In his first work of narrative nonfiction, Matthew Pearl, bestselling author of acclaimed novel The Dante Club, explores the little-known true story of the kidnapping of legendary pioneer Daniel Boone’s daughter and the dramatic aftermath that rippled across the nation. On a quiet midsummer day in 1776, weeks after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, thirteen-year-old Jemima Boone and her friends Betsy and Fanny Callaway disappear near the Kentucky settlement of Boonesboro, the echoes of their faraway screams lingering on the air. A Cherokee-Shawnee raiding party has taken the girls as the latest salvo in the blood feud between American Indians and the colonial settlers who have decimated native lands and resources. Hanging Maw, the raiders’ leader, recognizes one of the captives as Jemima Boone, daughter of Kentucky’s most influential pioneers, and realizes she could be a valuable pawn in the battle to drive the colonists out of the contested Kentucky territory for good. With Daniel Boone and his posse in pursuit, Hanging Maw devises a plan that could ultimately bring greater peace both to the tribes and the colonists. But after the girls find clever ways to create a trail of clues, the raiding party is ambushed by Boone and the rescuers in a battle with reverberations that nobody could predict. As Matthew Pearl reveals, the exciting story of Jemima Boone’s kidnapping vividly illuminates the early days of America’s westward expansion, and the violent and tragic clashes across cultural lines that ensue. In this enthralling narrative in the tradition of Candice Millard and David Grann, Matthew Pearl unearths a forgotten and dramatic series of events from early in the Revolutionary War that opens a window into America’s transition from colony to nation, with the heavy moral costs incurred amid shocking new alliances and betrayals.
The bestselling author of The Dante Club takes us deep into a shadowy era in publishing ruled by a forgotten class of criminal. For a hundred years, loose copyright laws and a hungry reading public created a unique opportunity: Books could be published without an author’s permission with extraordinary ease. Authors gained fame but suffered financially—Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, to name a few—but publishers reaped enormous profits while readers got their books on the cheap. The literary pirates who stalked the harbors, coffeehouses, and printer shops for the latest manuscript to steal were known as bookaneers.
Yet on the eve of the twentieth century, a new international treaty is signed to protect authors and grind this literary underground to a sharp halt. The bookaneers, of course, would become extinct. In The Last Bookaneer, Matthew Pearl gives us a historical novel set inside the lost world of these doomed outlaws and the incredible heist that brought their era to a close. On the island of Samoa, a dying Robert Louis Stevenson labors over a new novel. The thought of one last book from the great author fires the imaginations of the bookaneers, and soon two adversaries—the gallant Pen Davenport and the monstrous Belial—set out for the south Pacific island. Yet Samoa holds many secrets of its own, and the duo’s bookish concerns clash with the island’s violent destiny. Illuminating the heroics of the bookaneers even while conjuring Stevenson himself to breathtaking life, Pearl’s The Last Bookaneer is a pageturning journey to the dark heart of a forgotten literary era.