The accolades are rolling in for 27-year-old Kent Wascom’s first novel, The Blood of Heaven. I’ve been amazed in recent years by the plethora of debut novels that garner high praise. However, young Wascom’s book is rising to the top of the heap.
Here’s what Publishers Weekly’s Steve Yarbrough had to say. “When you read as many contemporary novels as I do, it’s easy to get jaundiced because we’re awash in hype and almost nothing ever seems quite as good as it’s cracked up to be. So please know that I’m not just giving this young author a pass. I truly can count on the fingers of one hand the number of first novels that have ever excited me this much.”
Set in the late 1700s and early 1800s, this book is the story of Angel Woolsack, a preacher’s son, who flees the hardscrabble life of his itinerant father, falls in with a charismatic highwayman, then settles with his adopted brothers on the rough frontier of West Florida. During this time period, American settlers are carving their place out of lands held by the Spanish and French.
The novel moves from the bordellos of Natchez, where Angel meets his love Red Kate, to the Mississippi River plantations, where slave labor is creating fantastic wealth along with suffering, and finally to the back rooms of New Orleans among schemers, dreamers and would-be revolutionaries plotting to break away from the United States and create a new country under the leadership of the renegade founding father Aaron Burr.
This book has enough historical data to satisfy history buffs about a period and area of America that aren’t often the subject of literature. It’s also a fictional account of a young man seizing his place in a violent world, a love story, and a vivid tale of ambition and political machinations.
It’s so encouraging that this young writer has given us something fresh and different, and with wonderful, expressive language. There are far too many first-time authors slogging out murder mysteries. Wascom was born in New Orleans and spent his childhood in Louisiana and Pensacola, Fla. He earned a master’s of fine art from Florida State University. In 2012, he won the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival prize for fiction. He now lives in Tallahassee, Fla.