When Americans recall their first brush with the history of the American Revolution—for most of us way back in elementary school—one of the lessons remembered is likely to be that the country was divided into thirds. One third of Americans supported independence, a third opposed it, and the final third was undecided or uncommitted.
Most scholars now agree that although this bit of historical "common knowledge" was based on a letter President John Adams wrote in 1815; it appears that Adams was referring to the French Revolution and not the American one. Even if less than a third of Americans were on the side of the British, and given our understandable focus on the “winning side,” it's easy to forget that there were tens of thousands of Americans who sided with England before, during and after the Revolution. The Loyalist perspective is not normally the focus of historical fiction covering the period.
Joe Epley’s Passel of Trouble takes this relatively untraveled road by concentrating on the life of an actual Loyalist soldier named David Fanning. To help transport the reader back in time to this tumultuous period of American history, Epley often uses the voice of a friend of David Fanning to serve as narrator.
The first half of the book covers young Fanning’s introduction to the struggle by the Loyalists to defeat fellow countrymen intent on breaking all bonds with mother England. Most of the action takes place in North and South Carolina. Later on, as the enthusiastic young man continues to experience the horrors of war, we see a different man emerge—a war-hardened veteran. By the end of the book—once the Loyalist cause seems lost—the protagonist strikes out in ways anything but heroic.
If the reader is expecting a chance to enjoy empathizing with a “good guy” on the losing side of the conflict, Passel of Trouble will not make it easy to do so. Instead, Epley provides a detailed and unflinching look at how war has the devastating power to turn a once-honorable civilian soldier into a revenge-seeking killer.
Thoroughly researched and filled with fascinating historical detail, Epley has given us a solid contribution to our understanding of this period and an interesting look into a part of the American Independence conflict not often explored.
By John Cathcart, MWSA Awards Director and Reviewer
"A Passel of Trouble" is a story that crackles with excitement -- bold action, narrow escapes -- set against the backdrop of the American struggle for independence. This exciting American Revolutionary War thriller is based on the actual exploits of one of the most courageous and notorious Loyalist partisans in the Carolinas -- David Fanning. When the Revolution started in 1775, Fanning fought in the first battle in the south at Ninety Six, South Carolina. For the next three and a half years, he was on the run except for fourteen times when captured by the patriot forces. His escapes were bodacious, his ability to survive in the backcountry wilderness under harsh conditions extraordinary. The last two years of the war found him in central North Carolina where his leadership and spectacular actions won admiration from the British, who made him a militia colonel. He was a hero to the Tory families in the region and a hated, vicious scoundrel to Americans fighting for independence. Historian James Watterson, in his biography of Governor Thomas Burke, who was captured by Fanning, wrote: “Fanning’s tactics defied suppression. His clandestine movements, executed usually by night over remote and difficult terrain, were exceptionally hard to contain.” Why did he side with the British? How did this uneducated teenage sergeant develop into a crafty and treacherous partisan leader who often outwitted superior size forces? How did the Quakers influence his actions? These are just some of the intriguing stories within the saga of David Fanning. Award-winning author and playwright Bob Inman calls the book "a compelling tale, mighty well told." Another noted author and attorney, Scott Syfert, said A Passel of Trouble is "A rollicking good read, but never at the expense of historical accuracy."
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 432