Lullaby, a Spenser Novel (A Review)

I’m not a fan of other writers taking over popular series after the death of the originating author. It always looks like a greedy grab by the author’s family. As a fan of the original Spenser novels by Robert B. Parker (well, the first 20 at least) and as a huge fan of Ace Atkins, I decided to give this one a try.

My first hope was that Atkins was smart enough to realize that the major problem with the later Spenser novels was the every-growing role of the most annoying character in crime fiction history, Susan Silverman. Another issue was that Hawk had been reduced to a walk-on caricature of his former brilliant presence.

13269092Too bad, Atkins stayed with the formula of the latter Spenser books. Spenser meets a client. Spenser has dinner or sex (both) with Susan where she uses her “brilliance as a therapist” to ask Spenser questions in which he impart his fears/concerns etc … Oh God … how tedious. I’m guessing that since Susan is obviously a romanticized version of Parker’s wife, Joan, that maybe Atkins was contractually obligated to make sure Susan has a large role. Any other reason makes no sense whatsoever.

I can safely say that I will not read any of the other Atkins-written Spenser novels. If I ever do read another Spenser novel, I’ll go back to the original 20. Here’s hoping Atkins gets creative and Susan Silverman gets killed in some creative way, which will jump start Spenser and Hawk back into their former selves and seek righteous retribution.

Not holding my breath.

2 palmettos

 

Today In Charleston History, August 9

1792, August 9. Commerce. Culture. Theater.

The contract to construct the new theater for West and Bignall was given to Captain Anthony Toomer, with the understanding that the building was to be finished in January 1793.  The lot for the theater was a triangle parcel at Broad and Middleton streets, and the high ground of Savage’s Green (present-day New Street), purchased from Henry Middleton for £500 sterling.     

There is some evidence that the theater was designed by James Hoban, who had lived in Charleston for a couple of years while helping design and build the Charleston County Courthouse.

 

charleston theater, broad and new streets

Rendering of the New Theater at Savage’s Green, facing Broad Street (present day location of New and Broad Streets)

 

Carolina Day – June 28, 1776.

This is the entire sequence of events that took place in Charleston on June 28, 1776, from the forthcoming Charleston Almanac (East Atlantic Publishing).


1776, June 28. Rev. Cooper Prays for British Victory.

      Rev. Robert Cooper prayed from St. Michael’s pulpit that “the King might be strengthened to defeat his enemies.”

1776, June 28. Battle of Sullivan’s Island.

        Early that morning, Col. Moultrie rode on horseback from Fort Sullivan to Breach Inlet to consult with Col. Thompson. As he and Thompson were talking, they observed the British men-of-war vessels loosening their topsails, a sure sign they were preparing to get under way. Moultrie galloped the three miles back to the fort and ordered the drummers to beat the long roll. The 435 troops in the fort sprang into action to man their posts.

      The detachment inside the fort was comprised of infantrymen of the Second South Carolina Regiment and 33 artillerists from the Fourth South Carolina Regiment. Moultrie’s staff included Lt. Colonel Issac Motte, Maj. Francis Marion, and Lt. Thomas Moultrie.   

      Marion was a severe taskmaster who did not tolerate nonsense. He kept the enlisted men busy upgrading the fortifications of the fort, alongside black slaves “whether they liked it or not.” He ordered no beer or rum purchased without “specific permission.”

 

attack-charleston, birds eye

Charlestown harbor, 1776, with the British fleet approaching. Sullivan’s Island 
to the right and Fort Johnson to the left, creating the narrow channel that ships
must pass through to enter the harbor. Courtesy of the New York Public Library

 

1776, June 28. Battle of Sullivan’s Island.     

     The first major naval battle of the Revolution commenced at 11:30 a.m. when the Thunder lobbed a thirteen-inch explosive mortar shell over the fort, which landed on the roof of the powder magazine. It failed to explode and did little damage. Had the shell not been a dud, the battle could have come to an abrupt conclusion with that one shot.

      As soon as the British ships came into range, Moultrie opened fire with the guns on the southeast bastion. Moultrie termed the situation “one continual blaze and roar, with clouds of smoke curling over … for hours together.”

      Although greatly outnumbered, and with vastly inferior armaments, the South Carolina troops kept the British fleet from entering the harbor. The British cannonballs embedded themselves in the pulpy palmetto logs with no damage to the fort. At the same time, Col. Thompson and his 400 men managed to hold The Breach, thwarting British efforts to cross and land troops on Sullivan’s Island. British soldiers, weighted down with their equipment trying to cross the Breach, sank in water above their heads.

      Two hours into the fight, Gen. Lee, observing the battle at Haddrell’s Point, sent Maj. Francis Otway Byrd in a canoe to Fort Sullivan with a message to Moultrie, that “if the powder in the fort was expended” he should spike the guns and evacuate. To Moultrie, that was not an option. He was having good success and a retreat was unthinkable. Moultrie however, was running short of powder, having expended 4,766 pounds of the available 5,400 pounds. The situation was so dire that Moultrie ordered cannons fired at intervals of ten minutes for each gun, only when there was a clear target sighted. Moultrie sent Francis Marion with a small party to the armed schooner Defence and returned with 300 pounds of powder.

      Maj. Byrd returned to Haddrell’s Point and informed Gen. Lee things were going “astonishingly well.” Encouraged, Lee contacted Pres. Rutledge, who sent 500 pounds of powder to the fort with a note, “Honor and Victory, my good sir, to you and our worthy countrymen with you.”

     Seven miles away in the city, thousands of spectators watched the battle from waterfront vantage points or from rooftops and second-story piazzas.

      Around 4 p.m. General Lee arrived at Fort Sullivan from Haddrell’s Point. To allow Lee’s entrance into the fort several of the Second South Carolina had to leave their guns and remove the timber that was barricading the back entrance. The British took that as a sign the fort was being abandoned. After inspecting the fort Lee told Moultrie, “Colonel, I see you are doing very well here, you have no occasion for me.”

fort sullivan - attack

 

Battle_of_fort_moultrie

Battle of Sullivan’s Island, June 28, 1776, two views. Courtesy of the New York Public Library     

 

Three of the Royal ships, Syren, Actaeon and Sphinx, ran afoul of each other and grounded on a shoal called “Middle Ground” where Fort Sumter was eventually built.

       In the midst of the battle, a British projectile broke the fort’s flagstaff. Sgt. William Jasper called out to Moultrie, “Colonel, don’t let us fight without our flag!” Moultrie, well aware of the audience watching in the city, asked Jasper what could be done. Jasper volunteered to retrieve.

       He “leapt over the ramparts” and, shouted, “Don’t let us fight without a color!” Captain Horry described Jasper’s action:

He deliberately walked the whole length of the fort, until he came to the colors on the extremity of the left, when he cut off the same from the mast, and called to me for a sponge staff, and with a thick cord tied on the colors and stuck the staff on the rampart in the sand. The sergeant, fortunately, received no hurt, though exposed for a considerable time, to the enemy’s fire.

      Moultrie wrote, “Our flag once more waving in the air, revived the drooping spirits of our friends; they continued looking on, till night had closed the scene, and hid us from their view.”

 

jasper flag

Sgt. Jasper replacing the South Carolina flag during the battle
of Sullivan’s Island. Courtesy of the New York Public Library

 

 

      As American shot bombarded into the British men-of-war, one round landed on the Bristol’s quarterdeck and rendered Sir Peter Parker’s “Britches … quite torn off, his backside laid bare, his thigh and knee wounded.” The Acteon was grounded and severely damaged.

      More than 2,500 British troops attempted to cross Breach Inlet from Long Island (Isle of Palms) to Sullivan’s Island.  They were stopped due to the depth of the water, and the fire from Thompson’s troops on the Sullivan’s Island side.

     By 9:30 p.m. Parker withdrew and Francis Marion fired the last shot from Fort Sullivan at the retreating Royal Navy. Moultrie sent word to Rutledge that the British ships had retired and that South Carolina was victorious. The reports came in from the ten-hour battle:

  • British: 78 dead, 152 wounded. Lord William Campbell was wounded during the battle and later died of his wounds.
  • American: 12 dead, 25 wounded. 5 died of their wounds later.

      The Bristol had been hit seventy times.

1776, June 28.  Declaration of Independence.

      While the Battle of Sullivan’s Island raged, in Philadelphia Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams presented a final draft of the Declaration of Independence to the Continental Congress. While South Carolinians were exchanging shot-for-shot with the British Navy, the Declaration was read to the Congress.

almanac cover - official

Sarah Bernhard Appears in Charleston

bernhardt-sarah-1880Sarah Bernhardt appeared at the Academy of Music in “La Tosca” on January 21, 1892. Her appearance was treated like that of royalty. A local reviewer for the “News and Courier”, who referred to Bernhardt as “the divine Sarah,” also wrote that the theater “had rarely held as brilliant and cultivated an audience who were spellbound through love, hate, scorn, revenge, and disgust, all of which had full sway in the role.”

 

The two lower floors of the Academy sold out for Bernhardt’s performance within forty-eight hours. The day before, the “News and Courier” warned the audience about the “bonnet boycott” if they were attending.

 

(From “The News and Courier, Jan. 20, 1892)
Bonnets and Bernhardt do not go together. We do not mean … that the Divine Sarah has discarded the use of bonnets; on the contrary her headgear is said to be perfectly lovely; and we wish to convey the idea to the ladies of Charleston that bonnets will be entirely out of place at the Bernhardt performance … It is suggested that all ladies leave their bonnets at home unless indeed they are small enough not to interfere with the view.

“A Sufferer” goes so far as to suggest that it would be entirely proper for the Reporters of the News and Courier to take down for publication the names of all the ladies who go to the Academy wearing any particularly offensive hats or bonnets. Another correspondent “who paid three dollars to see Bernhardt, and not to gaze at ‘Miss Brown’s bonnet’” suggests that the new Chief of Police might distinguish the beginning of his administration by posting a strong force of men at the Academy to keep all the high hats out of the house!

It is true that some ladies have to wear hats as a protection, but the ladies of Charleston never look so sweet and charming as when they display their queenly heads unencumbered by the frippery of the milliner’s art. There is no reason why any lady in Charleston should keep her head covered at the Bernhardt performance tomorrow night.

academy-of-music-from-memories

Academy of Music photo: from “Memories of the Professional and Social Life of John E. Owens, By His Wife.” 1892.
Sarah Bernhardt photo: from Library of Congress

Charleston Almanac update

The Charleston Almanac manuscript has been indexed (3 weeks of fun!). Proofs will be ready by the first of February. Another step forward.

This is the finalized cover.

almanac-cover-full-cover

George Washington Visits Charleston: Day 2

George Washington’s Visit -Day 2

Monday, May 2, 1791

Washington had breakfast at Snee Farm, the home of Gov. Charles Pinckney. Pinckney apologized for the house, calling the home “a place so indifferently furnished and where your fare will be entirely that of a farm.”

After breakfast Washington crossed into Charleston from Haddrell’s Point which was the eastern terminus of the ferry. Washington was rowed across the river on a large barge by “12 American Captains of Ships, most elegantly dressed.” He noted:

 There were a great number of boats and barges on the river filled with Gentlemen and Ladies, as well as two boats of musicians, all of whom attended Washington across the river.

Washington was greeted at the Point by city recorder John Bee Holmes, and Gen. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and Edward Rutledge. A month after the meeting Washington offered Pinckney and Rutledge a seat on the Supreme Court, a seat that had recently been vacated by Edward’s brother, John Rutledge. Both men declined due to family finances.

Once in Charleston Washington was greeted by Lt. Gov. Isaac Holmes, Charleston intendant (mayor) Arnoldus Vanderhorst, and S. Carolina’s two U.S. Senators – Pierce Butler and Ralph Izard. The president was greeted at the Exchange Building where he stood on the balcony facing East Bay Street and watched a “procession in his honor to whom he politely and gracefully bowed as they passed in review before him.”

Washington was then taken to his lodgings on Church Street (Heyward-Washington House) where he was attended by several of Mr. Heyward’s servants.

Heyward-Washington_House

Thomas Heyward’s house @ 87 Church Street, where George slept.