My review of David Liss's The Whiskey Rebels is up today on Booksquawk!  This is the only book by Liss I've read so far, but he seems to have carved out a peculiar niche for himself:  historical thrillers based on little guys getting involved in government/Big Business financial policies.  The interesting thing about TWR (this isn't really a spoiler -- or if it is, along the lines of what you'd encounter on the back cover anyway) is that one of the main characters is a casualty of said financial policies (my darling Hamilton's).  Yes, Joan survives (and yes, she eventually prospers, in a gross material sense, due to the same policies), but the destruction of her soul is absolutely, unavoidably linked to the brand-new federal government's line of action (and inaction).

No, no, that isn't the interesting part (well, it's interesting in a thriller sense, of course, people suffering and whatnot):  the interesting part is that, as sympathetic as she is (until she goes BAD), she's portrayed as the human face of a necessary sacrifice.  There wasn't a whole whomping lot Hamilton could have done other than have SOME tax SOMEWHERE; the government had to be funded (unless it were to "live like the chameleon, upon air," to quote an irritated Joseph Plumb Martin, referring to his seven years in the Continental Army without being paid EVER...oh, except once by a visiting French officer who, appalled at this treatment of the troops, dug some money out of his own pocket).  And as for policing the frontier -- well, the yet-mostly-unfunded government simply lacked the ability to do so.

"The greater good" -- even when it is that, and not merely venal acquisitiveness (as seems to be the case in some of the financial...excitements...in Liss's other books) can be pretty hard to swallow when you personally are relegated to the "lesser losses."



Leave a Reply.