The Weight of Smoke

Vol. I of In the Land of Whispers
ForeWord Magazine
Book of the Year finalist for Historical Fiction

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Four hundred years after the founding of Jamestown, the lives of Captain John Smith, Powhatan, and Pocahantas assume their true dimensions in a far-ranging saga of the beginnings of the British Empire, and in particular how the English came to the New World to create a Utopia, and instead founded a slave state....

Presented as the final work of the famous explorer and author, Captain John Smith,  The Weight of Smoke recounts the disastrous first eighteen months of the Jamestown Colony, 1607-1609; but entwined with the colony's fractious beginnings are the adventures of Sir Francis Drake, retold around the campfires by an old alchemist, Jonas Profit, who sailed the Spanish main with Queen Elizabeth's pirate. Drake is the abiding spirit as Smith is initiated into greatness. In Jamestown, Smith finds himself at the center of a desperate struggle for survival, a struggle that will involve him in the mysteries of this unknown land. Appropriately, these tales are told in a language rich with metaphorical power and flavored with Elizabethan authenticity.

Read a sample chapter: Chapter Eleven (PDF)

"Does a book have to be over a hundred years old before it is a classic? That's what I kept thinking as I was reading George Minkoff's monumental The Weight of Smoke, the first volume in a trilogy named In the Land of Whispers. It is much like Moby Dick, laden with meaning. But...The Weight of Smoke is not only very well written, it is also far richer in its observations of human nature and the meaning of history, all within a fascinating story of an era that is rich in discovery and adventure." 

-- Berkshire Home Style

"...The author is a marvelous wordsmith, occasionally using poetry in his prose: "The next day the world was eyes and trumpet calls. A sky of banners and ladies graced the city's walls." His story-within-a-story, the adventures of Francis Drake several years prior to the establishment of Jamestown and Smith's adventures, is handled cleverly. Minkoff demonstrates the difference in class structure.... It's amazing that the colony ever succeeded. The importance of Drake's story helped me understand Captain Smith's drive to explore the coast of North America, as he tried to locate the Northwest Passage to the Pacific. The author also introduces Pocahontas and Powhatan and explains the effect of the English settlement on the local Native American tribes - who try to maintain their culture as they war amongst each other - as well as the "magic" of tobacco, the weight of smoke. The novel is not a quick read, but one to be savored. 

-- The Historical Novels Review (Jeff Westerhoff) 

© George R. Minkoff 2011