In the classic play and film “1776,” John Adams (portrayed so well by Feeny, William Daniels, from “Boy Meets World”) made the foot-dragging Continental Congress approve the Declaration of Independence and fully support George Washington and his Continental Army.
Thomas Jefferson was a violin-player who longed for his wife. Benjamin Franklin was a wisecracking yet astute old man. John Hancock ably controlled the Congress.
Well, anybody who starts reading “Last Refuge of Scoundrels” believing that those men were noble, acting in the best interests of the people, had better investigate some revisionist history first.
For those of us who grew up believing in the heroes of the American Revolution, this novel, even as a fiction, comes as quite a surprise. This isn”t patriotic propaganda, but rather a look at history in the style of Howard Zinn.
John Lawrence is the son of an unscrupulous southern merchant. Upon arriving in Boston, just ten years before the outbreak of the war, John immediately falls in love with the city as well as Deborah Simpson, a prostitute and revolutionary agitator so elusive she should have been nicknamed “Swamp Fox.”
Caught up in the whirlwind of action in the pre-war period, John follows the love of his life, the Sons of Liberty and the Founding Fathers as they break apart from England and start a new nation.
It takes John a while to distinguish between the war and the Revolution, and to realize that it is not the generals and politicians who control the means for securing the Revolution. Rather, it is the slaves, middle class workers and prostitutes commanded by the sly Deborah.
There”s nothing particularly controversial about the romance between the young “hooker with the heart of gold,” (Deborah) and the nave but willing worker (John).
What could ruffle some feathers are passages suggesting American envoy Franklin was doing nothing more in France than making love, Adams worked for the Revolution to gain clients for his law practice and Hancock smashed fine china to soothe his fragile nerves.
As the Continental Congress dragged and Washington was being beaten soundly in nearly every battle in which he showed up, John and Deborah fight the good fight through the underground.
While every person awake in U.S. history knows how the war ends, few have seen this explanation on the events during the war, as well as such a unique side to General Washington.
For all Lussier does to tarnish the images of the Founding Fathers, he writes a darn funny novel. And, as Franklin quipped in “1776,” “We are not demigods. We are men. No more, no less.”
No doubt readers will come to a similar conclusion here.