, Woods sees the series as a way illuminate the people and action on the fringes of historic events that have played an important part in every revolutionary movement.
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About the Author
Allen Woods has been a full-time freelance writer and editor for almost 30 years, recently specializing in social studies and reading textbooks for all ages. The spark for The Sword and Scabbard came while doing research for an American history text. He welcomes e-mail at the Blog page of the book web site www.theswordandscabbard.com.
About the Book
The streets and taverns of Boston before “The Bloody Massacre” were filled with brawls and scrapes, hot words and cold calculations. Nicholas Gray and Maggie Magowan run The Sword and Scabbard, a tavern which is home to both criminal and political intrigue. Each is a fugitive from a dangerous past and their relationship grows fitfully in the midst of historic events. They remain suspicious of politicians on both sides of the Atlantic, but are eventually caught in the shadow world where politics and crime meet. In the end, Nicholas faces a choice between saving himself and crippling the march towards the Revolution. It is available at www.lulu.com or www.theswordandscabbard.com as well as online retailers and select bookstores.
Review Copies and Media Interviews:
For a review copy of The Sword and Scabbard or an interview with Allen Woods, please contact Kris Barnes of Authoramp. Allen is also available for interviews and guest blogging.