WG's Steinmann Tells Journey Of 3 Runaway Slaves In "Will"
June 15, 2018
For his debut novel, Webster Groves resident Paul Steinmann has written the exciting tale tracing the steps of three slaves escaping from a cruel plantation owner.
While many books of late have been written about slaves escaping by way of the "Underground Railroad," Steinmann's "Will" stands out in its depiction of the horrors endured by slaves that caused them to risk their lives to travel into the unknown for freedom
The harrowing journey of slaves, Will, Tom and Teensy, will have readers turning pages instead of turning off the bedside lamp.
Will and Teensy were best friends when they were young. When Teensy was sold, they were separated.
But, they had something special going for them. Their owners, a kind couple, taught them to write and speak proper English. This served them well on their escape north.
On a moonless night, Will and his friend, Tom, make their run for freedom with only a crude letter given to them by a minister as a guide for the first part of their journey.
Before they ran away, the old conjure woman warned Will: "Evil spirits creeps 'round at night and tricky spirits kin hex people – evan da smart ones likes you."
Her words haunt Will as he and Tom make their way to, what they hope, is a new life without looking over their shoulders.
But they are valuable property, and slave catchers will stop at nothing to capture them for the high price on their heads.
Along the way, a riverboat captain, a lawyer, a business man and a wealthy heiress, to name a few, help them out of harm's way.
Local readers will especially enjoy reading how their travels up the Missouri and Mississippi rivers take them to Cape Girardeau, St. Louis and Jefferson City, among others.
Steinmann interweaves Will, Tom and Teensy's stories effortlessly as they believe they have finally found safety, only to realize that safety is a fleeting thing.
With his education, Tom wants to teach others who have not had the opportunity to learn to read and write. Teensy wants to find her child who was taken from her. The lengths she goes to accomplish this will have readers holding their breaths. Tom just wants a life of freedom, and he has put his trust in Will to help him.
Steinmann develops his characters early on in the book, so readers get a vested interest immediately. You rejoice when they make their hair-raising escapes, and when you think they have finally found safety, they are thrown back into danger.
He has set the story in the pre-Civil War era, telling how impassioned both sides felt foreshadowing the brutal time yet to come. Stories abound about the Underground Railroad, and how it helped slaves find their way to freedom.
The railroad took many forms whether by covered wagon, riverboat or finding a benevolent farmer or a sympathetic lawyer. The one thing they had in common was constant danger. Steinmann does a good job of keeping readers on edge.