The Washington Post
City of Glory: A Novel of War and Desire in Old Manhattanby Beverly Swerling
Poised between the Manhattan woods and the sea that is her gateway to the world, the city of 1812 is vibrant but raw, a cauldron/i>
Set against the dramatic backdrop of America’s during the War of 1812, Beverly Swerling’s gripping and intricately plotted sequel to the much-loved City of Dreams plunges deep into the crowded streets of old New York.
Poised between the Manhattan woods and the sea that is her gateway to the world, the city of 1812 is vibrant but raw, a cauldron where the French accents of Creole pirates mingle with the brogues of Irish seamen, and shipments of rare teas and silks from Canton are sold at raucous Pearl Street auctions. Allegiances are more changeable than the tides, love and lust often indistinguishable, the bonds of country weak compared to the temptation of fabulous riches from the East, and only a few farseeing patriots recognize the need not only to protect the city from the redcoats, but to preserve the fragile Constitutional union forged in 1787.
Joyful Patrick Turner, dashing war hero and brilliant surgeon, loses his hand to a British shell, retreats to private life, and hopes to make his fortune in the China trade. To succeed he must run the British blockade; if he fails, he will lose not only a livelihood, but the beautiful Manon, daughter of a Huguenot jeweler who will not accept a pauper as a son-in-law. When stories of a lost treasure and a mysterious diamond draw him into a treacherous maze of deceit and double-cross, and the British set Washington ablaze, Joyful realizes that more than his personal future is at stake. His adversary, Gornt Blakeman, has a lust for power that will not be sated until he claims Joyful’s fiancée as his wife and half a nation as his personal fiefdom. Like the Turners before him, Joyful must choose: his dreams or his country.
Swerling’s vividly drawn characters illuminate every aspect of the teeming metropolis: John Jacob Astor, the wealthiest man in America, brings the city’s first Chinese to staff his palatial Broadway mansion; Lucretia Carter, wife of a respectable craftsman, makes ends meet as an abortionist serving New York’s brothels; Thumbless Wu, a mysterious Cantonese stowaway, slinks about on a secret mission; and the bewitching Delight Higgins, proprietress of the town’s finest gambling club, lives in terror of the blackbirding gangs who prey on runaway slaves. They are all here, the butchers and shipwrights, the doctors and scriv-eners, the slum dwellers of Five Points and the money men of the infant stock exchange...conspiring by day and carousing by night, while the women must hide their loyalties and ambitions, their very wills, behind pretty sighs and silken skirts.
The Washington Post
- Simon & Schuster
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.40(d)
Read an Excerpt
City of GloryA Novel of War and Desire in Old Manhattan
By Beverly Swerling
Simon & SchusterCopyright © 2007 Beverly Swerling
All right reserved.
Lake Erie, Nine Miles from Put-in-Bay
Friday, September 10, 1813, 2 p.m.
Instead of inhaling the deep breath of fresh air Joyful Turner longed for when he came topside, he had to pull his neckerchief over his nose and mouth to keep from choking. The fight had been going on for two hours -- six British ships against nine American, but the British far superior in tonnage and arms -- and the air was black with the smoke of gunpowder and thick with the stench of death.
"Dr. Turner, over here, sir!"
Joyful made his way toward Commodore Perry's voice. It was slow going, impossible to see much of anything, the decks of the Lawrence slick with blood and the brig listing dangerously to port. He had to hang onto the gunwale to keep his footing. Perry's flagship was too close to the British lines for the enemy's superiority in the larger long guns to be useful, but their gunners had found the range with smaller weapons. A shell from a short cannon known as a carronade landed close behind Joyful. A great gust of sparks flared for a moment, then died. The deck shivered beneath his feet and the list to port worsened. The blast had been close enough to make his ears ring. He shook his head to clear it, heard nothing at first, then, as if from a far distance, Perry's second shout: "Dr. Turner, I want you!"
"Yes, so you are. Good Christ, man, you look a sight."
Thirty-two years old, Joyful was tall and lean, with blue eyes and red hair, now flattened with sweat. The long oilskin apron he wore during surgery was spattered with blobs of gore and splinters of bone. Joyful looked down at himself, then squinted up into the rigging. The sails were in tatters, and most of the lines and braces had been shot away. "We're none of us at our best at the moment, sir."
Perry managed a wry smile. There was another blast from the British. "The flag, man! Get the flag!"
The man who rushed to follow Perry's command was an ordinary tar; the commodore was the only officer not flat on his back below decks in Joyful's crammed hospital quarters. Joyful's gut tightened as he watched the sailor head for the foremast. "Are we striking our colors, sir?" Surrendering to the British might make sense, but the thought sickened him.
"Indeed we are not, Dr. Turner. It's my battle flag I want. Lawrence has become impossible to control, as you can see. I'm taking over Niagara." Perry nodded toward the row of American ships stretched beside them, half shrouded in the fog of the engagement. "You're to come with me, Doctor, and bring any crew who are able to come topside. I don't care if they must crawl."
"I have sixty-three severely wounded patients below -- "
"And twenty-one corpses. I'm aware of the numbers, Doctor."
Both men knew that fewer than a hundred of the brig's hundred-thirty-man complement had started the action fit for duty. The single rowboat being lowered over the brig's side would easily accommodate the survivors of this experiment in close-quarters fighting on which Perry had staked his chance to defeat an enemy that, while a smaller squadron, both outgunned and outmanned him.
The man who had been sent to get the battle flag returned. Perry took the blue banner and quickly folded it. Joyful couldn't see the words embroidered in large white letters, but he knew what they said. DON'T GIVE UP THE SHIP. "Any man who can crawl, Doctor," Perry repeated. "If he can haul a line, I want him. Even if it's to be his last move. And yourself."
"I will inform the men of your orders, Commodore. But few of the wounded will be able to comply, however much they want to." God alone knew how many legs he'd amputated in the last couple of hours. Joyful had stopped counting when the number went above two dozen. "As for me, I can't leave my patients."
As ship's surgeon, he was in the employ of the navy, not a member of its armed forces; Perry could not command him. "As you wish, Dr. Turner. I pray you Godspeed for the rest of the engagement and beyond."
"And I you, Commodore."
"Do not fear for me or our country this day, Doctor. We shall prevail, I promise you." Perry swung one leg over the side, then paused and reached for his pocket watch. "I shall wait five minutes for any of the wounded as are able to join us, then we're away."
"May I ask for ten minutes, sir? Even the sick or wounded who can come topside won't be able to move quickly."
"Ten minutes then," Perry agreed.
The two-masted brigantine Niagara had been moving to the head of the line while they spoke, all the while keeping the American ships between herself and the enemy. Now she was athwart Lawrence. Perry and three sailors began clambering down to the waiting rowboat. Joyful turned and headed back to the hold. The list of the vessel was definitely worse, and the smoke thicker. One of the British ships -- the Queen Charlotte, Joyful thought -- was still firing. Lawrence had eighteen carronades to Charlotte's two, but no one to man them. And for the last half hour there had been no powder monkeys to bring them shot.
Joyful found the hatch by feel and instinct. He was about to start down the ladderway when Jesse Edwards's small blond head poked above it. "What's happening, Dr. Turner, sir?"
Wonderful! There had been three powder monkeys when the action began. All boys under twelve, they did what was arguably the most dangerous job in any battle -- running the ammunition to the guns -- and two were in the pile of corpses below. He'd figured the third to be lying dead somewhere else. "There you are, Jesse. I was just wondering about you."
The lad didn't meet his gaze, speaking instead to some point over Joyful's shoulder. "I was down in the powder magazine, sir. Getting the charges the way I'm s'posed to, and -- "
Cowering in the stores most likely, God help him. "It's all right, lad. No need to worry about that now. The Commodore and what's left of the crew are about to row over to Niagara. They're waiting for any others as are able to join them. Get on with you. Over there on the port side. Hurry."
The boy started to go, then turned back. "What about you, Dr. Turner?"
"Nothing about me. Go on, Jesse. Look lively. That's a good -- " The blast landed between them, knocking Joyful back against the bulkhead. At first he felt nothing, only smelled burned flesh, but he knew this time it was his own. He waited, half expecting to collapse, sensing his legs. No, they were fine. But there was pain now, and dizziness. Christ Jesus, don't faint, you stupid bastard. You're a dead man if you do. His heart thumped violently in his chest. "Jesse! Where are you?"
He tried to take a step forward and staggered. "Jesse!" Still nothing. Can't hang about here. Have to tell the men below they can...The weakness almost overwhelmed him, but Joyful fought it off. Something not right about his left arm. He reached across his body: The upper arm was whole. So was the elbow and the forearm. No broken bones, so...Oh, Christ Jesus. He had no hand.
The wound was pouring blood. Joyful, trembling, felt his gorge rise. Shock. Ignore it. Must stop the hemorrhage. Finished otherwise. It seemed to take forever, but eventually he managed to untie his neckerchief.
Behind him the guns were still booming, but Lawrence, listing, and with no firepower, was no longer the target. He managed to get the neckerchief tied around his shattered wrist, but it had to be tighter if it was going to keep him from bleeding to death. He kept short wooden dowels in the pocket of his apron so his patients could bite something other than their own tongues when he cut. Damn! The fingers of his right hand were slippery with blood. He finally got a grip on one dowel, forced it into the knot of the makeshift bandage, and began to twist. Not the best tourniquet he'd ever fastened, but it would do the job. "Jesse! Are you there, lad?"
Still no answer, and he had no idea how much of Perry's allotted ten minutes remained. The men below had a right to take the offer if they could.
He staggered over to the hatch and started down the ladderway. His left foot reached for the quarterdeck and made contact with Jesse's body. The boy had been hurled backward by the blast.
Joyful was weak and dizzy, but he made himself crouch beside the crumpled figure. "Jesse? Can you hear me?" One quarterdeck lantern remained lit; still, it was nearly impossible to see in the gloom. "Jesse. C'mon boy, answer me." The powder monkey didn't move. Joyful pressed his ear to the boy's chest. Thready and very rapid, but the heart was beating. His eyes finally adjusted to the half light, and he saw that the boy's right arm had been shot off virtually at the shoulder. "Got us both, the poxed English bastards," he muttered. Jesse didn't move.
The blood coming from the boy's shoulder was oozing, not pumping. A blessing. There was no way to make a tourniquet effective in such a position. The powder monkey's kersey shirt had been shredded by the shot. Joyful was able to grip a piece of the fabric with his single hand and rip it free. He wadded the kersey into the wound, then got his one good arm underneath Jesse. He couldn't heave him up the first time he tried, but he succeeded the second. Joyful slung the youngster over his right shoulder and staggered down to the hospital quarters deep in the hold.
There had been three lanterns lit when he left the sick bay, strung on a pulley stretched abaft the long, narrow cabin. Now there was only one. "Grubbers! Where in hell are you? How come you let the damned lights go out?"
"Right here, Dr. Turner. I was just goin' to trim those wicks and get some -- "
Useless, like most of the surgeon's mates he'd been assigned over the eight years he'd been at sea. "Forget it. Clear the way for another operation. No, wait. I'll do it. You go above. The commodore's waiting for any as can leave the ship with him." Joyful leaned forward and let Jesse's body drop onto the operating table, ignoring the pulpy remains of the previous surgery that still dotted the canvas covering. The effort jarred his own wound and a wave of pain caught him unawares. Joyful sucked air into his lungs and waited for it to pass, then held his bandaged wrist up to the light. No fresh blood. The tourniquet was holding.
"You're wounded, Doctor. You want me to -- "
"I don't want you to do anything." He'd never had much patience with Grubbers's whining. "Just go topside so you can get away."
"We're surrendering, sir?"
"No, Commodore Perry and any of the crew as can join him are transferring to Niagara." He raised his voice. "Do you lot hear me? If you can drag yourselves topside, you can get off this floating charnel house. But you'd best be quick."
There, he'd done his duty. Joyful didn't bother to see if any of the men were managing to turn themselves out of their hammocks, or rise off the pallets spread side by side on the floor. He bent over the operating table and carefully removed the wadding of shredded kersey he'd stuffed into Jesse's wound.
Grubbers looked down at the unconscious boy. "Shot up real bad, ain't he, sir?"
"Yes, he is. I'll deal with it. You get above while you can."
Grubbers hesitated another moment, then dashed for the ladderway. Joyful was vaguely conscious of one other seaman following behind him. The rest were too ill to move. Probably too ill to have heard him, come to that.
He put his good hand on Jesse Edwards's forehead. Cool and clammy. The boy was in shock, but his breathing was steadier than it might have been. And when Joyful moved his hand to the lad's chest, he still felt that regular if too-rapid beat. "All right, Jesse. We're going to do this, you and I. And if I can operate with one hand, you can bloody well live to tell the tale. You hear me, Jesse Edwards?" He knew the boy was unconscious, but no matter. It made him feel better. "You are going to survive this operation and this day, my reluctant young powder monkey, because you are a tough little Yankee bastard from Boston, despite creaming your britches in every battle. And I...well, I am the best goddamned surgeon in the goddamned United States Navy. Hell, no. I'm better than that. I'm the best goddamned surgeon in the world."
Actually, his cousin Andrew Turner back in New York was. But he'd once done just this sort of surgery with Andrew. Joyful was studying medicine at Columbia in those days, and living in Andrew's house. A woman had been run over by a horse and carriage and brought to his cousin's Ann Street surgery. The wheel had ripped her arm off practically at the shoulder, same as the bloody English guns had done to Jesse Edwards. Joyful had to act as his cousin's assistant, and he remembered every step of the operation. He could hear Andrew's voice as clearly as if the older man stood beside him in Lawrence's fetid hospital quarters.
The wound requires amputation just below the scapula. Thing is, Joyful, there are many surgeons afraid of the procedure. Terrific danger of hemorrhage, of course. But she's going to die if we don't operate. And if we are very careful, very skilled, and a little bit lucky, she may survive.
Andrew had picked up the longest of his knives. Joyful turned to the instrument case on the table beside him and did the same. The scalpel he chose had a bone handle and a flexible blade six inches long and an inch wide. It was one of his favorites and stained with the blood of the many surgeries of this day. His was not a profession for the overly fastidious, he reminded himself, and clamped the instrument between his teeth while he reached overhead and pulled the single working lantern into position above the operating table.
Now, Joyful, hold what's left of that arm horizontal.
Given the quality of tars assigned as surgeon's mates, Joyful had long since installed a wall-mounted heavy hook fitted with a leather strap that he called the Assistant-as-Doesn't-Talk-Back. He moved the lad's inert body as close to the table's edge as he dared and fixed what was left of the shot-off arm in position with his contraption. Clumsy work done one-handed, and getting the boy's body strapped to the table was almost as difficult, but eventually it was done.
We make an incision like this, through the adipose membrane, from the upper part of the shoulder across the pectoral muscle down to the armpit.
That first swift cut brought the powder monkey around, and his scream reverberated off the cabin's walls. There was a spate of murmured protests as the few wounded men still conscious registered the boy's agony. "Quiet, all of you! Squealed like stuck pigs yourselves when it was your turn. But the only reason some of you are still breathing is me and my knife." There were a few whispered assents, even a blessing or two, but Joyful ignored them. All his attention remained with the patient on the table.
The lad's shout was actually a cause for celebration. A faint deep enough not to be ended by surgery might indicate a coma that would never give way. Joyful set down the scalpel, fetched another of the dowels from his apron pocket, and placed it in the boy's mouth. Jesse's eyes were wide open now, and staring into his. "Bite down, as hard as you can, lad. You are going to get through this. So am I. Because if we don't, you're dead." He pinned the youngster with his gaze. "Do you understand me, young Edwards? This time there's nowhere to hide. You muster every scrap of courage you have and withstand this, or you die. Now make a choice -- do I go ahead?"
Tears rolled down Jesse's cheeks, but he nodded. "Good," Joyful said. "Bite as hard as you can on that stick. I'll be as quick as I can."
Now, we turn the knife with its edge upwards and divide the muscle.
Joyful concentrated on the muffled boom of the guns and ignored the strangled screams of the boy under the knife as well as the moans of the sick and the dying that surrounded him. Pray God they were American guns. What would the British do with the wounded if they boarded Lawrence? Probably return those who could live through the transfer to the Americans. As for him -- most likely they'd impress him into the godrotting Royal Navy. Be a real pleasure to get some of those English bastards under his knife.
He put down the scalpel and turned to get ligatures to tie off the large artery. Oh, Christ Jesus. How was he going to thread the needles with one hand? Maybe that useless bastard Grubbers had prepared some in advance. He pawed through the things on the instrument table searching for a threaded needle. Nothing. He hadn't really thought there would be.
Joyful found a largish needle and put the pointed end between his teeth, then teased out a length of catgut from the tangle Grubbers had left behind. He craned his head back, stretching his neck as far as he could, trying to get as much light as possible on the task. Bloody impossible to make the catgut go where he wanted it to. Might as well try to sprout wings and fly. But if that bit of arm were left attached, Jesse Edwards was guaranteed a slow and agonizing death from blood poisoning. God damn him to hell if he let a boy die because he couldn't thread a --
"Here, Doc. Let me do that." A pair of hands reached up and took the needle and the length of catgut.
Joyful peered into the gloom beyond the pool of light cast by the single lantern. "Tompkins, isn't it?"
"Tammy Tompkins. That's right, Doc."
The tar had been one of those in the sick bay before the battle began. "Your fever's broken."
"Looks like it, don't it? Still some shaky on my pins, but I can do this. No harder than a bit of scrimshaw, this is."
Tompkins was one of the most adept whalebone carvers among the sailors. "You'll make a fine surgeon's mate, Tammy. You've got the hands for it."
"Not the stomach though, Doc. In the ordinary way o' things, I can't stand the sight o' blood."
"Well, control yourself. And prepare three more of those needles."
Joyful took up the scalpel and turned for one quick glance at his patient. The boy was staring at the knife. "Bite down, Jesse. This is the worst of it, but it will soon be over. I was raised in Canton, that's in China, and the Chinese would say it's not your joss to die this day. Not your fate. Otherwise you'd be dead already."
This time the steady stream of talk was for the boy's sake, not his own. Joyful made a swift, sure cut through the deltoid muscle; the artery began pumping blood. He dropped the scalpel and took hold of the artery, pinching it tight, issuing orders without turning his head. "Put your fingers where mine are, Tompkins. Grab this tubelike thing I'm holding and squeeze. C'mon, damn it, do it! The boy's a corpse otherwise." A tentative hand stretched above the bloody mess that was Jesse Edwards's shoulder. Finally, Tompkins's fingers were in position next to his own and Joyful could let go. He grabbed the threaded needle and tied off first the large artery, then the veins. Not as hard to do one-handed as he'd have expected.
The scalpel again. And Andrew's voice calm and clear in his head: We pursue the incision through the joint, and carefully divide the vessels, then stop them with ligatures as we did the others.
Thank God Tompkins had done as he was told. The additional needles were ready. Joyful bent over his task, taking another quick look at his patient. Passed out again. He scooped the dowel out of the boy's mouth for fear he'd swallow it, then retrieved his scalpel. He was in total control now: each step of the process as clear to him as if it were written out and held before his eyes, transported to that special place where he and the scalpel were one perfect instrument.
Minutes later the shredded stump of arm fell free. Still attached to the strap on the wall, it hung above the pile of severed limbs Joyful had been kicking below the table throughout this long day. "Tompkins, watch what I'm doing. Damn it, man, I need you. Stop retching and pay attention." He carefully rolled down over the wound the skin he'd painstakingly preserved.
In any amputation the amount of skin you're able to save is a gauge of your success, Joyful. Without enough you'll leave an ugly lumpy scar that will fester and suppurate at worst, or be a constant irritation to the patient at best.
"Hold the skin together while I stitch, Tompkins. Yes, like that. Good, you're doing fine."
So was he. The wound was closed. Done and well done. Andrew might have given him a word of praise if he'd been there.
"Jesse's going to be all right, ain't he, Doc?"
"Yes, Tompkins, he is. At least I think it's likely. And without your help, it wouldn't have happened."
Joyful put his hand on the powder monkey's forehead. Not even a hint of fever, by Almighty God. You've good joss, Jesse Edwards. As for me, I'm a bloody genius, I am.
"What about that, then?" The sailor nodded toward the tourniquet still tied around Joyful's left wrist.
"Ah, yes. This." A bloody one-handed genius. "I think you'd best thread me another few needles, Tammy Tompkins. Time I cleaned this up as well. You'll have to -- Listen." What he'd heard was silence.
"No more guns, Doc."
"Exactly. Not ours and not theirs."
"What do you think, Dr. Turner? Have we surrendered or have they?"
"I'm afraid I've no idea. But, if we're going to be boarded, I'd prefer to get this done first. Let's have a tune, Mr. Tompkins." Tammy Tompkins was the ship's champion whistler as well as a master of scrimshaw. "Not 'Old Zip Coon' as usual. Something different. Something to put heart into us."
Tompkins pursed his lips and complied, doing a little in-place jig to help things along. Joyful meanwhile bit down on one of his own dowels, then used his right hand to cut the jagged bits of bone and flesh from his shattered left wrist and stitch the remaining skin in place. All to the tune of "Yankee Doodle Dandy."
At 4 p.m. on that September Friday, the British fleet on Lake Erie -- two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop -- struck their colors. Commodore Oliver Perry, USN, now flying his blue and white battle flag aboard the Niagara, accepted the Royal Navy's surrender and scribbled on the back of a letter a hasty message for General William Henry Harrison: "We have met the enemy and he is ours."
Copyright 2007 by MichaelA, Ltd.
Excerpted from City of Glory by Beverly Swerling Copyright © 2007 by Beverly Swerling. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Beverly Swerling is a writer, consultant, and amateur historian. She lives in New York City with her husband.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
Swerling's novel is set in New York during the War of 1812 - sounds intriguing - and starts this way. Unfortunately, like another of her novels, City of Dreams, it quickly loses any interest established in the first few chapters. The characters begin to be drawn with sincere potential, but then fall back into a predictable, stock status. The attempt to develop a complicated plot fails through the use of nearly unbelievable subplots and unmotivated sexual descriptions. The medical contexts used are good, but lost in the poor use of historical characters and situations. Swerling is unable to capture the mood or atmosphere of early 19th century New York- the historical 'facts' are forced and unblended giving the novel an unmotivated, artificial tone. The potential is there, but this on does not deliver.
I am reading this book because I loved City of Dreams. However, this one is much different. While City of Dreams takes place over about a century, City of Glory takes place over about 2 or 3 weeks. It moved slowly and there are many characters that are hard to keep up with. I'm ready to finish this one and try Brookhaven.
Very disappointing after the first in the series. Very little character development and became boring at any points. Let's hope the third rises to the level of the first.
I read the first book of this series and enjoyed it. The second book dragged. Finished it but was disappointed.
Once again Beverly Swerling writes a highly entertaining and enlightening story about US history. Since she was not a new author to me, it was easier to follow the plot line. There are so many characters, and so much is going on, that at times it is difficult to keep everything straight. I think that is so because a character might be introduced but not discussed much until later in the story. She is very knowledgeable, and certainly makes history interesting and memorable.
The first book, City of Dreams was recommended to me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Loved the characters, the history of Manhattan and the early use of medicine. So, I eagerly bought City of Glory. The plot was convoluted and the characters impossible to keep track of. Several times I gave up on it then forced myself to try again. In the end I abandoned it.
Not as good as the first installment but still enjoyable.