Cover image for Charleston
Jakes, John, 1932-
Personal Author:
Abridged edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster Audio, [2002]

Physical Description:
6 audio discs (approximately 7 hrs.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
General Note:
Compact disc.
Added Author:
Format :
Audiobook on CD


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XX(1183004.21) Adult Audiobook on CD Audiobooks
XX(1183004.62) Adult Audiobook on CD Audiobooks
XX(1183004.59) Adult Audiobook on CD Audiobooks
FICTION CD Adult Audiobook on CD Audiobooks
XX(1183004.58) Adult Audiobook on CD Audiobooks
XX(1183004.48) Adult Audiobook on CD Audiobooks

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John Lakes is one of the preeminent novelists of American historicalfiction. Now this beloved storyteller takes listeners to Charleston South Carolina, in a stunning multigenerational saga that tells the story of two apocalyptic, nation-shaping wars as seen through the eyes of a powerful South Carolina dynasty.Charlestonfollows the lives, loves, and shifting fortunes of the Bells, saints and evil-doers mingled in one unforgettable family from the American Revolution through the turbulent antebellum years to the Civil War and the savage defeat of the Confederacy. Delving into our country's history as only he can, Lakes paints a powerful portrait of the Charleston aristocracy who zealously guarded their privilege and position, harboring dark family secrets that threatened to destroy them all.Sweeping from the bitterly divided Carolina frontier of the 1770s through the tragic destruction of the city during the Civil War, and peopled by patriots and cowards, aristocrats and abolitionists, slaves and freedmen, heroic men and courageous women,Charlestonrepresents America's premier storyteller at his very best.


The Bells, an aristocratic southern family, fight to keep dark secrets at bay to preserve their privilege and position in high society. Spanning the years from the American Revolution to the Civil War, the complex and dynamic lives of this highbrow Charleston family are traced through decades of national tragedy, destruction, and change.

Author Notes

John Jakes was born in Chicago in 1932. He studied acting at Northwestern University, where he began writing professionally during his freshman year. Later he enrolled in a creative writing program at DePauw University and received a master's degree in American literature from Ohio State University.

Early in his career Jakes wrote copy for a pharmaceutical company and various ad agencies, and authored dozens of short stories encompassing western, mystery and science fiction themes. In March 1973, Jakes commenced work on The Kent Family Chronicles, a multi-volume set portraying American history through the lives of a fictional family. Later works include North and South (1982), California Gold (1989), Homeland (1993), and American Dreams. Six of his major novels have been filmed as television miniseries, and North and South remains one of the highest rated miniseries in the history of television. Jakes is actively involved in the adaptation of North and South for the Broadway stage.

John Jakes has been hailed as the godfather of the historical novel, and America's history teacher.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Jakes is the author of 15 consecutive New York Times best-sellers. Packed with fascinating characters, accurate period detail, and absorbing accounts of historic events, his latest novel will be another commercial triumph. This massive, sweeping yarn details the shifting fortunes of several generations of a powerful southern dynasty, the Bell family, set against the dramatic and fiery backdrop of the American Revolution and the Civil War. Told in three parts, the story follows the lives, loves, and changing fortunes of the Bells and the Charleston aristocracy to which they belonged. Never one to gloss over details, the author manages to show the bleak horrors of slavery, war, and greed while also confirming the essential goodness of American ideals. Jakes is in tip-top shape here, and fans will enjoy the large cast of compelling characters. With more than 50 million books in print, Jakes can be certain his fans will be lining up for his latest one. --Kathleen Hughes

Publisher's Weekly Review

Jakes, the bestselling master of historical fiction, begins his newest saga in 1720, a mere 50 years after the first settlers occupy the still-rustic village of Charles Town at the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, in what will become the state of South Carolina. Arriving from a primitive western trading post, Sydney Greech, a 20-year-old British immigrant, and his pretty, pregnant bride, Bess, take a more euphonious surname as they begin a new life of menial labor and spawn the Bell clan, whose successive generations will be bound up with the history and fate of Charleston. Much of the book is set between 1779 and the 1866 post-Civil War rebellion in South Carolina; it takes up the story of 21-year-old Edward Bell (grandson of Sydney) and his rivalry with his older and more devious brother, Adrian, who steals his sweetheart while Edward is studying in London. The intrigue then comes to focus on great-granddaughter Alexandra, born in 1815, who grows up to see her secret black lover murdered and travels north to become an abolitionist crusader. Members of the extended Bell family often find themselves on opposite sides of the various ideological divides that dominate the first hundred years of U.S. history, and their story is a dark tapestry of betrayal, revenge and murder as royalists clash with patriots, Unionists with Confederates. Fans of Jakes's earlier hits should find plenty of drama and antebellum flavor in this lusty epic. (Aug. 5) Forecast: Jakes's previous offering, On Secret Service (2000), didn't have quite the sweep (or the ringing title) of Charleston; expect the latter to climb higher up the charts. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Jakes's many best-selling historical novels include the recent On Secret Service, a tale of Civil War espionage. Charleston is the story of both the Bell family and the city of Charleston, SC, through three major epochs the American Revolution, the dangerous years before the Civil War, and the Civil War itself. The Bell family includes a predictable host of heroes and villains who deal with the issues and events of their respective periods, with slavery the most pervasive. Charleston is action-filled and fast-paced, perhaps too fast-paced, as it leaps from one major event to another. Overly ambitious and disappointingly lacking in character development and historical depth, the novel pales in comparison with other Jakes novels, such as Homeland, America, California Gold, and even the North-South series. For larger collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/02.] Robert Conroy, Warren, MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



1 The Summons One night in early November 1779, he dreamed a terrifying dream. He saw a skiff dancing across Charleston Harbor, running before an offshore breeze that raised what mariners called white horses on the water. Lydia sat in the skiff's bow, laughing and enjoying herself; her hair flew in the wind like a yellow banner. He couldn't see the face of the man at the tiller, only his back. But he was not the man, of that he was sure. Though he was athletic, a superb horseman, he'd never learned to swim or sail. His mother called it passing strange, since his father, a wharf owner, made his living from the commerce of the creeks and rivers and oceans. Unseen bells began to peal-the eight church bells of St. Michael's parish, cast by Messrs. Lester and Pack, London, where he lay dreaming. The bells didn't ring the sequence of notes that called the faithful to Sunday worship. They rang another familiar call, the call to calamity: a fire, an impending hurricane. Great danger. When he woke in his room on the third floor above Fountain Court, the meaning of the dream came clear. He'd been absent from America a year and a half. The desirable young woman he wanted to marry could be slipping away from him. Edward Bell, twenty-one, was at that time studying at the Middle Temple. He had resisted his father's wish to send him there, saying, "I have no ambition to practice law in South Carolina." "Nor do most of the young men from Charleston who enroll at the Inns of Court, but it will be useful. It broadens you, like a grand tour. It makes you a keener student of business contracts. It prepares you to be a leader of society-to hold office if you wish." "Why not send Adrian? He's firstborn." "I don't mean to speak unkindly of your brother, but to be truthful, he hasn't the head for it. Adrian's a shrewd young man. Shrewd is not the same as smart." "But we're in the middle of a war with England." "Where do you think we learned that we have a right to rebel against the injustices of the king's ministers? From English constitutional law, taught at the Middle Temple. Who stood up to the king in Parliament and defended our right to rebel? Edmund Burke, of the Middle Temple." "Is this a scheme to keep me out of the militia?" "Do you want to join the militia, Edward?" "Not particularly. I'm not an ardent patriot like you." "You're more of one than your brother. Worry about the militia at such time as the British return to Carolina. It may never happen. They've left us alone three years now." In '76, Col. William Moultrie and his brave men had repulsed an invasion attempt at the palmetto log fort on nearby Sullivan's Island, the fort now bearing Moultrie's name. After that humiliation Gen. Henry Clinton and Adm. Sir Peter Parker sailed away and Great Britain concentrated on fighting in the North. Edward ran out of objections. Soon thereafter he departed for London and the Inns of Court. * * * On a cold but windless evening in early December, he left his apartment in Essex Court, crossed Fountain Court, and entered Middle Temple Hall. Edward was a tall and lanky young man, not handsome, but possessed of strong features and an engaging smile. There was no fat on him. He'd inherited his height and build from his father, Tom Bell. He was dressed like a sober colonial in a double-breasted kersey greatcoat, a white stock and lace cravat, black leather top boots, and a black felt hat with a flat crown and broad brim. He owned a wig but preferred to keep his brown hair tied back with a black ribbon. He carried a stout walking stick for self-defense at night. In the corridor he passed a broad open doorway on his right. Students and masters still sat at table in the great hall, a high cathedral of a room walled with plaques bearing the arms of the Templars from whom the Middle Temple took its name. Student friends of Edward's were deep into port and private argument, even as an old lawyer droned on from the dais. Something about torts, in which Edward had no interest. Since coming to London he'd spent most of his time at gambling clubs, cockfights, bearbaitings, and his favorite table at the Carolina Coffeehouse in Birchin Lane, where he hobnobbed with rowdy clerks from the London branch of Crokatt's, a Charleston trading firm. No one in the Temple's great hall noticed him as he slipped by. A door at the end of the corridor brought him to the water gate. As usual, a boatman stood by, waiting to bear a young gentleman off to the night's adventures. Edward stepped down on a thwart. "South Bank. I'll show you where." Half an hour later he elbowed his way to the edge of an oval cockfighting pit raised twenty inches above the floor in the center of a large, bare room. Noisy and smoky, the room opened off a narrow passage fittingly called Cocker's Alley. It was packed with roughly dressed lowlifes and young men in fancy silks and powdered wigs. The pit's carpeted floor was strewn with feathers. Dark stains showed where birds had bled. Cocks ready for their matches crowed periodically, adding to the racket. Edward spoke to a stout man. "Anyone special here tonight?" "Corday's here, with his black-breasted red. Won the three-day main at Clerkenwell last week." "Corday." Edward frowned. He'd had run-ins with that gentleman, chiefly over the American rebellion. Mr. Clive Corday had come down from Oxford to study at Gray's Inn. He was notorious for spending even less time at it than Edward did. He was well placed; a relative sat in the House of Lords. Edward always bet against Corday's birds because he detested the man. A shout went up as Corday appeared, his feeder right behind him carrying the bird. The black-breasted red weighed almost five pounds, Edward guessed. He was a fierce bird with cropped tail feathers, a comb cut into a half moon, and steel fighting spurs. Corday greeted his admirers boisterously. He was a fleshy young dandy with a round face perpetually red and sweaty. He always dressed with fashionable flamboyance, in this case a coat of Italian silk with vertical red and white stripes, a solid red waistcoat, and striped knee stockings that matched his coat. Corday was contemptuous of the American colonies and all who lived there. It showed when he spied Edward and favored him with a slow nod, a scornful smile. Edward returned the nod, pulled his purse from his pocket, and pointed at the contender. Corday's face reddened all the more. "Save my spot, if you please." Edward tipped the stout man tuppence and went off to bet. Corday's first opponent, a loutish fellow wearing farmer's boots, stepped up to the pit looking hangdog, as though his smaller four-pound bird had already lost. At a signal from the master of the matches, Corday and his opponent pitted their birds close to one another, then quickly retreated to the floor outside the oval. Corday's red crowed defiantly. The birds circled one another, darting their heads forward. Suddenly the red flew at the opponent and began to slash with its beak and spurs. The patrons applauded and yelled profane encouragements. The birds fought fiercely, leaping off the carpet, slashing and pecking. The red disposed of the smaller cock in ten minutes. It lay dying, its head flopping on its neck, its side torn open and bleeding. Edward had wagered two shillings and lost. Corday glanced at him with a smug smile, then turned to accept congratulations from a crowd of sycophants. A second challenger carried his bird into the pit. This one lasted almost half an hour before the red disposed of it. The third opponent died in twenty minutes, and the red finished off the fourth and fifth in half that time. Corday's feeder picked up the red while, in the back of the hall, the next contenders crowed raucously. Corday's prize was ten guineas. Having steadfastly bet against him, Edward had lost ten shillings of his father's money. Corday found Edward in the crowd. "Another bad evening, Mr. Bell?" Corday stuck his thumbs in the pockets of his fine waistcoat. Trickles of sweat had washed powder from his wig onto his temples. Edward stared him down. "I'll get my money back one day." "Wagering against my big red? I doubt it. You Americans never know when you're whipped. Well, you soon will be, now that Clinton's at sea." "What are you talking about?" "Letter from a cousin in New York. Serves aboard the flagship of Admiral Arbuthnot. Big armada's forming up, to sail within the month. Sir Henry Clinton, nine thousand men-a major campaign in the South. I don't doubt they'll wall up your city and starve you unwashed rabble into submission." This was stunning news, though perhaps Edward should have seen it coming. A month ago a letter from his father had reported that the British were disquieted because they'd been unable to win a significant victory in the North. Further, the French now stood with the Americans in the war. No doubt Clinton had smarted ever since the defeat at Fort Moultrie. It made a new attack on Charleston seem inevitable. Tom Bell's letter had sounded a further note of melancholy. Charleston's revolutionary zeal, so hot five years earlier, was waning as the economically hurtful war dragged on. Corday took advantage of Edward's stunned silence. "It would surely suit me if you were one of those beaten down by General Clinton, Mr. Bell. You're nothing but an ill-bred parvenu. What's more, you dress atrociously." "And you're an arrogant ass, Mr. Corday. You dress like a whoremonger." Corday's hand flew up to deliver a stinging slap. Edward staggered back. Corday grinned and stepped in, ready to land another blow. Edward rammed his stick into Corday's middle, throwing him off-stride. The crowd gave them room. Patrons applauded and encouraged Corday. Edward dropped the stick, swung up his right fist, and blasted Corday's chin from underneath. With his left fist he hammered Corday's soft belly. Corday slipped to his knees, gagging. Edward seized Corday's collar at the nape, pushed hard, and slammed his forehead on the floor twice. Corday flopped on his side. His wig fell off, baring his shaved skull. Edward snatched up his stick and bashed Corday with the knobby end. Clawing at the floor, Corday struggled to rise. Edward hit him again and Corday stretched out with a sigh. All around him Edward heard ominous grumblings from Corday's partisans. He waved his stick at those nearest-"One side, damn you"-and they fell back. He left the building at a fast walk, not eager to become a victim of a mob. Once into the darkened ways of the South Bank, he sprinted for the water stairs. He lost his hat and didn't go back for it. Crossing the river, he made a decision. It was time to abandon his studies. The new British campaign could mean great danger for his family, but more persuasive, perhaps, was the dream: the bells ringing the alarm, an unseen rival stealing Lydia. He wanted Lydia Glass with all his young man's blood and fire. He hadn't heard from her since arriving in London; she said she never wrote letters. It was time to go home, before he lost her. -Reprinted from Charleston by John Jakes by permission of Dutton, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc. Copyright © John Jakes, 2002. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced without permission. Excerpted from Charleston by John Jakes All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.