John Lakes is one of the preeminent novelists of American historical
fiction. Now this beloved storyteller takes listeners to Charleston South Carolina, in a stunning multigenerational saga that tells the story of two apocalyptic, nation-shaping wars as seen through the eyes of a powerful South Carolina dynasty.
Charleston follows the lives, loves, and shifting fortunes of the Bells, saints and evil-doers mingled in one unforgettable family from the American Revolution through the turbulent antebellum years to the Civil War and the savage defeat of the Confederacy. Delving into our country's history as only he can, L
akes paints a powerful portrait of the Charleston aristocracy who zealously guarded their privilege and position, harboring dark family secrets that threatened to destroy them all.
Sweeping from the bitterly divided Carolina frontier of the 1770s through the tragic destruction of the city during the Civil War, and peopled by patriots and cowards, aristocrats and abolitionists, slaves and freedmen, heroic men and courageous women, Charleston represents America's premier storyteller at his very best.
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July 01, 2003
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Excerpt from Charleston by John Jakes
One night in early November 1779, he dreamed a terrifying dream.
He saw a skiff dancing across Charleston Harbor, running before an offshore breeze that raised what mariners called white horses on the water. Lydia sat in the skiff's bow, laughing and enjoying herself; her hair flew in the wind like a yellow banner.
He couldn't see the face of the man at the tiller, only his back. But he was not the man, of that he was sure. Though he was athletic, a superb horseman, he'd never learned to swim or sail. His mother called it passing strange, since his father, a wharf owner, made his living from the commerce of the creeks and rivers and oceans.
Unseen bells began to peal--the eight church bells of St. Michael's parish, cast by Messrs. Lester and Pack, London, where he lay dreaming. The bells didn't ring the sequence of notes that called the faithful to Sunday worship. They rang another familiar call, the call to calamity: a fire, an impending hurricane. Great danger.
When he woke in his room on the third floor above Fountain Court, the meaning of the dream came clear. He'd been absent from America a year and a half. The desirable young woman he wanted to marry could be slipping away from him.
Edward Bell, twenty-one, was at that time studying at the Middle Temple. He had resisted his father's wish to send him there, saying, "I have no ambition to practice law in South Carolina."
"Nor do most of the young men from Charleston who enroll at the Inns of Court, but it will be useful. It broadens you, like a grand tour. It makes you a keener student of business contracts. It prepares you to be a leader of society--to hold office if you wish."