Sunday, March 3, 2019

Book Review: 'Redfish Oak' by George Putnam and Jewel Grutman

Redfish Oak by George Putnam

‘…before behavior towards other can change, attitudes must change’

Los Angeles author George Putnam began his artistic career in music – piano and composition – with degrees from Sal State University, San Bernardino and UC Riverside and taught piano at University of Redlands. Now in Los Angeles George has turned to writing, both for films, television and novels both of his own and now in collaboration with attorney/author Jewel Grutman he joins the ranks of epic historical fiction writers with REDFISH OAK. 

Apropos of the character of this impressive book the authors place a comment before the story begins, a comment that says much about not only this fine novel but also about the tenor of our time at present. ’Redfish Oak is set in the turbulent and chaotic period of post-Civil War Reconstruction in Florida. To convey authenticity bas on extensive research of the time covered in the novel, we used dialect for certain characters in order to make them as real as possible for our readers. We chose to explore universal and timeless themes that arise when race and class converge. As history shows, such a convergence is rarely pretty. But hope must live.’

In an engrossing manner the authors reflect on nineteenth century customs, behavior and racial violence punctuated with colloquialisms and language that befits that era. The clashes are among Caucasians, American Indians, African Americans and the bigotry that reigned in the post Civil War south. As the terse synopsis states, ‘’A White girl, a Negro boy, and a young Indian warrior make a dangerous pact. Ten years after the Civil War, race-based fear and hatred threaten lives in the once-idyllic resort of St. Augustine, Florida. When a train arrives carrying renegade Plains Indians ordered to Ft. Marion for imprisonment, the community erupts. From this combustible mix emerge three unlikely allies determined to stop the violence.‘

Other authors have offered varying versions of this particular time but these authors add another dimension to the story by relating the tale in the minds of youngsters who vividly depict the gruesome racial biases that threatened to divide an already divided country. That aspect of the book brings the crises and resolutions of that period into focus, allowing the reader to examine more closely the continuing challenge of racism. This is a very fine book, worthy of attention. The story is exceptional: the lessons, much needed. As the primary character Nan states, ’Nothing worthwhile is won easily. Fighting for it is the thing.’

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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