Review of ‘The Hard Side of the River’

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When abolitionists Dana Curbstone and Reverend Cal Fenton assist slave Jacob Pingram escape across the Maysville River to freedom, Pingram’s owner hires retired slave catcher Dan Basken to find and return his ‘property. But in 1833 Maysville, Kentucky, Basken is preoccupied with finding the slave girl Abejide, with whom he had a brief liaison before she was taken away to be sold. Basken is conflicted—he has begun to question the institution of slavery. When he catches up with the fugitives at the river, he must come to a decision that will change his life forever.

The Hard Side of the River by Johnny Payne is a gut-wrenching look at life in the South a few decades before the Civil War, told with a keen appreciation, not just of history, but the personal impact on the people who lived under a system that treated some people as property. This is a book that will change the way a reader looks at freedom and the rights of people to be free to determine their own destiny.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. As an amateur historian and author, I was both emotionally and intellectually impacted by the author’s deft handling of this extremely sensitive, and for some, controversial issue. I give it five stars, and look forward to the author’s next offering.

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