“God and whiskey have got me where I am. Too little of the one, too much of the other.”
—David King, 1895.
Born a slave in 1847, but raised as a free man by the Reverend William King, David has rebelled against his emancipator and his predestined future in the church. He’s taken up residence in the nearby town of Chatham, made a living robbing graves, and now presides—in the company of a German ex-prostitute named Loretta—over an illegal after-hours tavern.
These days that final, violent confrontation with Reverend King seems like a lifetime ago. The residents of Chatham know David as a God-cursing, liquor-slinging, money-having man-about-town, famously educated and fabulously eccentric. And he seems to be more-or-less happy … that is, until the death of Reverend King brings his past crashing down upon him.
Inspired by the Elgin Settlement, which by 1852 housed 75 free black families and was studied by Lincoln and Harriet Beecher Stowe, David is a fiery look at one man’s quest for knowledge and forgiveness, and a moving portrait of life after the Underground Railroad.
Praise for David
“This beautifully written novel with its discontinuous narrative, complex characters, and references to poets, philosophers, and other great thinkers is a challenging read that is well worth the effort … With this novel Robertson has beautifully brought to life a segment of African-American history that is largely unknown in this country.”—Library Journal
“This is an exceptionally well-written novel. Though there is nothing simple about David’s thoughts or story, the reader is drawn into David’s contemplation with the author’s forthright prose and the reader’s own curiosity about how David the child became the intelligent, jaded man so eloquently telling his own story. The characters are all engaging and interesting. This reader wouldn’t mind having whiskey with David herself. Highly, highly recommended!”—Historical Novel Society
“Robertson has created a masterfully and meticulously written novel that not only brings up issues of race and the shame of our history, but also what we do and don’t owe to others for their roles in our lives … This is a challenging, vivid, and rewarding novel.”—BookNAround
“Ray Robertson’s story of an angry black man living in 19th-century Ontario is a mix of historical accuracy and vivid storytelling.” —Globe & Mail
“David is a fascinating historical novel . . . Not only does this novel make an important contribution to our growing knowledge of local black history and life in late Victorian Canada, it is a powerful and timeless insight into the human condition.
—Northern Terminus: The African Canadian History Journal
“In prose that is crisp and clean and a pure delight to read, David recounts his past, considers his hard-won independence, and admits his secrets. But this is no history lesson. Robertson has created a wonderful range of characters in this novel, some of them based in reality, all of them complex, immediate and fascinating. But best of all is David himself. Charming, smart, and audacious, he’s good company.”—Gil Adamson, author of The Outlander
“David is that rarest thing–a novel about the past that burns with the vibrancy of contemporary life–and its eponymous hero is one of the wisest, funniest, and most enchanting characters I’ve encountered in a long time.”—Todd Babiak, author of The Book of Stanley