Spotlight: Blind Tribute by Mari Anne Christie

Cover of Blind Tribute by Mari Anne ChristieIt’s a pleasure to welcome Mari Christie to the website today. Blind Tribute, her Civil War novel about a journalist of extraordinary principle, is due out July 28. The timing is impeccable, as today’s journalists face nearly as many death threats as her protagonist, and over some of the same festering issues. Below you’ll find an intriguing bit that had to be left out of the novel, a blurb, and an excerpt from the novel itself. Read to the end for a chance to win an ebook edition and some neat swag, including a quill pen and powdered ink.


One of Harry Wentworth’s most admirable, and infuriating, traits is his desire to be thorough in his examination of every issue. This serves his reporting well, but not his safety, and occasionally makes him appear slow to action, even as decisiveness is also an innate behavior. This habit of exhaustive contemplation is exemplified in many ways throughout the book, but in the case of his family and friends, perhaps most visible in a brief mention early in the narrative:

Once he had taken care of posterity, assisting his likely future biographers by categorizing his musings, he turned to his last order of business for the day: updating his will, also a lifetime habit, which he had accomplished, without fail, before the onset of each new war. This time, little would change. He would leave all sitting members of The Standard Editorial Board fifty thousand dollars each, his financial interest in the paper allotted equally among them, with the admonition to reinvest in the newspaper. Two hundred fifty thousand would be bequeathed to his sister, along with most of the Wentworth family heirlooms he owned. Half the remaining estate—estimated at three-and-a-half million—was earmarked for his wife; the other half would be divided equally between his three children.

As with any work of fiction, many pieces were cut before the final version was published. In this case, I offer up the Last Will and Testament Harry writes nearer the end of the war, which introduces the many characters who become important to him during the course of the book, and demonstrates, in some wise, the changes he makes in his priorities.

***

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF PALMER HARROLD WENTWORTH III

In the Name of God, Amen, I, Palmer Harrold Wentworth III of the County of Philadelphia in the State of Pennsylvania, being of sound mind and memory, do make and publish this, my Last Will and Testament in manner and form, following that:

It is my will and desire that this document and my final wishes be executed by the hand of Jim Calvin of Philadelphia, with the assistance of the firm of Cabot and McDermott, who shall be fairly compensated.

It is my will and desire that all just debts and funeral expenses be paid. Funeral arrangements should be made with the Free Quaker Meetinghouse in Philadelphia, and my remains interred at Quaker Cemetery. In the manner of the Friends, the site should not be marked.

It is my will and desire that there be no public or ceremonial display of my name or likeness in recognition of beneficence. It is my hope that the newspaper business will refrain from such display as well, but I hold out no great hope. In light of this, I request editorial staff, to the best of their ability, ensure my printed likeness be the engraving by David Harris of the Philadelphia Daily Standard, and my name be remembered as Harry.

It is my will and desire that my property be divided as such:

To my daughter, Fleur Emily Wentworth Drayton, $500,000 upon successful completion of an advanced course of study at an academy of higher learning. Upon the start of her formal education, her great-great-grandfather’s brass inkwell, passed to me when I received my first degree. Also, with no contingency, my domicile of residence at the time of my death and the contents of my storage facility, primarily Wentworth family heirlooms and curios from my travels, which have been catalogued, appraised, and documented, including such stories as I remember. I encourage her to keep these treasures for my grandchildren—her children and her sister’s—and bequeath them at appropriate times. I ask she share the family stories with her sister.

To my daughter, Belle Margaret Wentworth Keating, her grandmother’s Chinese-export wedding china, her great-aunt’s emerald parure, and her baby book.

To the issue of Fleur Drayton and Belle Keating, $100,000 each; male children only upon completion of degrees at Oxford, William and Mary, or Princeton; female children at academies or colleges of the highest academic standards. All appropriate educational expenses shall be met for their natural lifetimes. Upon completion of their course of study, their expenses should be paid for a six-month European trip.

To my first male grandchild, my father’s signet ring, engraved with the Wentworth crest, my pistols, my soldiering clothes, and $100 in Confederate currency, such items to be held securely until his majority.

To my first female grandchild, the Wentworth yellow diamond diadem, which has managed to stay in the family since 1684, to be given upon the occasion of her betrothal, my signed copy of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, and my inlaid brass candlestick, such items to be held securely until her majority.

To my sister, Ruth Wentworth Telfair, $500,000 to do exactly as she pleases for the rest of her life, with a reminder that I will never stop worrying. I ask her to look after the interests of Elias Wentworth.

To my brother, Elias Wentworth, $250,000 held in trust, with the understanding that he will give it away, but I know the Light of God will guide him in his purpose.

To my son-in-law, Gilbert Merrick Drayton, all foreign investments and concerns not otherwise assigned, and the certain knowledge that I am still watching over my little girl.

To my daughter-in-law, Celia Bromley Wentworth, $100,000 and stewardship of my charitable endeavors (in consultation with Ruth Telfair). I ask that they both look after the interests of the following, whose financial interest shall be held in trust:

Tobias Wentworth, $100,000 and my chess board.

Adam Wentworth, $100,000, my boots and knife, and my long guns.

Elsbeth Wentworth, $100,000, my Louis XIV escritoire, and my grandmother’s table linens.

August Wentworth, $100,000 and all books not otherwise assigned. All appropriate educational expenses for his natural lifetime at the institutions of his choice and, upon completion of his course of study, his expenses paid for a six-month European trip.

Collectively, to Tobias, August, Elsbeth, and Adam, the use or proceeds from the sale of Riverwood Plantation, Edisto Island, South Carolina, including house, furniture, and grounds as they exist at the time of my death.

To all sitting members of the Philadelphia Daily Standard Editorial Board at the time of my death, $50,000 each with the firm suggestion they reinvest in the newspaper. My thanks to Jim Calvin for abstaining to execute this document.

To Miles Campton, all investments concerned with the Philadelphia Daily Standard, and a reminder to keep Jim honest about the news.

To John Hoyt, all other publishing concerns worldwide. Also, my global contact books, my collected journalistic works, my liquor cabinet, my cigars, and any favors outstanding that he can talk his way into.

To Billy O’Reilly, my war journals from 1827-37 (with rights to John Hoyt for publication), my reference books, maps, globe, writing accoutrements, clerk’s desk and stool, and an amount equal to a Philadelphia Daily Standard reporter’s annual salary. All appropriate educational expenses for his natural lifetime at the institutions of his choice and, upon completion of a degree, his expenses paid for a six-month European trip. Reference letters have been filed with Oxford, Tulane, William and Mary, and Princeton.

To Dax, in care of Sarah Hickman, $50,000 and my great-great-grandfather’s pocket watch.

To Captain Amos Rink, my interest in the Wentworth and Hoyt shipyards and all of my African concerns.

To Sarah, Henrietta, Gertrude, and Estelle Hickman of “The Misses’ Boardinghouse” and August Free School for Black Children in Philadelphia, a three-month vacation in the locale of their choosing, without limitation, with the humble request that the staff and residents force the issue. No expense should be spared.

To the August Free School and The Misses’ Boardinghouse, endowed funding equal to 20 years of operation, including $500 paid out to every man leaving the Boardinghouse during that time, and appropriate educational funding for the natural lifetime of any graduate of the School. $10 to every child enrolled at the School at the time of my death, $100 to every resident of the Boardinghouse, and a bonus to all staff equal to three months’ salary, with the request that they do something silly and fun with the children in my name.

To Oxford University and Tulane University, endowed scholarship funds of $50,000 for each institution, to be paid out as full expenses per annum for a writing student with promise in Journalism.

It is my will and desire that all other financial concerns not otherwise assigned—property, investments, stocks, bonds, notes, and accounts—be liquidated, with favorable terms to the beneficiaries of this will, and held in trust for my grandchildren to further their personal and professional concerns upon completion of their studies.

To my wife, Anne, I leave her conscience.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this seventeenth day of May, the Year of Our Lord, Eighteen Hundred and Sixty-five, hereby revoking all former wills by me made.

Signed, published, and declared by:

Palmer Harrold Wentworth III


Book Blurb

Every newspaper editor may owe tribute to the devil, but Harry Wentworth’s bill just came due.

As America marches toward the Civil War, Harry Wentworth, gentleman of distinction and journalist of renown, finds his calls for peaceful resolution have fallen on deaf—nay, hostile—ears, so he must finally resolve his own moral quandary. Comment on the war from his influential—and safe—position in Northern Society, or make a news story and a target of himself South of the Mason-Dixon Line, in a city haunted by a life he has long since left behind?

The day-to-day struggle against countervailing forces, his personal and professional tragedies on both sides of the conflict, and the elegant and emotive writings that define him, all serve to illuminate the trials of this newsman’s crusade, irreparably altering his mind, his body, his spirit, and his purpose as an honorable man. Blind Tribute exposes the shifting stones of the moral high ground, as Harry’s family and friendships, North and South, are shattered by his acts of conscience.


Excerpt from Blind Tribute

The Wentworths were founding members of the club, had contributed most of the building fund and many of the Negroes who had built it. Behind the wall to their left, on one of the frame beams, he and Edward had carved their initials when they were seven or so.

Harry’s father—Palmer Harrold Wentworth the Second, called Second since the day his son was born—came through the door from the dining room.

“You have no claim on our family history or this club. I’m sorry I gave you my name.”

His father’s tall, thin frame was tensile as a fencing foil, and his face like the dry husk of a topiary labyrinth, sharp angles and deep lines, compelling, thorny, and difficult to escape. His grey hair, the thick, wiry hair he’d passed down to Harry, and to Harry’s son, was tied in a queue and much thinner after ten years, but his suit looked exactly the same, as did the expression on his face.

“You’ll not be joining anything,” he barked. “You are a damned Yankee and a traitor to the South. Go back to Philadelphia where you belong.”

“Father. It’s lovely to see you in such good spirits.” His half-smile hid wary eyes. “I had assumed from your responses to my past infractions that the shock of my arrival might have killed you.” He raised his glass to his father’s health and took a sip.

The long veins on the sides of his father’s neck distended and began to quiver. “I am long since accustomed to your disregard for your family and position.” His tightly-wound fists were a concession to his better nature. “Your mother and sister are distraught, and you would have them ostracized rather than rein in your propensity for gossip and scandal.”

“My opinions are hardly gossip. Not a year ago, Harper’s called me a national treasure.” Harry turned to the man who had declined his cigar, now two seats away at the bar. The man stuttered and tried to look away, but Harry kept his gaze. “I’m sure you must have read a few of P. H. Wentworth’s opinions. Would you consider them gossip?”

His father was the one who answered: “Your opinions are nothing short of treason. Only your mother’s defense has kept me from calling you out already.”

“I have no such compunction,” Edward spat. Harry remembered Edward had been a hell of a good brawler in the down-rent pubs at Oxford, and he had the same look in his eye now. He might finish off hundreds of Yankees before the war was over, starting with Harry. “Unless you’d like to meet me at dawn, I’d suggest you leave.”

“I try not to do anything at dawn but read the newspaper. But,” Harry offered, “I’d be happy to meet you for supper any evening to renew our acquaintance.” Harry considered his cigar, which might not be in his hand much longer. “Either of you.”

“I am nothing but sorry we ever had an acquaintance. It’s time for you to leave.”

Harry puffed on his cigar, and waited to see if his father or Edward would be the one to bodily throw him out the front door. Before the answer presented itself, two big barmen converged and tried to grab his arms. He yanked himself away, downed the last of his drink, and thumped the glass back onto the bar. “I suppose I shouldn’t bother to come to the house.”

Harry’s father took two threatening steps toward him. “If you contact your mother or sister, I will run you through.”

Harry held his ground without flinching, but a sense of finality imbued his father’s words, such as Harry had never heard in more than fifty years of animosity between them. He drew on his cigar one last time and strategically retreated before his father decided to murder him in cold blood, in broad daylight, before witnesses.

“Anne and your grandchildren send their best,” Harry called over his shoulder. The manager handed him his coat and hat as he reached the door.

Harry had answered his own question, with less trouble than expected. If his own family would cast him out, he couldn’t count on anyone in the Confederacy remembering him fondly.


Meet Mari Christie

Author photo of Mari ChristieMari was “raised up” in journalism (mostly raising her glass at the Denver Press Club bar) after the advent of the web press, but before the desktop computer. She has since plied her trade as a writer, editor, and designer across many different fields, and currently works as a technical writer and editor.

Under the name Mari Christie, she has released a book-length epic poem, Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness: Poetry of the Mayan Underworld, and under pen name Mariana Gabrielle, she has written several Regency romances, including the Sailing Home Series and La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess. Blind Tribute is her first mainstream historical novel. She expects to release the first book in a new family saga, The Lion’s Club, in 2018.

She holds a BA in Writing, summa cum laude and With Distinction, from the University of Colorado Denver, and is a member of the Speakeasy Scribes, the Historical Novel Society, and the Denver Press Club. She has a long family history in Charleston, South Carolina, and is the great-great niece of a man in the mold of Harry Wentworth.

Buy/Review Links

Mari Christie Social Media 


Giveaway

Mari will be giving away a quill pen (like Harry’s) and powdered ink, a swag pack including Harry’s Editorials Collection, and an e-copy of the book to one winner.
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Comments

  1. Fantastic post and excerpt. Congrats on your almost release day!

  2. larryhogue says:

    Thanks, Alyssa!

  3. Thank you for hosting Mari! 🙂

  4. larryhogue says:

    It was my pleasure!

  5. Lori Dykes says:

    Congratulations on your release day! I could not keep from smiling when reading the will!

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