Author: Boston Teran
Publisher: High Top
Boston Teran's absorbing recent novel, A Child Went Forth follows the harrowing experiences of a thirteen year old boy who has the formidable task of delivering the sum of four thousand dollars to a fervent abolitionist, James Montgomery in Missouri.
Set in the mid-1800's, the novel begins in Brooklyn, New York where Zacharia Griffin and his son, Charlie have travelled from Topeka, Kansas to meet the fiery American Congregationalist clergyman, Henry Ward Beecher of the Plymouth Congregational Church. This is the same Beecher who is the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Zacharia, who is a notorious con-artist, was carrying with him a letter supposedly signed by an important abolitionist in Kansas as well as others. The contents of the letter was an urgent plea to solicit money to purchase arms that Zacharia could negotiate and deliver through a network of underground sympathizers of the anti-slavery movement.
Beecher never questions the authenticity of the signatories to the letter and is successful in raising the sum of four thousand dollars from his abolitionist friends.
John Briner, a vestryman of the church, was to deliver the money to Zacharia at the home of a fine black family, the Gloucasters. who lived in a good neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Briner, however, who was not exactly a pillar of his community, had other ideas for the money and engages the services of two criminals, Billy Tule and his confidant, Handy.
They were to ambush Zacharia and Charlie once they leave the Gloucaster home and relieve them of the leather satchel that would contain the four thousand dollars.
Zacharia had planned to make a hasty exit out of Brooklyn and venture west. He divided the four thousand dollars into small packets and hid them in the lining of an old coat. Not to be suspected of carrying anything of value, Zacharia and Charlie discarded their good clothing and changed into shabby garb as if they were a couple of paupers.
Charlie, however, expresses great anger towards his father who lied to him telling him that the swindled money would to be used to get his mother out of an asylum in Cincinnati and to take care of her properly.
It doesn't take long before Handy and Tule track down Zacharia who recognizes them in a crowd of people waiting to get into a Barnum Museum. Zacharia orders his son to escape into the museum while he confronts the two hooligans which unfortunately leads to his death.
At first, Handy and Tule are unaware that Charlie has the money hidden in his old coat, but eventually they realize that Charlie has escaped their clutches with the treasure they seek.
From this point onward the yarn follows Charlie as he wends his way from Brooklyn to Pike County, Missouri with as many towns he had to flee or quickly disappear from and with one objective in mind, to make amends and deliver the four thousand dollars to its rightful destination.
During his arduous trek, his experiences encompass a number of multiple challenges including the dark destructive side of slavery, racism, political and social corruption. He also encounters a cast of characters some of whom are real and others invented that are seamlessly woven into the plot. These include an undertaker, an anti-slavery insurrectionist, a millionaire gunfighter, an assassin and a young woman who saves him and comes to love him.
And as Charlie repeats what his father told him: “It's like in the Bible. The good book is one long parade of beginnings and ends with a slew of bloodshed and begatting tossed in between that keep the reader oca'pied.”
Teran's storytelling gifts are amply confirmed with his realistic dialogue and colorful characters that are well-blended into the plot, all of which adds to the richness of the fiction. His prose is captivating as it reflects the emotional and painful atmosphere that prevailed during this era. If we are to describe this novel as purely historical fiction, we would rob it of its uniqueness. In brief, what Teran has accomplished is a form of realism which makes its backdrop immediate as well as vivid, and as turbulent as anything set in the present. In addition, it leaves the reader with more of an understanding of the passions animating the anti-slavery movement during the 1840s and '50s.
If you are wondering who is Boston Teran, apparently no one knows his or her identity, even his publicist hasn't a clue. Some say he is a well-known writer using a pseudonym while others believe it is the name used by a small group of writers working together to create one identity. We do know that Teran is an internationally acclaimed author who has won several awards with his cult classics including God is a Bullet and The Creed of Violence, which are slated for major motion pictures. A Child Went Forth may likewise win an award and wind up as a motion picture.