Ambition, conflict and cruelty vie for pride of place as the storm clouds gather about Nethergate Hall whilst America itself plunges towards the maelstrom of Civil War. Silas Killcaid, the cruel and vindictive overseer to the Nethergate Tobacco Plantation, maintains his iron grip upon the slave community and even upon the last of the ill-fated Masters of Nethergate. The story explores the stresses within the slave community, its loyalties, and its betrayals, and the ingenuity of individual slaves to create their own freedom. It reveals too, the bonds which are forged between Master and slave and the helplessness of the slave when facing a white man’s justice. It highlights the dignity and honour achieved by some, which transcends their servitude.
The story revolves around the bond of brotherhood formed between George the Master’s son and Matthew, a bastard slave brutally and forcefully fathered by George’s uncle Mark, through Ruth, a young mulatto slave girl, the personal slave to Mary, the first Mistress of Nethergate. That bond is forced to face the ultimate test of loyalty when Matthew escapes and is falsely accused of murder by Killcaid. All this takes place within the wider conflict between Yankee and Confederate. The tale reaches its climax with rebellion on the Nethergate Estate and plans for the murder of the tyrant, Killcaid and the imminent exposure by the enigmatic Confederate Colonel Gladstone, in the household of Henry Bragg in New York, of the secret shared between Ruth and Mary. This acts as a springboard to the second book in the trilogy.
Derek H Skinner was born in Devon and graduated from The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst to become a soldier for 30 years. Later on he took an Open University degree and became a school master at the Junior School Cheltenham College. Derek retired to become Chair of Governors (village school), Parish Councillor, Church warden and member of local rotary clubs. He now lives in Cirencester, Gloucestershire.