Whilst I was reading “April Morning”

I’ve always been hesitant to read history.  Not because I don’t love history.  I do.  And historical fiction is such a pleasant way to learn history.  But with some history – that which is awash in politics – how can you be sure that what you’re reading is accurate.  I think the best way is to get down to original sources.  But unless the author you are reading used original sources in his research, then you never know what you’re going to get.

April MorningIn an effort to immerse myself in the 18th Century, I’ve been reading what I can get my hands on.  On of those books is April Morning by Howard Fast (1961)

Last night, I came upon this:

This is a conversation between the main character’s father, Moses, and the Reverend Clarke.

“They were here tonight.”   (The Reverend speaking)
“Who?”
“Sam Adams and John Hancock.”
“Oh, no,” Father said. “Now what in heaven’s name were they doing here?”
The Reverend shrugged, the gesture saying better than words that these were two men with their own ways.
“Where were they?”
“At my house.”
“And now?”
“I didn’t want them here,” the Reverend said bitterly. “Would you want them here, Moses?”
“We got our troubles here.”
“So it seemed to me. I can’t understand any more how this started and the way it is building up. Who chose tonight? Ourselves? The devil? The British? No, I didn’t want them here, and I told them to go to Burlington–”
“They left?”
“About an hour ago, Moses. They have their problems and we have ours.”

I promptly closed the book and I’m not sure I’ll keep reading.  There is so much wrong with this section. I’ll just point out a few.

  • It suggests a disdain by the Reverend Clarke for Adams and Hancock, for their cause.  This could not be further from the truth.  It is said of Clarke that, if we had no writings from the Founding Fathers, but had his sermons, we would know the causes of the Revolution
  • It suggests that Adams and Hancock being at Clarke’s house was unusual.  It wasn’t.  It was a safe place out of the city.  They were there often.  Hancock had practically grown up in that house.
  • It suggests that Clarke was clueless about what was happening around him.  Again, he’d prepared Lexington so well for this night that there was no better place for the events that followed.
  • And probably the biggest problem with this “story” is that it left out Paul Revere entirely.  He arrived at the Clarke house at midnight, urging Hancock and Adams to get to safety ahead of the Redcoat Army.  And, after Revere was captured and then released, he returned to the house, found the two leaders still there.  At that point, they were convinced to leave.

So, if Fast got this wrong, how much other stuff is wrong that I won’t recognize?  How much will the unsuspecting reader take in and assume is fact?  How do we find books we can trust?

Well, I hope mine will be trustworthy.  There will be fiction wrapped around fact in my books.  There has to be.  But I will do my best to present the fiction as reliable.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.