Monday, February 25, 2008

The Court-Martial of Charlie Newell

In the introduction of Gerard Shirar’s novel, The Court-Martial of Charlie Newell, a reflective passage about prejudice is cited that includes the statement, “I feed on racial, ethnic, and religious difference, preconceived ideas; mistaken opinion; falsehoods; bias; ignorance; jealousy; and blind hatred.” This passage sets the stage for Shirar’s historic fictional tale that delves into Man’s most prevalent historical demon known as prejudice.

The Court-Martial of Charlie Newell takes readers back to the year 1917 where oppression and bigotry towards Black People in the United States is rampant despite being free. The protagonist, Newell, is a thoughtful black man from Holly Ridge, North Carolina. Charlie is a man with a strong work ethic, deep spiritual faith, and committed family values. As a conscientious objector to war because of his faith, Charlie is forced to enlist in the army. According to his faith, Saturday is the Sabbath where the day is devoted to reading the Bible and spiritual reflection. Because of his faith, Charlie refuses to work on Saturday which leads to a military court martial. The result of the court-martial takes Charlie on a nightmare journey of imprisonment, violent abuse, oppression, prejudice, and a spiritual test of strength and resolve. For Charlie, life becomes a series of harrowing events that challenges his faith.

The Court-Martial of Charlie Newell is a compelling and intense story of relying on faith and hope in order to survive unbearable cruelty. As historical fiction, the author, a twenty year veteran of the United States Army, is able to capture and deliver a detailed account of life in the military during World War I. Readers will feel as though they are traveling with Charlie during a turbulent and difficult time for Black People in America.

Profound themes of faith and spirituality entwined with injustice, oppression, and hate, make for a heartfelt tale that brings out important messages that can be related to current world events. The dialogue is carefully written to depict appropriate language and figures of speech as it pertains to the time period. The events and characters mirror the values and attitudes of the period. As well, settings are detailed and well described. Charlie is a character every reader will become emotionally attached to. His journey is filled with traumatic twists and turns making the story a definite page-turner. Readers will gain insight into a historical period that must not be forgotten.

The Court-Martial of Charlie Newell is highly recommended to readers who love historical fiction. It is a piece of historical fiction that invites all readers to think about the past and reflect on current moral and ethical issues.

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Paperback: 326 pages
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc. (January 18, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0595444911
ISBN-13: 978-0595444915
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