NEITHER REBEL NOR TORY: Hanyost Schuyler & The Siege of Fort Stanwix Michael Cooney, Wilderness Hill Books, 2009, $18.95, pb, 279pp, 9781442156036
Readers glancing at a summary of Michael Cooney's novel Neither Rebel Nor Tory—the story of Hanyost Schuyler, a young man in upstate New York in 1765, caught between the British and the growing rebellion against their rule—will doubtless recall Walter Edmonds' 1936 classic Drums Along the Mohawk, a bestselling work of historical fiction set in the same scene. And the two books have one other major similarity: they're both rock-solid narratives that are absorbingly good to read.
Hanyost Schuyler briefly stepped onto the stage of history in 1777 when he was captured by American forces and sentenced to death as a traitor and spy. His personal familiarity with the Mohawks of the region prompted General Benedict Arnold to spare him—and use him, sending him as a messenger to British-held Fort Stanwix under orders to exaggerate the size of the force Arnold was bringing to assault the fort. His personal story (he was rumored to be an imbecile) seems at first no more promising for the hero of a historical novel than Arnold's own, but Cooney's vast research—and the surprisingly puckish sense of humor he brings to almost every chapter of Neither Rebel Nor Tory (readers may recall the near-surgical absence of humor in Drums Along the Mohawk) make this a thoroughly enjoyable book, full of memorable characters and a persuasively sympathetic take on the culture of the Mohawks as they faced the crucible of their existence. Strongly recommended.
-- Steve Donoghue
Historical Novels Review
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I thought that The River That Flows Both Ways was excellent. I'll be honest here-- when I saw that the voice of the story was a young Indian boy I was at first like "oh, no". There have been so many books written from a view point like that, one that , I personally, would find I have a really hard time capturing successfully. But I was put in the mind of some of the accounts of Tisquantum (Squanto) and I though you did a very good job of capturing his outsider, yet a bit on the inside voice. I got a thrill out of seeing so many characters I had encountered in my own readings, like Isaac Jogues, Johannes Megalopensis and, of course, Harmen. It was interesting how your own take on Megalopensis was very different than what I came away with-- then again, as he is the one relating the story to us, maybe he's mot a very reliable narrator. I got a kick out of the real life Megalopensis's account of the Mohawk, because he seems so cranky and judgmental as opposed to van den Bogaert. I've batted around for years doing a graphic novel take of his account of New Netherland as a companion book to Journey into Mohawk Country. The fanboy in me wishes that there had been cameos of Willem Thomassen and Jeronimus de la Croix.
Of course, I knew how the story was to end, and it still saddened me when it occurred. Particularly because of the fate of his family, who didn't factor into my depiction of his adventures at all. At least Harmen got to go out heroically, thanks to the mad Jesuit priest. I've often wondered about the flimsiness of the prison that held him, as you mentioned on your blog, and in fact, I wonder, given the sketchiness of the records of the period if his demise on the ice wasn't a concoction created by some bribed guards who let him go.
--George O'Connor, author of the graphic novel Journey into Mohawk Country
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I have been interested in the Roxalana Druse case for a long time and I found this book to be a very interesting new take on an old story. Mr. Cooney makes a good case that Roxalana Druse was NOT guilty of murdering her husband but was protecting the identity of the real murderer. She never did admit the crime and people in Herkimer say that her ghost still haunts the old jail (now closed) and the courthouse. Unfortunately, she didn’t get the kind of defense attorney that Casey Anthony or O. J. Simpson did, and ended up getting executed. This book is really two books. The first is a novel claiming to tell what really happened back in 1885. The second part is a history of all the murders in the county and that’s also very interesting. Many of those murders also figure into the fiction part of the book.
- Jim Murphy, Old Kinderhook Review
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