The Whiskey Rebels

The Whiskey Rebels

A Novel

eBook - 2008
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Ethan Saunders, once among General Washington's most valued spies, now lives in disgrace, haunting the taverns of Philadelphia. An accusation of treason has long since cost him his reputation and his beloved fiancée, Cynthia Pearson, but at his most desperate moment he is recruited for an unlikely task--finding Cynthia's missing husband. To help her, Saunders must serve his old enemy, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, who is engaged in a bitter power struggle with political rival Thomas Jefferson over the fragile young nation's first real financial institution: the Bank of the United States. Meanwhile, Joan Maycott is a young woman married to another Revolutionary War veteran. With the new states unable to support their ex-soldiers, the Maycotts make a desperate gamble: trade the chance of future payment for the hope of a better life on the western Pennsylvania frontier. There, amid hardship and deprivation, they find unlikely friendship and a chance for prosperity with a new method of distilling whiskey. But on an isolated frontier, whiskey is more than a drink; it is currency and power, and the Maycotts' success attracts the brutal attention of men in Hamilton's orbit, men who threaten to destroy all Joan holds dear. As their causes intertwine, Joan and Saunders--both patriots in their own way--find themselves on opposing sides of a daring scheme that will forever change their lives and their new country.
Publisher: New York : Random House, c2008
ISBN: 9781588367303
Characteristics: 525 p. ;,25 cm


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Aug 13, 2012

Novels with alternating plot lines are tricky. I often find one more intriguing than the other and feel like I have to slog through every other chapter just to get back to the story and characters that I like. In The Whiskey Rebels , David Liss manages to weave two seemingly very different tales that remain individually compelling until they intersect - a rare feat.

Liss also faces a considerable storytelling challenge in that his main topic - bank share trading and taxation in the nascent United States - is both complicated and potentially dull. It's really hard to make a compelling drama around shorting stocks. But he successfully keeps up the suspense and the sense of urgency by raising the stakes (the very fate of the new country rests upon it!), creating compelling and colorful characters (some fictional, some real), and introducing sufficient quantities of danger and violence.

But the complexity of the topic of early banking and market manipulation does lead to some degree of tedium and necessitates copious amounts of exposition. A great deal of time is spent having characters explain to each other how the mechanisms of stock trading work and all the ways in which one can make fortunes or suffer ruin. Liss is generally able to keep all this entertaining and not overly didactic, but a couple of times I did find myself about to shout out "Enough already! I get that he's trying to drive down the price of 4 per cent shares!!!" to my poor, innocent Kindle's screen.

hermlou Mar 27, 2011

The soldiers of the U.S. revolution were paid in promissary notes, for the country had no currency. One couple, Andrew and Joan Maycott, traded his promissary notes for land in the wilderness of western Pennsylvania, which was wilder than any wilderness I've read about. The settlers there use whisky as a currency. The other protagonist is Ethan Saunders, a former spy, recruited to find his ex-fiancee's husband. These fictional characters are mixed with historical characters such as Washington, Hamilton, and Jefferson. Liss describes stagecoach travel with authentic detail, and he makes real the scenes of red-faced men trading stocks in public houses. Fascinating reading!

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