Ben Pogue, member of the Charleston chapter of the National Railway Historical Society and former IBMer, has written a novel that takes place in the early days of railroads in Charleston, South Carolina. In the Shadow of the Songbird is especially significant for rail fans because it takes place during the time of the creation of the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company and the Best Friend of Charleston figures prominently.
Quoting from the press copy of In the Shadow of the Songbird:
In 1828, many merchants in Charleston believed the economic doldrums could likely be improved by a new technology on the horizon. Horace Pickens, a wealthy slave-holding merchant, heavily invests in a railroad being built to the West. An “abominable” tariff passed by the U.S. Congress, designed to protect industry and foster internal improvements, provokes the South Carolina delegation. They work against the Federal Government providing funds to the railroad, fearing that states accepting money will become subject to the will of Congress, and therefore vulnerable to other initiatives, namely the abolition of the “Peculiar Institution”. There is a movement to nullify the actions of Congress. As the railroad becomes his obsession, Horace sees “nullification”, and its underlying cause, as it’s biggest threat.
Unbeknown to him, his daughter Dora, gets a glimpse of torture, and the human agony in a fleeing slave mother and child. She resolves to undermine slavery by assisting slaves in their escape to freedom, enlisting her reluctant maid’s and her new love’s support. Horace does not approve of her beau or her emancipation ideas. A fierce conflict between them emerges. Faced with the loss of his daughter’s respect, business profits threatened by politics, and the destruction of his personal property by those that disagree with him, Horace Pickens fears the issue of nullification will ultimately destroy his railroad investment, and tear apart his most prized relationship with his daughter, Dora, as the railroad builds it’s way toward Georgia.
Ben Pogue lives on Daniel Island, South Carolina. He retired from IBM as a marketing executive, but has been a storyteller and a “Story writer” all of his life. Ben graduated from Bucknell University with a major in psychology, and with the wisdom of hindsight, realized he should have majored in history and writing. Service as a lieutenant in the US Army, with a year in Korea during the Vietnam War shifted his focus, but he never stopped writing. Ben’s second book, another historical novel is well underway.