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M. A. Noble’s “Taking Hart” an excerpt


Editor’s note:  “Taking Hart”, written by M.A. Noble is s a thriller and filled with action and suspense.  Below is an excerpt.

Some of us are suckers for the 1000 Islands. It lures us with its promise of magic, consumes us with its beauty. And for me, it inspired a novel based on its history—and the history that might have been. Corey, a descendent of privateers, fights a present-day battle against a 200-year old lie and faces a local killer.

Factual information about the War of 1812 is included below, as well as an excerpt in which Corey’s antagonist conducts a tour among the islands.

The novel Taking Hart is set in today’s 1000 Islands but is based on local War of 1812 activities. (A sequel, Taking the Gold, is planned for 2013.)

FACTS BEHIND THE FICTION:

The War of 1812 in the 1000 Islands

Pirates and privateers in the St. Lawrence River? Yes, the Thousand Islands—with its varying depths and river currents, hidden shoals, and hundreds of small islands and coves—has provided a backdrop for mystery, trickery, and treachery throughout American history. Real life pirates, spies, and privateers have used the maze of river channels and islands to accomplish missions both selfish and patriotic.

 

During the War of 1812, British ships carried supplies and military pay across the Atlantic and then upriver on the St. Lawrence to Montreal. (Yes, on the St. Lawrence, upriver is southwest.) Then the cargo was carried in flat-bottomed boats farther upriver, past the rapids (and possibly offloaded again west of Prescott to a lake-sailing ship) to Kingston in Upper Canada. On its way, the cargo would pass through the Thousand Islands before entering Lake Ontario; British gunboats protected these vessels from ambush among the maze of islands and coves where an enemy could hide.

What was the War of 1812 about?

By 1812, the citizens of the new American nation were angry at Britain. The British supported native raids on American settlements in the Ohio River Valley. They also embargoed European trade, which hurt American commerce. But one of the major offenses of the British was to force sailors off American ships and make them serve in the Royal Navy. (The British considered Americans born in Britain as royal subjects, and they needed many sailors in their fight against Napoleon; they took both British and Americans off ships.) This British act of forcing American sailors was known as “impressment,” and to Americans it was injury and insult. The British actions showed a lack of respect for the newly formed United States.

The American nation declared war and invaded Britain’s nearest possession: Upper Canada. Soon, both the British and the Americans raced to build fighting ships. Their main naval bases were on opposite shores of Lake Ontario near the head of the St. Lawrence River. The British operated from Kingston, in Upper Canada, while the Americans built and launched vessels at Sackets Harbor, New York. East of these towns, the Great Lakes drain into the St. Lawrence River, which flows northeast past Montreal and out to the sea.

To supplement their limited navy, the American government encouraged citizens to attack British vessels. These private citizens and their boats were called privateers and were allowed to take possession of goods they found on enemy ships. They were not to be confused with pirates, who lawlessly plundered ships of any nation. Privateers were authorized by their government to attack the ships of its enemy. In the War of 1812, a “Letter of Marque” signed by President Madison was permission from the U. S. government to attack and seize British ships.

Not all Americans agreed with the war. In fact, many Americans dwelling along the northern border continued, secretly and illegally, to trade goods with their Canadian neighbors, and they used the islands to hide their smuggling activities.

 

Here is a scene from Taking Hart, set on a 1000 Islands tour boat:

 

Auger felt the breeze lift his hair and the sun warm his face as he sheltered his microphone from the wind. It was early in the tour boat season, and he stood on the Hart of the Isles as it glided past islands of various sizes and shapes, some crowned with lavish estates, some built over a century ago.

“The early twentieth century was a heyday for this area; it was a ‘playground’ for the wealthy and famous. They even gambled their money away for fun on that small island—see it? Right next to the village of Alexandria Bay—Casino Island.” That casino had burned down long ago.

Auger looked forward. Above the trees outlining a heart-shaped island rose the red turrets and spires of a Rhineland castle. This castle, unlike the one across from the Landing, had been renovated, and opened its doors to tourists. The passengers gawked, caught up in the mystique of the fairytale structure that cast a spell throughout the islands and drew vessels from Canada and the United States.

Auger spoke into the microphone with confidence. “Before you is a testament to the world’s saddest love story,” he began. He enjoyed the looks of awe the sappy story evoked, and he liked to think they were inspired by his touch of drama. “The castle was begun in 1900 by George Boldt as a gift to his beloved wife. Mr. Boldt spared no expense, importing exquisite Italian marble and tile…”

The Hart of the Isles rippled the waters approaching the castle as Auger spoke. The boat was only half full, but it was early in the season.

“When Boldt’s wife died in 1904, he stopped all work. No one ever resided in the castle, and it was ravaged by vandals and the passing of time. However, it has undergone massive restoration. And yes, we will be stopping for a visit.” He grinned at the lady showing obvious excitement. Dumb but cute. She wore a blue sweater...nice.

[Later...]

Some of the tourists got Auger’s attention as they pointed to the wildlife they spotted in the trees beyond the shore of a medium-sized island.

“The deer enjoy their summer homes too,” Auger informed them, with a hint of a chuckle, “but they swim to shore before winter comes.” He himself preferred land to water, but he’d rather swim than be trapped on an island.

“Speaking of which, Deer Island is just ahead; you may have heard of its mysterious meeting house for the ‘Skull & Bones,’ a secret society at Yale University. The Bonesmen have included several former U.S. presidents and other powerful men.” Auger’s lips curled into a smile as he imagined himself a future Bonesman. Then his smile disappeared. But for now, I can’t seem to beat that lame Worder idiot. He became absorbed in thoughts of revenge, and he almost missed his next cue.

“If you look quickly under the water—there, do you see it?” The tourists were searching with heads down, eager to spot something. “That’s the international border between the U.S. and Canada, folks—we just crossed it!” Good natured groans filled the boat; people laughed at themselves for thinking they would see the border line.

Suckers. Auger was glad to focus on the tour and forget the Worder kid.

“The deepest area is two-hundred-fifty feet. Temperatures in the area can reach well below zero—Fahrenheit—in winter…but the fast moving water in whirlpools and currents never freezes.” Tourists were already fascinated by the river, and Auger had learned to heighten its mystique by pacing his spiel:Delay for suspense…then give them the kick!—to make them putty in his hands.

They rounded Grenadier Island and headed towards Rocky Island, home to the Round Tower castle ruins.

“Right here next to Rocky Island is where Warren Hart’s crew ambushed the Queen’s Bounty, a British supply boat carrying a huge chest of gold and silver...and they hid it on the island, to use later in the Patriot cause. But that treasure mysteriously vanished from its hiding place.” Auger enjoyed keeping the tourists in suspense, and for now, he refused to say more.

By M.A. Noble

M. A. Noble spent her early years on a North Country dairy farm then moved to California where she worked first as a teacher and instructional designer. Then as a writer, she moved from technical manuals to short stories for language arts instruction to novels. Now she has returned to New York's farmlands and is once again, as she says, “milking”...her fiction. Her first novel, Taking Hart is set on the St. Lawrence River and combines suspense and regional history, coinciding with the 1812 centennial. It is available at many US retail outlets and on Amazon.

Maggie has written two articles about Singer Castle for TI Life.  Her first article “A Royal Job” appeared in the October 2012 issue the second, The Great Escape at Singer Castle appeared in November 2012.

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