Hey all! This is the first draft of chapter one of the new book I’m working on. The book is called “Southern Defiance” and will revolve around growing up on a Southern plantation in Charleston shortly before the Civil War. It will focus on the plantation owner’s son and his best friend, who happens to be a slave on the plantation.
I’d love to know if you would be interested after reading the first chapter. I have NOT edited, so you can ignore any errors. Thanks all!
Chapter 1, Draft 1 – Southern Defiance
Arnie Jackson certainly had to give it to the man in front of him. Ninety years old and still moving around like a man of seventy. Of course, when you manage to amass a fortune like Joel Canton’s, life tended be a bit easier. Arnie attempted to help the old man sit in his chair, but there was no need. Mr. Canton handled it just fine. It was hot out, as Charleston usually was in July, but Canton didn’t seem to notice. He just sipped his tea and watched the people on the street walk by, as he had been doing for decades.
Arnie, on the other hand, was not from the South. He was from New York and wasn’t very happy about being sent to South Carolina for this assignment, but his editor wanted him.
“You’re the only one he’ll talk to,” his boss told him.
“And why is that?” Arnie replied. There was nothing special about him, save that he liked cats. No man he knew actually liked cats. No man he knew who would admit it anyway.
Seeing the puzzled look on his face, his editor elaborated. “Bring Rayne.”
Rayne was Arnie’s longtime girlfriend. They had met at a rather progressive bar nine years before. They hit it off so well the first night that there was no courtship needed. Arnie brought her back to his apartment that night and, despite his underperforming that first time, she stayed with him. Her fidelity had been unwavering for all those years, as had his. Yet despite his multiple attempts to get Rayne to marry him, she always said no. She said there was no way it could work. You see, Rayne Adams was black.
So he brought Rayne with him. Brought her to the South, in the early 1900’s, to the state that fired the first shots, the state that first succeeded. He brought his black girlfriend to South Carolina. All so that Joel Canton would talk to him. The funny thing was that it worked.
“Mr. Jackson,” said Mr. Canton.
“Please,” Arnie stopped him, “I insist you call me Arnie.”
“Very well,” Mr. Canton replied, “but you’ll gave to call me Joel then.”
“Alright, Joel,” said Arnie. “I’d like to start with your background. You’re from Charleston, correct?”
“Oh yes,” Joel said with the wave of a hand, gesturing to some unknown place down the road. “I grew up on the Canton Plantation about five miles down the road there.”
“It was an indigo plantation, was it not?”
“It was,” relied Joel. “It was either that or rice in this climate. Father placed his bet on the wealthy wanting color in their fabrics. He made the right bet.”
“Mr. Canton,” said Arnie, “you are one of the wealthiest men in America. How did you get from Charleston, South Carolina, to the inner circles of power in the country?”
Joel Canton set his tea down and stood. He looked down at the street then walked back into the house. Arnie wondered if he had said something to upset the old man, but he heard him coming back a few seconds later. When he returned he had a bottle of what looked like whisky in his hand. He tipped a generous amount into his tea and then into Arnie’s. Joel sat back down and took a long sip. Staring down the road, towards where he said the plantation was, he shook his head.
“I reckon it’s time for a few stories to be told,” he said. “Some confessions to be made.”
Arnie got out his pen and pad. He had known Joel Canton for only a few days, but this was the first time he had seen him become so serious. Usually he was lighthearted, always armed with a joke. He flirted shamelessly with Rayne on their first night there, but Arnie didn’t mind. He was just happy Mr. Canton was happy. Now, though, he could see the mood shifting.
“Confessions?” Arnie asked.
“My memory is pretty good and I very much hate lying,” Joel said. “This story starts in 1855. And 1836. Well, I guess in 1861 as well. You’re going to have to bear with me here.
And so began the most incredible story. A story so remarkable that if Arnie hadn’t seen the proof and the sheer look of truth in the old man’s eyes, he would never have believed it. The story that Mr. Joel Canton told to Arnie Jackson and Rayne Adams over the next few weeks would astound them. By the time the tale was over, Arnie knew he wouldn’t be working for the paper much longer. No, he was going to write a book and make millions. Here, friends, is Arnie’s story about the life of Joel Canton.