by James W. George
GENRE: Historical Fiction
Puritans. Quakers. Pirates. Mohawks. Witches. And a brutal war…
If you thought New England was dull in the 1670s, get ready for a history lesson.
In the critically acclaimed “My Father’s Kingdom,” debut author James W. George transported his readers to 1671 New England, and the world of Reverend Israel Brewster. It was a world of faith, virtue, and love, but it was also a world of treachery, hatred, and murder.
Four years later, Brewster is a disgraced outcast, residing in Providence and working as a humble cooper. Despite his best efforts, war could not be averted, and now, “King Philip’s War” has begun.
The rebellion is led by Metacomet, known as “King Philip” to the English colonists. He is the tormented son of the great Massasoit, and leader of the Wampanoag nation. Once the most reliable of Plymouth Colony’s allies, they are now the bitterest of enemies. Meanwhile, Metacomet’s mysterious counselor, Linto, despises this war and will do anything to end the bloodshed.
Meticulously researched, “The Prophet and the Witch” is a tale of hope and brotherhood in the face of evil and violence. It features the remarkable cast of fictional and historical characters from book one, including Josiah Winslow, Linto, Increase Mather, Constance Wilder, and Jeremiah Barron. Additionally, new characters such as America’s first ranger, Captain Benjamin Church, bring this chapter of history to life like never before.
It was a glorious sign from the Almighty. Of that, there could be no doubt.
This was certainly the opinion of Major William Bradford, and few seemed inclined to question the holy assessment of the good major and his magnificent pedigree. The fact that the garrison commander, the aged and venerated James Cudworth, enthusiastically concurred with his famous underling should have eliminated any debate amongst the Puritan faithful.
Bradford, however, would take no chances, and he zealously reinforced his initial assessment. “The will of the Lord, my brothers. The will of the Lord has clearly been made manifest in the night sky. Our cause is just, and our army is righteous.”
The Reverend John Miles felt obliged to speak, perhaps since it was his own Swansea home currently being used as a military garrison. “Yea, verily, hear the word of the Lord, recited for the holy soldiers of the Lord. It is certainly written in the Book of Joel, the sun and the moon will be darkened, and the stars shall no longer shine. And was not the death of the vile and wicked King Herod sanctified by an eclipse of the moon? Certainly, Metacomet is a vile enemy of our Lord and given to evil ways, just as King Herod. Metacomet, this odious King Philip, will indeed pay for his treason.”
Most of the Puritan militia garrisoned in Swansea solemnly bowed their heads. Some were troubled by the sight of a lunar eclipse on this balmy June night. The more learned among them recalled their history, and knew that a partially-eclipsed moon, in accordance with prophecy, rose above Constantinople in 1453. Seven days later, the magnificent city fell to the heathen.
There were also dim mutterings about the Peloponnesian War more than a thousand years ago. Evidently, a lunar eclipse so greatly troubled the Athenians that their war vessels sat shamefully idle in the harbor. Ultimately, their enemy exploited their fear and indecision, and destroyed the fleet.
Others were certain they witnessed the image of a human scalp within the eclipse. Was it the scalp of an Indian, or an Englishman? Was there even a scalp to be seen, or was it a witchcraft-induced hallucination? The quiet ruminations within the garrison were increasingly unsettling.
The sullen deliberations continued, and their confident martial zeal was slowly eroding. Bradford could discern the consternation among his troops, and he continued his exhortation. “The savages have committed a grave sin, and the Lord has made His displeasure clear with His handiwork in the night sky. Be brave, and be of good cheer, for certainly the holy Book of Judges commands us to…”
Never before had one hundred devout Puritan men of high character witnessed such blasphemy in the face of both holy and civil authority. Major Bradford was the second-in-command of the expedition, and the respected son of the deceased and revered Governor William Bradford. Major Bradford, as usual, demonstrated a cautious temperament in the face of adversity.
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
Hi everyone! I grew up in New Jersey, and went to college in Boston. I served for a long time in the USAF, and had the pleasure of living in a lot of great places, like Spokane, Charleston, and San Antonio. I met my wife in Sacramento, and we have two great kids.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
I’ve always been a big fan of history and historical fiction, so when I realized I had the time to write a novel of my own, I wanted to choose a relatively obscure topic that, in my opinion, hasn’t been adequately highlighted. King Philip’s War was a brutal conflict between the Native Americans and the Puritans of New England in the 1670s. The more I studied it, the more fascinated I became. For example, there was not one, but two mysterious deaths and one murder trial that led to the outbreak of war.
How did this calamity happen? How is it, the two cultures who together celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621, would see their children and grandchildren fight a brutal war fifty years later? The events of this conflict are truly astounding, and deserve careful study and reflection.
How do you create your characters?
I don’t think there’s any specific process. Fortunately, this saga is blessed with countless fascinating, non-fictional, historical characters: Metacomet, Josiah Winslow, Increase Mather, Mary Rowlandson, and Benjamin Church just to name a few. I try to ensure the non-fictional characters are as accurate as possible. Additionally, I try to ensure the fictional characters are well-developed, interesting, serve a purpose, and avoid being predictable and stereotypical.
What inspires and what got you started in writing?
There are so many great authors I can tip my hat to. Ultimately, I think I love writing about the clash of cultures and the seemingly incomprehensible. How bizarre the Native Americans and English colonists must have seemed to one another in the seventeenth century. How bizarre so many aspects of the Bible and Christianity must have seemed to the Native Americans.
Ultimately, I think it was my own Christian faith that inspired me. “The Prophet and the Witch” is a tale of love, brotherhood, and courage in the face of evil, violence, and ignorance.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
Usually at home. I’ve got a nice old roll-top desk that gets me in the spirit of things. I usually like a little classical music in the background.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
I think very few ideas come to me while staring at a computer. I’m guessing it’s a common trait among authors, but I’m thinking about my books all the time while in the process of writing them. If I’m working out, driving, mowing the lawn, or doing almost anything, a lot of good ideas come my way.
What do you like to read?
When I’m writing fiction, I try to avoid reading fiction, but unsurprisingly, I love all kinds of novels. I love historical fiction, contemporary thrillers, and classic detective/lawyer tales, in the spirit of Michael Connelly. I also love reading a lot of non-fiction.
Since you asked the question, I actually posted a list of my ten favorite books on another tour stop. If you’re interested, here they are:
- The Prophet and the Witch
- WHAT? You can’t list your own book here, you big-headed egomaniac! Ha. I can and I will. I certainly hope all of your authors who tackle this question have their own book on the list. I’d emphasize this is a list of my favorite books, not necessarily the ten “greatest books of all time.” So, I’m pretty comfortable stating that this is one of my ten favorite books. It’s got Puritans, Quakers, Mohawks, pirates, seventeenth-century drinking songs, romance, sonnets, militia marching songs, psalmody, a Scottish villain, riveting combat, erotic moments, questions of faith, religion, and friendship. and a slow, insubordinate, flatulent horse. What more can you ask for?
- I’d say if an author doesn’t believe his or her book is one of their ten favorite books, they need to tear it up (or the modern, electronic version – “delete”) and start over.
- Don’t Know Much About the Bible
- This is a work of non-fiction by Kenneth Davis. It is brilliant. If you’re not familiar, the title of the series comes from the beautiful R and B song popularized in “Animal House.” (Don’t know much about history…don’t know much geography…)
- Davis’ style is to ask a simple question, then answer it. Where was the Garden of Eden? When was the Book of Genesis written? Who wrote it? Why are there two different creation tales in the Bible? His answers are clear and concise, and he is never condescending to people of faith. The book is a reminder that most of us, even church-going folk, can be remarkably uninformed about the Bible. I’d say the book helped me write my two novels, because it helped me conceptualize how bizarre and incomprehensible the Puritans’ faith must have been to the Native Americans of New England.
- Realistically, I think Catch-22 is a “love it or hate it” type of novel. There are many people who can’t stand the tone, the dozens of characters, and the lack of real chronology. I think it’s the best novel ever written. On countless occasions I’ve picked it up, opened to a random page, and started to read. Maybe it’s due to twenty-two years spent in the USAF, but the novel really resonates with me, and I still choke up every time I read the climax. It allegedly took Heller seven years to write it, and I believe it.
- I just heard George Clooney is going to spearhead a six-part Catch-22 miniseries, so we may be seeing a Catch-22 revival. It’s a very cerebral book, however, and very difficult to translate to the screen. Perhaps the most vivid example is the naked man in the tree at the funeral. In the book, the episode is an enthralling discussion of deja vu, jamais vu, presque vu, and the nature of God, blasphemy, and the clergy. In the 1970 Mike Nichols movie, it’s just a naked man in a tree.
- What can I say that hasn’t been said a thousand times before? In high school English, our curriculum was the dystopian genre, and all these decades later I’m grateful to my teacher. If you told me in high school that in the year 2017, Americans would be on camera pretty much any time they’re in a city, an airport, or driving through an intersection, I wouldn’t have believed you, and yet, here we are.
- Of course, Animal Farm is another remarkable achievement. The animated version is a pretty good representation of the book. I think when we study the nature of tyranny and evil, we tend to focus exclusively on Hitler, and often we forget what a monster Stalin truly was. Fortunately, Orwell won’t let us forget.
- Brave New World
- Once again, high school English and the dystopian genre. Who got it right? Orwell or Huxley? It seems like we’re kind of staggering toward a bizarre combination of the two dystopias, rife with opioids, government monitoring, obsessive sexual promiscuity, and class hierarchy. Damn you, Aldous Huxley. Oh, wait. A gram is better than…
- It Can’t Happen Here
- Sinclair Lewis doesn’t get nearly the attention he deserves. This book is approximately eighty years old and it enjoyed a brief renaissance after the 2016 election. I think it was Huey Long who said “when fascism finally comes to America, we’ll call it anti-fascism” or some such thing.
- I’m holding my copy of the 1935 edition as we speak. Wait, I have to set it down to type this.
- The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (The Sketch Book)
- I think we’re all familiar with the tale of the Headless Horseman, but if you’ve never read Washington Irving’s original short story, it is a delight. A complete masterpiece of lyrical imagery. I love it so much, it’s where I got my daughter’s name. Little Ichabod isn’t happy about it, but she got used to it. It should also be noted The Sketch Book also contains a brief and mostly accurate biography of Metacomet! And my daughter is named Katrina.
- I’d like to beat Tim Burton senseless for that abomination of a Sleepy Hollow movie, but he is easy to forgive due to “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
- Cornwell’s Arthur Trilogy (The Winter King, Enemy of God, Excalibur)
- If you asked me to cite the best historical fiction ever written, I think Bernard Cornwell’s trilogy about King Arthur would get my seal of approval. These books really cemented my love of the genre.
- King Arthur and Merlin are often depicted as if they just walked out of a Renaissance Faire or a Disney cartoon, all clean and rife with derring-do, but Cornwell attacked the project with a healthy sense of realism. Based on genuine history, if there was a King Arthur, he was probably a warlord in post-Roman Britain fighting off the Saxon invaders, maybe in the fifth century A.D. What would his life have been like? Absolutely enthralling literature.
- The Undocumented Mark Steyn
- Uh-oh. This might get me in trouble with some of your politically attuned readers, but I am a huge Mark Steyn fan. He is a warrior for free speech, civilized debate, good manners, and uproarious comedy. Do I agree with everything he says? Of course not. But he is one of the most erudite and witty political commentators of our tumultuous age.
- The Wordy Shipmates/A Voyage Long and Strange (Tie)
- I lumped these two together because they are very similar books. They are both “road trip” books where authors go in search of obscure, early American history. The smart-alecky Sarah Vowell goes to Massachusetts to study the Puritans, (aka The Wordy Shipmates). It’s stupendous reading as she highlights some of the mysteries and tragedies of our American ancestors.
- In “A Voyage Long and Strange,” journalist Tony Horwitz asks the questions, (paraphrasing) “If Columbus sailed in 1492, and the Mayflower sailed in 1620, what happened during the 128 years between the two events? And didn’t the Vikings discover America anyway?” So, it’s a marvelous recounting of all the colonization and exploration in North America in those years. As an author who chose the Puritans and one of America’s most obscure wars as my subject, these books are obviously near to my heart. There is so much incredible history that remains far too obscure. How many of us know the tale of the Pilgrims who colonized Florida, long before Plymouth? A terrific book, indeed
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
Probably nothing they haven’t heard a hundred times before. The sheer quantity of books for sale in the year 2017 is almost inconceivable. So, if you’re going to write another one, make sure you’re extremely passionate about it.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Even if you haven’t read book one, I’m confident book two is superb as a standalone work.
I’m extraordinarily proud of this book, and the initial reviews have been terrific. One review I’m very fond of came from romance author Shashane Wallace, who noted “The Prophet and the Witch is a book for everyone.” In other words, even if you’re not normally drawn to historical fiction, I’m confident you’ll enjoy this tale of love, war, courage, religion, friendship, and faith. Don Sloan of Midwest Book Review awarded it five stars and said it was “a remarkable book that should be required reading for anyone who believes that history is just a dry procession of facts, dates and faraway places.” Thomas Anderson, of The Literary Titan, awarded it a gold medal for October and said it was “Expertly written and instantly engaging from the first few pages…An exceptionally drawn historical fiction account. I was captivated…one of the more intellectual of reads.”
Thank you for inviting me to be here!
James W. George is a lover of history and historical fiction. He is a graduate of Boston University and a military veteran. He is currently residing in Virginia with his wife and children.
He published his critically-acclaimed debut novel, My Father’s Kingdom in January 2017. The novel described the prelude to King Philip’s War in New England in the 1670s. The Indie View gave it five stars: “This is high historical drama handled wonderfully…a tale that will fully engage you on every level.”
My Father’s Kingdom is a planned trilogy, and book two, The Prophet and the Witch, was published in September 2017. This is an epic novel that spans the entire conflict of King Philip’s War, and includes such notable historical figures as Josiah Winslow, Increase Mather, Metacomet, Benjamin Church, and Mary Rowlandson. The Literary Titan awarded it five stars and a gold medal for October 2017.
The author is looking forward to book three of the trilogy, and he can be found on Goodreads:
James W. George will be awarding a $20 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
a Rafflecopter giveaway